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Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 8/13/2008

My friend and fellow houser Bo McCarver shares with the Texas housers blog the housing related stories from his weekly compilation of print media stories he calls “The Tuesday Report”. Bo’s report is posted 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 your email address and I’ll pass it on to Bo.

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

Here is Bo’s report….

Although FEMA has learned to react faster to emergencies, it is still riddled with mismanagement: scandals from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Scams continue to surface as the agency throws money at any opportunity. Bush has declared more disasters during his presidency than any other U.S. president.

Partially reacting to increasing homelessness among war veterans, we see more stories about efforts to address the issue. Substantive programs, however, are difficult to find. See the last three articles below.

U.S. Raids New Orleans Agency in Scandal Over a Housing Cleanup Program
By Adam Nossiter      New York Times      August 12, 2008
NEW ORLEANS – Federal investigators on Monday raided the downtown offices of a city-chartered nonprofit agency accused of abusing a federally financed program that was created to clean up houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The agents carted large boxes of files away from the agency, which had been hired by the city to run the $3.6 million program.

FEMA aid for S. Texas hurricane exceeds $14M so far
Associated Press         Aug. 12, 2008
BROWNSVILLE – The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent a little more than $14.4 million in aid thus far to residents of three South Texas counties hit by Hurricane Dolly.

Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy counties were declared eligible on July 31 to receive the aid for temporary housing assistance for those forced from their homes, as well as money for limited home repairs.

Delinquencies for 2007 mortgages outpacing 2006: report
Reuters       Aug 7, 2008
NEW YORK – Delinquencies of prime mortgages originated in 2007 are outpacing those made in 2006, suggesting the U.S. housing and financial crisis may be deeper than initial estimates, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

North Texas home sales down for 18th straight month
By Andrea Jares     Fort Worth Star-Telegram      August 7, 2008
North Texas home sales are down for the 18th month in a row, compared the same month the year before.

The 7,394 postings in July were down 16 percent from July 2007, according to figures from the North Texas Real Estate Information System. The area is a 29-county area that stretches from north of Waco to the Oklahoma border.

Dallas-Fort Worth pre-owned home sales fall 16% in July
By Steve Brown        Dallas Morning News       August 7, 2008
North Texas pre-owned home sales were down 16 percent during July compared with year-earlier numbers.

Forbes: Beaumont top in keeping home equity up
By Christine Rappleye       Beaumont Enterprise      August 7, 2008
Beaumont was listed this week by Forbes magazine as having the highest home equity in the country.

While other parts of the country were watching home values skyrocket and then plummet, they remained fairly steady in Beaumont to the tune of 75 percent of their property values, according to a list by Forbes.
Corpus Christi was second with 72 per-cent and Gulfport, Miss., was listed third at 71 percent. Charleston, W. Va., was listed fourth at 67 percent, according to the list.

King’s Dominion development stall, but there’s hope on horizon
By Chris Van Wagenen      Lubbock Avalanche-Journal      August 3, 2008
Ashley Hawkins recalls watching her new home going up – driving by each day with her husband, Jabroderick, as the two monitored its progress.

It was an exciting time for this East Lubbock couple, who were the first to qualify for a loan in King’s Dominion, located off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

For an area of town that hadn’t seen a brand new neighborhood in more than 50 years, the idea and its launch were what dreams were made of.

Let There Be Light
A long-suffering border colonia powers up with renewable energy.

By Forrest Wilder      Texas Observer       August 8, 2008
For a decade, the onset of the stifling summer heat in South Texas meant it was time for Patricia Gonzalez and her three children to drag their mattresses out of their cramped home to sleep outside. Like their neighbors, the Gonzalezes didn’t have electricity. No fans or air conditioning broke the heat. An ice chest kept the food and medication for her kids’ respiratory ailments cool. When daylight faded, she and her three children did schoolwork by candlelight (Gonzalez was studying for a GED). In the summer, they would sweat; in the winter, they would shiver.

For 36 years, the people of La Presa, a dusty neighborhood set among prickly pear cactus and squat huisache trees 10 miles south of Laredo, have lived without potable water, sewer connections, drainage, and properly maintained roads. Water for drinking and cooking is hauled in by truck and stored in large, plastic barrels. Septic systems often consist of little more than a cesspool behind the house. Most of the 350 residents in this colonia – shorthand for a substandard development built in an unincorporated area without basic services – aren’t connected to the electric grid. Instead, they get by with portable gas generators, electricity shared among neighbors via a daisy chain of extension cords, power poached from the grid, or nothing at all.

Now an innovative experiment has brought power to a dozen lucky residents of La Presa, including Gonzalez. By the end of the year, all 100 homes in the colonia will be hooked up to a “microgrid” provided by a partnership between a for-profit power company and the state. If the project works, it could be applied to other colonias in Texas, which has more of these substandard communities than any other state. According to the Texas Secretary of State, there are 2,300 colonias in Texas that more than 400,000 people call home.

Strides in Fighting Homelessness
The number of those chronically homeless has sharply declined, a new report says. But family homelessness may be on the rise.

By Alexandra Marks        Christian Science Monitor        August 8, 2008
NEW YORK – Against the dreary backdrop of the foreclosure crisis and soaring food costs comes some good news on the home front: Chronic homelessness has dropped 30 percent from 2005 to 2007.

Homeward Banned
City Hall says its new shelter has solved our homeless problem. But not for those who have been banished from it.

By Jim Schutze          Dallas Observer        August 07, 2008
By any chance, were you ever one of those people from a church or synagogue or mosque or some other outfit that used to come downtown in a van and feed the homeless? I say, “used to,” because, as you know, feeding the homeless is all taken care of now. You’re no longer needed. In fact you’re not really wanted anymore downtown handing out hot dogs.

Federal money to help El Paso’s homeless veterans
By Chris Roberts       El Paso Times      August 7, 2008
EL PASO – With nearly $200,000 in federal money, the city of El Paso in conjunction with Veterans Affairs will be working to help more homeless veterans get off the streets and back to a productive lifestyle.

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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