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Sickly US economy delivers luxury houses for some, evictions for others

By Reuters | November 5th 2020 at 04:00:00 GMT +0300

When the temperature dipped near freezing in Columbus, Ohio in mid-October, the children had no heat.

The gas had been shut off in their apartment for non-payment. DaMir Coleman, 8, and his brother, KyMir, 4, warmed themselves in front of the electric oven. The power, too, was set to be disconnected. Soon there might be no oven, no lights and no internet for online schooling.

The boys’ mother, Shanell McGee, already had her cell phone switched off and feared she could soon face eviction from their $840 (Sh90,720)-a-month apartment.

The rundown unit consumes nearly half her wages from her job as a medical assistant at a clinic, where she works full-time but gets no health benefits.

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Just 14 miles northwest of McGee’s neighbourhood, Kiki Kullman is having one of the best years of her life.

The real-estate business she runs with her family just sold the highest-priced house in its history: a 13,000-square-foot estate, listed for $4.5 million (Sh486 million), that came with an elevator and a classic-car showroom.

And in late October, Kullman closed on a home of her own -- a $645,000 (Sh70.6 million) three-story Colonial, painted a stately white with a front door flanked by columns, a pleasant place for her two-year-old twin boys to grow up. Columbus exemplifies the economic split animating America’s coronavirus crisis.

Professionals like Kullman are thriving, thanks in part to pandemic-induced policies by the Federal Reserve that have buoyed the stock market and fueled industries such as real estate with record-low interest rates.

For many lower-wage workers, meanwhile, the crisis has delivered a cruel shove. 

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