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Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 7-19-2011

Mortgage companies are finding that sleazy habits are hard to break as robo-signings continue. Federal regulators have seen no change in the production of fraudulent closing documents.

Texas is now second in the nation in costs for mortgage closings with average fees at $4,994; trailing only New York at $6,183.

For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles in social, environmental and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at bmccarver@austin.r.com

Mortgage ‘robo-signing’ goes on

By Michelle Conlin and Pallavi Gogoi       Associated Press        July 19, 2011

Mortgage industry employees are still signing documents they haven’t read and using fake signatures more than eight months after big banks and mortgage companies promised to stop the illegal practices that led to a nationwide halt of home foreclosures.

County officials in at least three states say they have received thousands of mortgage documents with questionable signatures since last fall, suggesting that the practices, known collectively as “robo-signing,” remain widespread in the industry.

The documents have come from several companies that process mortgage paperwork, and have been filed on behalf of several major banks. One name, “Linda Green,” was signed almost two dozen different ways.

Lenders say they are working with regulators to fix the problem but cannot explain why it has persisted.

Last fall, the nation’s largest banks and mortgage lenders, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and an arm of Goldman Sachs, suspended foreclosures while they investigated how corners were cut to keep pace with the crush of foreclosure paperwork.

Critics say the new findings point to a systemic problem with the paperwork involved in home mortgages and titles. And they say it shows that banks and mortgage processors haven’t acted aggressively enough to put an end to widespread document fraud in the mortgage industry.

“Robo-signing is not even close to over,” says Curtis Hertel, the recorder of deeds in Ingham County, Mich., which includes Lansing. “It’s still an epidemic.”

Full story at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/article/AP-Exclusive-Mortgage-robo-signing-goes-on-1471170.php#page-3

 

Mortgages get more expensive

Houston Chronicle        July 18, 2011

Housing in Texas may skew on the affordable side, but the same can’t be said for closing costs.

The Lone Star State has the second-highest closing costs in the country at an average of $4,944, according to a new study from Bankrate.com.

At $6,183, New York has the most expensive state for mortgage costs, which are rising nationwide.

The national average on a $200,000 mortgage is $4,070. That’s 8.8 percent higher than it was last year, according to the 2011 Closing Costs Survey.

Lenders say fees are rising because of stricter lending regulations.

Anyone who’s bought a home recently knows buyers have to jump through a lot more hoops these days to get a mortgage.

According to Bankrate:

Most of the rise in closing costs is tied to fees charged directly by lenders. On average, lenders charge about $1,614 in origination fees this year, up 10.3 percent from last year. Origination fees include lender charges for services such as underwriting and processing.

“Interest rates get a lot of attention, and rightfully so, but it’s also important for consumers to compare lender fees when shopping for a loan,” said Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for Bankrate, Inc.

End of story: http://blog.chron.com/primeproperty/2011/07/mortgages-get-more-expensive/

 

California may join probe of Wall Street’s role in mortgage meltdown

New York’s and Delaware’s investigation could lead to criminal charges against financial executives. ‘California was disproportionately harmed by the mortgage crisis, and our homeowners badly need relief,’ the state’s attorney general says.

By Nathaniel Popper and Alejandro Lazo        Los Angeles Times       July 14, 2011

Reporting from New York and Los Angeles— California is considering joining New York and Delaware in a wide-ranging investigation into Wall Street’s role in the mortgage meltdown that could lead to criminal charges against financial executives.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris met with New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman on Thursday in San Francisco to discuss cooperating on the investigation, which is already one of the broadest to probe how banks encouraged the financial crisis through the creation of risky financial instruments backed by mortgages.

New York and Delaware have more than a dozen attorneys working full time on the effort and have subpoenaed or requested information from 13 financial firms, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co., according to people familiar with the investigation. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Full story at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-mortgage-probe-20110715,0,733538.story

 

Tyler Area Home Closings Up Over 2010

By Brian Pearson          Tyler News        July 14, 2011

A year ago in June, Tyler area Realtors and title companies scrambled to close home sales ahead of the deadline of a federal tax-credit program.

Market analysts at the time predicted that the program would push up the purchasing timetable for buyers and likely result in lagging home sales for the last half of 2010 and beyond, which indeed happened in the Tyler area and elsewhere, according to sales figures.

