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Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compliation – 9/30/2008

Tent cities continue to sprout across the nation as foreclosures soar and jobs disappear. The financial institutions that might generate funds for relief are busy realigning, merging or folding as the few solvent giants pick through the bones of the fallen. Recovery that would free capital for local rebuilding is years away, if then.

The financial meltdown influences recovery from catastrophes such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike. And FEMA continues to sleepwalk through its functions, waiting weeks before sending relief trailers to the coast.

FEMA: Mobile homes head for Southeast Texas Thursday
By Ryan Myer        Beaumont Enterprise       September, 24, 2008
After frustrating days of finger-pointing and delay, FEMA officials told local leaders Wednesday that mobile homes finally were on the way for Southeast Texans displaced from their homes by Hurricane Ike.

Mobile homes and “park model trailers” have been staged outside of the state and will begin shipping Thursday, said Albie Lewis, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official speaking in a conference call Wednesday.

Lewis declined to speculate when the mobile homes and park model trailers would begin arriving.

Galveston providing tent shelters
Associated Press      September 25, 2008
GALVESTON, Texas – Residents of Galveston who found their homes uninhabitable when they returned this week after fleeing from Hurricane Ike now have another shelter to stay in – tents set up at an old elementary school, city officials said Thursday.

Mold has gotten a head start
By Lisa Falkenberg          Houston Chronicle      September 29, 2008
GALVESTON – It’s black, white, green, blue, even calico. It feasts, floats and climbs. It can show itself, or not. It’s toxic, or not. It can resemble a rash, pocket lint, a puff of smoke.

It can make your throat cough, eyes itch, head pound, or leave you alone.

The menace is mold, and it’s ravaging water-damaged homes and buildings all over Galveston in the island’s latest battle wrought by Hurricane Ike.

Housing price index tumbles 16.3% in July
By J.W. Elphinstone          Associated Press       Sept. 30, 2008
NEW YORK – A closely watched index released today showed home prices tumbling by the sharpest annual rate ever in July, but the rate of monthly declines is slowing.

Lawmakers Challenge Lack of Help Aimed at US Homeowners
By Mark Landier and David Herszenhorn         New York Times         September 24, 2008
Washington – The White House waged a multifront campaign Tuesday to persuade Congress to accept its vast bailout plan, with President Bush telling world leaders that the United States had taken “bold steps” to stanch the financial crisis while Vice President Dick Cheney and other top officials went to Capitol Hill to try to persuade reluctant lawmakers.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, faced five hours of grilling by skeptical, angry members of the Senate Banking Committee.

In blunt terms, Mr. Bernanke warned the senators that if they failed to pass the $700 billion plan, they risked causing a recession, increasing joblessness and pushing more homes into foreclosure.

“This will be a major drag on the U.S. economy and greatly impede the ability of the economy to recover,” Mr. Bernanke said.

The lawmakers objected strenuously to the broad authority Mr. Paulson was requesting, the lack of additional steps to help homeowners avoid foreclosure and the absence of any demands for ownership stakes in the banks that are helped.

Home ownership isn’t to blame for meltdown
Opinion by Victor Landa      San Antonio Express-News       Sept. 29, 2008
When the U.S. economy started its free fall in the middle of this month, the dire predictions held that close to 200 financial institutions would fail before it was all over.

That expectation has not changed, and it was no surprise when the country’s largest thrift went into a tailspin last week. We all know now that Washington Mutual crumbled under its own weight and that JP Morgan Chase stepped in to buy its deposits at nearly $2 billion. So the deposits in the largest bank in the nation are safe without the intervention of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The problem now is for the bank employees, many of whom will lose their jobs.

Patriot Homes, with Waco plant, files for bankruptcy
By Mike Copeland       Waco Herald-Tribune     September 29, 2008
Indiana-based Patriot Homes has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because its bank discontinued its line of credit.

The Patriot Homes plant in Waco will continue to operate, and its 145 employees will receive the same pay and benefits.

Nonprofit Makes Section 8 Complexes Green
By Richard Metcalf         Albuquerque Journal        September 22, 2008
A nonprofit partnership, spearheaded by San Franciscobased Reliant Group, has completed the “green” renovation of seven Section 8 apartment complexes in New Mexico, including two in Albuquerque.

Another Opinion: Prefab is Not the Answer to Affordable, Modern and Green Homes
By Lloyd Alter        Treehugger      Sept. 9, 2008

Chad Ludeman, developer of the 100K House, has looked at the prefab industry closely and concludes: “I just don’t believe it is the best way of delivering modern design to the average new home buyer.” He writes a guest post at Jetson Green that is thoughtful and thorough. He disputes most of the claims made by those promoting modern prefab (including me):

Tenants: Landlord used dead cats to push us out
Associated Press       September 29, 2008
NEW YORK  — Tenants of a Brooklyn building said their landlord came up with a new idea for how to kick them out: Let the smell of the cats out of the bag. Dead cats, that is.

The stench from the carcasses did catch the tenants’ attention – but they stayed and sued.

One tenant, Daisy Terry, told a City Hall news conference on Sunday it was so bad she had to hold her nose coming down the stairs.

The building in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood was purchased last year by a company listed in court papers as Heskel. A call to Heskel Properties in Manhattan was not immediately returned.

Terry said the landlord used the dead cats to try to push out rent-stabilized tenants.

Homeowners’ faith in commission crumbling
By: Veronica Castelo     News 8 Austin       September 23, 2008
Buying a home in Manor four years ago was a dream come true for Robert Hoover and his family.

“It’s where I want to raise my kids. It’s where I want to retire. It’s where I want to grow old. We love our home,” Hoover said.

Soon after buying his new home Hoover discovered cracks in the foundation. He turned to the Texas Residential Construction Commission or TRCC for help. Duane Waddill is the Executive Director.

It’s been almost four years since Hoover contacted TRCC. Today, Hoover’s home still has cracks in the foundation and he’s still trying to get the builder to do something about it.

Homeowners like Hoover feel like they are still left battling giant homebuilders by themselves.

Big insurers don’t have to get permission to raise homeowner rates, legislative panel says
By Terrence Schultz          Dallas Morning News      September 24, 2008
AUSTIN – Big Texas insurers chalked up a victory Wednesday, when a legislative committee narrowly rejected a proposal to require that they get prior approval from the state before increasing homeowner rates for their customers.

Plan to house homeless dropped
By Sarah Coppola       Austin American-Statesman         September 25, 2008
The nonprofit group Community Partnership for the Homeless is suspending its plans to build an apartment complex on Manor Road.

In Hard Times, Tent Cities Multiply
Associated Press     September 29, 2008
Reno, Nevada – A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.

Then others appeared – people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring.

Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless.

Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a “tent city” – an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go.

From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.

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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