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Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 7/23/2008

My friend and fellow houser Bo McCarver has agreed to share with the Texas housers blog the housing related stories from his weekly compilation of print media stories he calls “The Tuesday Report”. I will post Bo’s report here each Wednesday.  If you want a pdf file of the articles that includes social, environmental and other contextual news stories, send me a comment with you email address and I’ll pass it on to Bo.

Over the years I have found Bo’s weekly news compilation invaluable in keeping up with what is happening with housing around the state and the nation.

Note that sometimes you must register with a newspaper web site in order to read the full article.

Here is Bo’s report….

As the surging price of oil brings on an international recession, the US housing meltdown is magnified. All eyes are on Washington’s muddled response as conservatives and liberals bicker over how much Federal control and capital is needed. News articles describing this issue and other housing stories and web sites are listed for TLIHIS readers below.

Trouble at Fannie and Freddie Stirs Concern Abroad
By Heather Timmons        New York Times         July 20, 2008
For more than a decade, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the housing giants that make the American mortgage market run, have attracted overseas investors with a simple pitch: the securities they issue are just as good as the United States government’s, and they usually pay better. The marketing plan worked. About one-fifth of securities issued by Fannie, Freddie and a handful of much smaller quasi-governmental agencies, some $1.5 trillion worth, were held by foreign investors at the end of March. One out of 10 American mortgages is, in effect, in the hands of institutions and governments outside the United States.

Now that the two companies are at risk, how their rescue is handled will ultimately test the world’s faith in American markets. It could also influence the level of interest rates and weigh on the strength of the dollar for years to come, analysts say.

New Regulator in Rescue Plan Spurs Debate
By Stephen Labaton         New York Times        July 21, 2008
WASHINGTON – When the Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, orchestrated a rescue effort for the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies last week, most of the attention was focused on the infusion of cash and credit that the government would provide. But his plan also relies on the creation of a new regulatory agency to control the companies more tightly over the long term and to limit the risk they pose to the country’s financial system.

Under the measure, Congress would lose some of its authority to oversee the companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including the right to determine how much capital they must keep as a cushion against losses. That role would shift to the new regulator, which would be called the Federal Housing Finance Agency; the director of the agency would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

While experts on the companies agree that the proposed regulator would be stronger than the existing one, housed in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, some contend that the legislation does not go far enough.

How much Federal Help for Housing?
Woes of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac revive debate of government in the market.

By Mark Trumbull         Christian Science Monitor      July 17, 2008
Trouble at two linchpin mortgage companies is forcing Congress to consider a quick rescue package and in the process reviving an ideological debate about the US government’s role in the housing market.

The questions are not merely theoretical. They include: Should the federal government, on top of its existing debt of about $9 trillion, become the explicit backer of home loans – to the tune of $5 trillion and rising?

Republicans not sold on this mortgage rescue plan
Several lawmakers see the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as too much government. The White House is working to turn them around.

By Maura Reynolds and Richard Simon         Los Angeles Times          July 17, 2008
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, increasingly the point man for the Bush administration as it struggles to steady the economy, made an emergency trip to Capitol Hill on Wednesday seeking to quell a rebellion among conservatives over the plan to shore up struggling mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The conservative backlash to a plan that 48 hours earlier had seemed likely to win quick congressional approval suggested that, no matter what the political risks, there was an ideological point beyond which at least some Republicans would not go in approving government intervention in the economy.

A housing rescue nears – but for whom?
Minority neighborhoods would especially benefit from a $3.9 billion aid package.

By Gail Russell Chaddock        Christian Science Monitor     July 21, 2008
WASHINGTON – – As Congress heads into a critical week of votes on how to relieve America’s home-foreclosure crisis, one of the toughest issues will be how to deal with the racial and ethnic dimensions of the problem. Minorities will be watching closely to see who gets the help.

There’s broad support on Capitol Hill for shoring up government-sponsored home-mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: They’re too big to fail, many say. But there’s much less consensus over what to do about people who are losing their homes, especially in poor, inner-city neighborhoods – or even over how to understand their plight.

The racial overtones of the foreclosure crisis are taking on a higher profile as Congress wrestles with the shape of a fix this week.

At issue is a proposed $3.9 billion in block grants to help states or local governments buy and demolish or rehabilitate foreclosed properties to try to stem urban blight. The money is expected to flow to minority neighborhoods, in particular.

Housing Prices Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet
By Kevin G. Hall          McClatchy Newspapers        July 20, 2008
WASHINGTON – The Bush administration’s pledge to rescue ailing housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raises anew questions about just when the nation’s dismal housing market will hit bottom.

U.S. single-family home construction drops 5.3%
Associated Press        July 17, 2008
WASHINGTON – Construction of single-family homes fell in June to the slowest pace in 17 years although a change in New York laws helped give a big boost to apartment building.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that construction of single-family homes dropped by 5.3 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000 units, the weakest performance since January 1991, another period when the housing industry was going through a severe downturn.

California’s median home price plummets in June
Associated Press        July 17, 2008
Housing data show the median price of a home in California plummeted 31.5 percent in June compared with the same month last year.

The wrecking-ball response
How to deal with a glut of empty homes

The Economist       July 10, 2008
TUMBLING house prices in America, rising foreclosures and a glut of unsold homes have produced a variety of unusual, even desperate, responses from policymakers. Of the 129m housing units in America, 18.6m stand empty. At 2.9%, the home-owner vacancy rate, which measures the share of vacant homes for sale, has reached its highest point since measurement began in 1956. At the end of the first quarter there were 2.3m empty homes on the market, an increase of more than 160,000 from the end of 2007. There is a vicious circle: the huge number of houses on the market pushes home prices down, and as prices decrease, mortgages become harder to refinance, leading to more foreclosures, vacancies and so on. The more homes are on the market, the less chance that prices will stabilize.