But a funny and unexpected thing happened in the Tyler area market in June.

After a sagging year of home sales, closings here not only picked up but increased dramatically last month, according to Greater Tyler Association of Realtors figures released Wednesday.

http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20110714/NEWS08/110719868

 

Foreclosure postings for area homes fall 14 percent

By Sandra Baker         Fort Worth Star-Telegram        July 14, 2011

North Texas home foreclosure postings fell 14 percent for August auctions, marking the sixth consecutive month of declines, according to the Foreclosure Listing Service.

Tarrant County’s filings are down 2 percent for the Aug. 2 auction, to 1,405 postings. The drop isn’t as dramatic as the 24 percent decline for the May auction, when filings reached their lowest point in 31 months, the Addison-based listing service said.

Tarrant County filings are down 7 percent for the year, to 12,662.

Filings in Tarrant, Dallas, Denton and Collins counties are down 11 percent so far in 2011 compared with the same period of 2010, the company said.

Full story at: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/07/14/3222671/foreclosure-postings-for-area.html#my-headlines-default

 

Some trampled in housing-vouchers rush

Early morning stampede for hard-to-get vouchers

Associated Press         July 14, 2011

An early morning stampede of hundreds of people for hard-to-get housing vouchers in Dallas has resulted in some being trampled.

The rush began about three hours before the doors opened at the South Dallas stadium where applications for the rental assistance are being accepted. About 5,000 applicants are expected.

People began arriving Wednesday, waiting across the street from the Jesse Owens Memorial Complex.

Video on Dallas television stations shows hundreds suddenly sprinting to the building with a few people pushing to the front. Some suffered minor scrapes and bloodied knees in falls and at least one pregnant woman was reportedly trampled.

This was the first time in years that Dallas County accepted applications for the federally funded Section 8 vouchers which pay a portion of the rent based on income.

End of story: http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/texas/some-trampled-in-housing-vouchers-rush

 

Fort Worth program for housing vouchers goes online

By Alex Branch        Fort Worth Star-Telegram       July 13, 2011

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth Housing Authority will open its largest voucher program to new applicants this month — but with a twist.

No longer will Housing Choice voucher applications be submitted by mail and processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Instead, all applications must be submitted online and entered into a lottery to determine which applicants get vouchers.

The open application period will last five days, from 8 a.m. July 25 to 5 p.m. July 29.

Agency officials hope the new system makes the process more efficient and user-friendly for applicants, who will no longer have to scramble to submit their applications immediately, said Selarstean Mitchell, vice president of assisted housing.

“We want everyone to have an equal chance,” Mitchell said. “We find that with first-come, first-served, people who are not as mobile tend to be at a disadvantage. It’s also more efficient because we don’t have to hand-enter all the applications into the computer.”

Full story at: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/07/12/3217633/fort-worth-program-for-housing.html#my-headlines-default

 

HUD: City has ‘commitment’ to rebuild

By Amanda Casanova        Galveston County  Daily News        July 14, 2011

GALVESTON — The city has a “commitment” to rebuild all 569 public housing units destroyed during Hurricane Ike on the island, Mercedes Márquez, assistant secretary for Housing and Urban Development, said in a letter to Mayor Joe Jaworski on Wednesday.

“Failure to cooperate with the state in carrying out its obligations puts the Conciliation Agreement in jeopardy,” Márquez wrote. “It is also likely to further stall the expenditure of billions of dollars in relief to Texans recovering from Hurricane Ike and may result in the withholding of assistance to the city of Galveston.”

The letter answers the long-debated question if some of the 569 public housing units could be built on the mainland. At debate was a May 2010 conciliation agreement involving housing advocacy organizations Texas Appleseed and Texas Low Income Housing Information Service.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/244382

 

Blue Ridge Apartments still short two certificates of occupancy

By Kathleen Thurber        Midland Reporter       July 14, 2011

Although the City Council approved in June facility changes on two buildings at the Blue Ridge Apartments, certificates of occupancy still have not been issued.

The council had assessed changes added to two back buildings that were meant to block renters from seeing into neighboring backyards. At that time, council members toured the buildings and agreed the complex had met its requirements and remedied any issues. After its tour, the council voted to allow the certificates of occupancy to be issued.

