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Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compliation – 9/10/2008

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….

Reviews are mixed on the bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Although the Federal takeover has been considered inevitable for some time, it remained uncertain as to who would pay for the decommissioning. In the end, as usual, it’s the taxpayer. See the first five articles below.

In Texas predatory lending is the norm – but this week we have an excellent article from the Houston Chronicle on how sleazy it can get. See Lawsuit over signing shock below.

U.S. Unveils Takeover of Two Mortgage Giants
By Edmund Andrews        New York Times        September 7, 2008
WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department on Sunday seized control of the quasi-public mortgage finance giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and announced a four-part rescue plan that included an open-ended guarantee to provide as much capital as they need to stave off insolvency.

Few Stand to Gain on This Bailout, and Many Lose
By Eric Dash        New York Times       September 7, 2008
Over the years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac showered riches on many winners: their executives, Wall Street bankers and Washington lobbyists. Now the foundering mortgage giants are leaving some losers in their wake, notably their shareholders, rank-and-file employees and, in the worst case, American taxpayers.

Fannie and Freddie face delisting threat
Reuters     September 9, 2008
NEW YORK – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could eventually be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange and face the ignominy of trading on the pink sheets after a U.S. government takeover destroyed most of the value of their common stock.

The shares of both mortgage finance companies plunged below the critical $1 level on Monday, putting them front-and-center on the watch list of the New York Stock Exchange’s regulatory arm.

As part of the bailout, the U.S. Treasury will receive warrants to buy up to 79.9 percent of the companies’ common stock, diluting shareholder value. Dividends will be eliminated.

The Power of De
By Paul Krugman       New York Times      September 8, 2008
Save the home lenders, save the world? If only it were that simple.
The just-announced federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant mortgage lenders, was certainly the right thing to do – and it was done fairly well, too. The plan will sustain institutions that play a crucial role in the economy, while holding down taxpayer costs by more or less cleaning out the stockholders.

But Sunday’s action needs to be seen in a larger context – that of the attempt by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department to contain the fallout from the ongoing financial crisis. And that’s a fight the feds seem to be losing.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac takeover to have mild impact on Dallas area
By Eric Torbrenson and Brendan Case        Dallas Morning News      September 9, 2008
As one of the few survivors of the nation’s mortgage meltdown, North Texas’ home market doesn’t stand to gain nearly as much from the federal takeover of national mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as other parts of the country. But housing experts say every little bit helps.

The taxpayer-backed intervention revealed Sunday helped lower long-term interest rates, soothed investor fears about further mortgage woes and sent local homebuilders’ shares soaring on Monday.

Mixed reports greet homebuyers, sellers
By Mike Copeland         Waco Tribune-Herald        September 7, 2008
At least one local homebuilder said he’s seeing more traffic, while others say new-home demand in Waco remains steady but unspectacular.

Those assessments follow a report that new single-family home sales rose nationally by 2.4 percent in July to a seasonably adjusted annual rate of 515,000 units. That’s the most since April.
Even with the increase from June to July, new-home sales are down a whopping 35.3 percent from last July.

Lawsuit over signing shock
Baytown woman sues lenders, says she was a victim of predatory lending practices because she’s black

By Mary Flood        Houston Chronicle       Sept. 4, 2008
Nanette Lewis refinanced her mortgage to get peace of mind. Instead, she says, she got a bait-and-switch, predatory loan and heartbreak.

Now far less naive, the Baytown woman decided to fight back.

In a lawsuit she filed against her lenders in federal court last week, she alleges she was targeted for a loan with onerous terms because she’s black. Her suit mirrors one filed by the attorney general of Massachusetts and another by the city of Baltimore.

All three accuse lenders of “reverse redlining” – targeting minority loan applicants for the worst possible mortgage deals.

New urbanism can’t hide need for regionalism
By Micahel Paul Williams        Roseland [VA] Times-Dispatch       August 30, 2008
Re-creating an urban setting in the heart of suburbia can result in a community as antiseptic as a theme park.

Celebration, Fla. is an example of the new urbanism. It was created, naturally, by The Walt Disney Co. A forerunner of the genre is Seaside, Fla., the set of “The Truman Show,” in which Jim Carrey portrays an unwitting reality TV star who resides in a sound stage of a town.
Authentic is not what comes to mind with either place.