Dallas-Fort Worth home foreclosure postings jump 18%
By Steve Brown         Dallas Morning News         July 17, 2008
Home foreclosure postings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have jumped another 18 percent in the latest filings.

Dallas-area preowned home sales fall 15% in 2008
By Steve Brown       Dallas Morning News       July 18, 2008
Early hopes for a spring rebound in Dallas-area home sales didn’t pan out.
All but a few area residential districts experienced fewer home purchases in the first half of this year, according to the latest home-sales data.Some of the declines have been sharp – including a 35 percent drop in northwest Dallas and a 30 percent decline in North Dallas – compared with the first half of 2007.

Home sales take a slight dip
Experts expect small pullback

By Karen Smith Welch        Amarillo Globe       July 20, 2008
The tsunami slamming housing markets across the nation has rippled into the Amarillo area.

“The national reports coming from other parts of the country have lasted longer than, frankly, I thought they would, and it’s starting to impact buyer behavior in our market. They are more cautious,” said Randy Jeffers, an Amarillo Coldwell Banker real-estate broker and president of the Texas Association of Realtors.

Lubbock’s new home construction market is already correcting itself
By Chris Van Wagenen        Lubbock Avalanche-Journal      July 20, 2008
John Sweeney just wishes the noise would stop.

From problems at mortgage giants FannieMae and FreddieMac to the nation’s subprime meltdown, Sweeney said a daily dose of financial battering just doesn’t reflect what’s going on in Lubbock. “I just wish the national news would shut up,” said the president of the West Texas Home Builders Association.

Mayors challenge affordable housing rules
By Jonathan Tamari       Philadelphia Inquirer       July 15, 2008
Saying new affordable-housing obligations would force suburban towns to build beyond their capacity, a coalition of nearly 200 mayors said yesterday they would challenge the regulations in court.

The dispute centers on state rules, unveiled in December, that roughly doubled the affordable-housing requirements first proposed in 2004.

Local leaders say they have neither the space to build the amount of new housing the state demands, nor the money to pay for the associated classrooms, roads and sewers.

Housing Development Bars Gay Couples
365Gay.com        July 16, 2008
(Orlando, Florida) The tidy palm lined streets and affordable homes of the Rybolt Reserve subdivision in suburban Orlando have become popular with middle class homebuyers and speculators but if you are a gay or unmarried opposite-sex couple the Homeowners Association has a message – don’t bother to try to rent here according to some property owners.

Children crushed by debris when stairwell collapses
 2 die and another is injured in southwest Houston
By Ruth Rendon and Jennifer Latson           Houston Chronicle     July 17, 2008
The southwest Houston apartment complex where two children died and another was injured late Wednesday in the collapse of a stairway had not undergone a city inspection in 12 years, according to records.

Modular homes unwelcome neighbors for Fairfield Street residents
By Dan Wallach      Beaumont Enterprise      July, 14, 2008
BEAUMONT – Sandra Womack stood outside her 11310 Fairfield St. home, her voice breaking as she told of the pride she has in her home.

She got it as part of her late father’s estate. For her, it’s home, family and his legacy.
Womack and others in her neighborhood near Tram Road, like Melinda Fortenberry, 11395 Fairfield, and Ana Molina, 11205 Fairfield, are wary of a couple of new neighbors – modular homes – that have just moved in.

City explains regulations on modular homes
Beaumont Enterprise        July, 14, 2008
City of Beaumont e-mail regarding homes on Fairfield Street

The city of Beaumont recently issued seven building permits for placement of single-family houses on Fairfield Street.

“They are industrialized houses, built and installed in accordance with the Industrialized Housing and Buildings program administered by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation,” city of Beaumont building official Don Burrell said in an e-mail to The Enterprise.

RV owners aren’t on board with Fort Worth ordinance
Fort Worth Star-Telegram     July 16, 2008
FORT WORTH — Cy Francis has loved driving recreational vehicles across the country for 24 years, but when he parks his RV at home, others don’t enjoy it as much.

“Some people are saying it spoils the view of the neighborhood,” he said.

Such complaints led to an ordinance approved July 8 by the Fort Worth City Council that regulates where homeowners can park RVs.

“I’m opposed to it because my driveway is considered private property and I pay taxes on it,” Francis said. “It should not be subject to regulation.”

The ordinance will no longer allow large or oversize vehicles such as RVs, boat trailers or converted buses to park in front of homes or in driveways. Such vehicles will have to be parked in a side or rear yard behind a screening fence at least 6 feet tall. The ordinance defines a large vehicle as being between 26 and 40 feet long and oversize as 40 feet or longer.

Neighbors upset about plan for low-income housing
By Sarah Coppola         Austin American-Statesman     July 21, 2008
Northeast Austin residents and business owners gathered at 5908 Manor Road this morning to say that they oppose a low-income housing project planned for that land.

The nonprofit group Community Partnership for the Homeless wants to build a 110-unit efficiency apartment complex for people with low incomes, with disabilities, who are older than 65, and who are formerly homeless.

Homeless facility threatened despite powerful support
Some Eastwood residents oppose plans for project to house 220
By Bill Murphy 
       Houston Chronicle       July 22, 2008
The list of those who support Magnolia Glen, a project that would provide permanent rooms for 220 homeless, is daunting: Houston Mayor Bill White, all five members of Harris County Commissioners Court, area mental health advocates, top city housing officials.

Commissioners Court in March awarded $1.67 million in federal grant money for the project, expecting the city to approve its share, $4 million, a short time later. But the project is teetering and may not happen because one official has said the project’s bevy of influential supporters are wrong.

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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