However, for building permits to be closed out and certificates of occupancy to be issued on any facility, all of the city’s code requirements have to be met, said Building Official Steve Thorpe. That has not been done at the Blue Ridge Apartments.

“They have not completed all the requirements to close out the permits,” he said.

Full story at: http://www.mywesttexas.com/top_stories/article_73148154-b186-5d17-b0c7-4df525bdcf27.html

 

Council defers action on funds

By Amanda Casanova         Galveston County Daily News       July 15, 2011

GALVESTON — The city council wants more information before releasing about $3.5 million of a restricted $25 million allocation to the Galveston Housing Authority.

In a unanimous vote, with council members Rusty Legg and Chris Gonzales absent, the council decided to defer the decision until July 28.

“There are some questions that we should have answered before we take that second step,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Beeton said. 

In 2009, the council voted to release $25 million in federal disaster recovery dollars for the housing authority. The money was restricted to only fund construction costs and only after the council approved a final rebuilding plan. 

By releasing the funding, the money would mobilize a plan to rebuild 569 public housing units that were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Ike. 

On Thursday, Betty Massey, commissioner for the housing authority board, explained the $3.5 million plan for the released money to city council.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/244462

 

Developer selected for housing rebuild

By Amanda Casanova        Galveston County Daily News        July 19, 2011

GALVESTON — McCormack Baron Salazar, the master developer selected to rebuild the island’s public housing, wants to partner with residents and stakeholders to build a mixed-income community in Galveston, said Tony Salazar, president of west coast operations for the company.

“We want to be part of your schools,” he said at a news conference Monday at the Island Community Center. “We want to become members of your chamber of commerce, your neighborhood associations. We’re not a construction company. It’s our job to connect our houses to all other aspects of the community.”

The plan to rebuild 569 public housing units destroyed during Hurricane Ike has led to strong opinions.

Monday’s formal announcement of the partnership between the Galveston Housing Authority and the master developer drew nearly 100 people to the news conference. Attendees fired mostly skeptical questions to representatives, with many worried that bureaucratic rules will stall construction.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/245266

 

Developer to pay extra $20,000 to help tenants in aging apartments relocate

By Sarah Copolla        Austin American-Statesman        July 15, 2011

A Houston-based development firm has agreed to pay an extra $20,000 to help find new homes for low-income tenants it will displace by building a $200 million apartment and retail project in Southeast Austin.

Grayco Partners had already offered households that remain at Shoreline and Brookhollow apartment complexes $485 moving stipends — about $90,000 total. It will now also pay a realtor $20,000 to help the tenants find other housing.

Shoreline and Brookhollow are older properties with about 350 low-rent apartments and are located off East Riverside Drive.

After the American-Statesman reported last week that Grayco hadn’t provided the tenants relocation help it promised in a 2009 deal with the city, the developer hired Casa Blanca Realty, a firm that specializes in helping people with budget constraints find housing.

A lawyer representing the tenants said the concessions Grayco has made aren’t nearly enough. “They are still throwing pennies and red tape at these tenants,” said Robert Doggett with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/developer-to-pay-extra-20-000-to-help-1610258.html

 

Housing authorities receive federal grant funds

Victoria Advocate       July 14, 2011

About half of the Victoria Housing Authority’s units will receive some needed maintenance as the result of grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Victoria Housing Authority will receive $428,327 from the HUD Capital Fund Program, according to a news release from the agency.

Roger Clark, the housing authority’s maintenance supervisor, said the planned work includes putting in new water shutoff valves at the Crestwood property, re-roofing four buildings, curbs and driveways at the Lova Drive development, vinyl siding on units at Leary Lane and improvements on some of the senior citizen properties.

In all, 150 units of the housing authority’s 321 units will receive improvements.

Several other Crossroads area housing authorities were also awarded federal grant funds for improvement projects.

Full story at: http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2011/jul/14/sl_housing_authority_071511_145807/?counties

 

Ground Broken On Affordable Housing Development

By Casey Murphy        Tyler News        July 14, 2011

A crowd gathered in the heat this afternoon to celebrate the start of construction of the second phase of Ed Thompson’s North Chase Development. Community leaders, Thompson and his partners and representatives from the Miami-based Pinnacle Housing Group, LLP, were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Pinnacle Housing Group, a full-service real estate company specializing in the development of affordable housing, is developing a gated community of 120 garden apartment homes at 3651 N. Broadway Ave, half a mile south of Loop 323.Last year, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs awarded PHG Lone Star, LLC, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Housing Group, $1.4 million in housing tax credits to help finance the low-income housing project.