Facing closure, TRCC makes some changes
Commission’s upgrades stop short of a builder licensing process

By Janet Elliot         Houston Chronicle        September 5, 2008
AUSTIN – The governing board of a state agency criticized for being too easy on shoddy home builders adopted proposals on Thursday to make the agency more consumer-friendly but declined to require builders to be licensed and bonded.

The Texas Residential Construction Commission also voted down a proposal to modify the commission’s makeup to have more public members than builder members. The commission now has four builder members, three public members, one engineer and one inspector.

The commission was responding to a sunset staff review report that said the 5-year-old agency is ineffective and should be abolished.

Community Land Trust Keeps Prices Affordable-For Now And Forever
By Daniel Fireside      Yes! Magazine       September 5, 2008
Since the recent housing boom went bust, the news has been filled with stories of panic-stricken homeowners, skyrocketing foreclosure rates, and multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts.

It’s especially striking, then, that not a single owner of a house, condo, or co-op purchased through the Vermont-based Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) has experienced a foreclosure in the past year. Nor do any of the renters in the more than 1,600 CHT apartments have to fear eviction because of the mortgage meltdown. It’s the kind of track record that has brought the CHT international accolades and sparked an affordable housing revolution.

Over the past 25 years, the CHT has become one of the largest providers of affordable housing in the tri-county area surrounding Burlington, the state’s largest city, and home to its priciest homes and tightest rental market.

The $99,000 question
Can an ecosensitive house be affordable?

By Lisa Gray          Houston Chronicle       Sept. 2, 2008
When architects talk about “sustainability,” they usually mean the carbon-footprint kind. But when architect Nonya Grenader dreamed up the 99K House Competition, she was thinking about another kind of sustainability, too: the economic kind.

Low fuel bills are great. But the mortgage has to be bearable, too.

Last fall, the Rice Design Alliance (Grenader was president) teamed up with the American Institute of Architects-Houston to announce the 99K House Competition: a contest to design a house for the Gulf Coast area that would be sustainable, both ecologically and economically. “By sustainability,” says Grenader, “we really meant common sense.”

State housing agency helps rebuild apartments for lower income people
By Dan Wallach         Beaumont Enterprise        September 8, 2008
Tax credits that could be worth about $7.3 million over 10 years will help to modernize two affordable housing properties in Beaumont intended for people whose incomes are lower than the median in Southeast Texas.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs on Monday announced credits valued at $747,500 a year for 10 years.

The properties are Park Shadows apartments, 150 units, 1075 Pinchback Road, and Seville Row apartments, 90 units – specifically for low-income seniors – 4325 Crow Road.

Subsidizing Child Care
Burnam wants some TIF money for downtown worker bees and their kids.

By Dan McGraw       Fort Worth Weekly       September 4, 2008
Two months ago, Downtown Fort Worth Inc., the nonprofit that works on behalf of central-city businesses, surveyed area workers about whether they would use daycare programs close to their jobs. The results were surprising to many: A large fraction of workers, from wait staffers to white-collar types, said they need some kind of downtown child care help.

In the office worker category, 20 percent of those surveyed said they needed full-time daycare options and another six percent said they would use after-school care downtown if it was available.
In the retail and hospitality industries, the need was much larger. About 55 percent said they would use some kind of downtown daycare – full-time, nights, after school, or a couple of days a week.

Deadlocked Over Density
Neighbors say ARA plan clashes with existing homes, businesses

By Lee Nichols         Austin Chronicle      September 4, 2008
To say that the Austin Revitalization Author­ity’s relationship with its East Austin neighbors and the larger city has been rocky dramatically understates the history. Since its inception in the mid-Nineties, the nonprofit development agency created by the city to spur economic growth along East Austin’s 11th and 12th Street corridors has fended off persistent accusations of incompetence, cronyism, and corruption. In response, authority President Byron Marshall, its board leadership, and other supporters have regularly returned the favor, accusing critics of racism, liberal paternalism, or simply bad faith, and have blasted the local media for not reporting “ARA’s accomplishments.”

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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