Full story at: http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20110713/NEWS08/110719894

 

Rock the Desert Concert to use FEMA Trailers

By Lyxan Toledanes      Odessa American       July 14, 2011

The constant beating of the sun’s rays and accompanying triple-digit temperatures are enough to slow down anyone’s day spent outside. But for the concert-goers at Rock the Desert, the heat could mean more than just a bad day.

Each year, around three to four people who attend the Christian music festival need to be treated for heat exhaustion, dehydration or other heat-related illnesses, RTD campgrounds supervisor Joe Willis said. Willis and his wife, Barbara, want to raise $5,500 for a trailer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, to provide campers relief from the heat.

“We have these temperatures of more than 100 degrees, and this year might be worse,” Willis said. “I just want to get people in and out of the heat, and that’s really the focus to try to provide a service to the campers while they’re trying to worship God.

Full story at: http://www.oaoa.com/articles/fundraising-68548-rock-beating.html

 

East Austin Studio De-Tour

Homesteading artists face city code challenges – and raise old fears – in changing neighborhoods

By Mike Kanin       Austin Chronicle        July 14, 2011

Eight-hundred Gullett is the last address on a dead-end street in East Austin. From the road, you can see the front of the house belonging to artists Philippe Klinefelter and Sunyong Chung; it’s not until you walk up the driveway and through the fence that you sense the scale of the property. Visitors – friends, colleagues, students, and once a year, art fans on the East Austin Studio Tour – first get a feel for the place when they set foot in the courtyard that Klinefelter and Chung built from the former facades of Austin buildings and the discarded plantings of a branch bank or two.

“When we first moved here, we were very poor but had lots of time,” says Klinefelter. “So we went out of our way – whenever buildings were being torn down – to take out what we could use. We specialized mostly in facades and bathroom stalls.”

Across the courtyard from their home, Klinefelter and Chung share studio spaces. Chung, a potter, works in the front of the building on Tennessee gray marble salvaged from the bathrooms at Brackenridge Hospital. Klinefelter, a large-scale sculptor, has repurposed the back of the place – what used to be a barn and before that a blacksmith’s shop – to serve as his space. Behind Klinefelter’s studio, you can walk a couple hundred feet to a third building he and Chung use as a gallery space. This route takes you along a well-manicured lawn past a pile of raw materials as well as a sculpture that looks not unlike … a pile of raw materials. During the East Side Studio Tour, each of the two outbuildings is used for exhibits. A visit in off-times finds as close to a peaceful retreat as you can get within Austin’s city limits.

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2011-07-15/east-austin-studio-de-tour/

 

At 88, A Chance To Be Independent Again

By Joseph Shapiro         NPR        July 18, 2011

As Rosa Hendrix puts it, she got “stuck” in a nursing home for six years. So when the 88-year-old woman was finally able to move out, she looked around her new one-bedroom apartment and had some stark things to say about what makes a home.

“A home means to me where you are not in prison. Where you don’t have to have somebody to tell you what you can do, when you can do it and how you can do it,” she says.

Hendrix was featured in an NPR News investigation in December 2010 that examined a federal law, which now gives people like Hendrix a civil right to receive long-term health care in their own home, instead of in a nursing home or state institution. But too often, the series found, that new civil right remains an empty promise for America’s disabled and elderly.

Hendrix lived in a nursing home in Atlanta located directly across the street from Martin Luther King’s gravesite. She spent her days in her wheelchair in the lobby, looking through the plate glass window and watching the tourists.

Now she lives across the street from Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves play baseball, in a brick apartment house that’s been converted from an old school building. Her new one-bedroom apartment is spacious with high ceilings. “It’s beautiful,” she said when she moved in late last month. “It makes you feel so much better and know that you are somebody.”

Full story at: http://www.npr.org/2011/07/18/138158827/at-88-a-chance-to-be-independent-again

 

About John Henneberger

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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