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Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compliation – 10/7/2008

An autopsy of Fannie Mae is offered this week by the New York Times, which asserts conflicting pressures to back mortgages to low-income homeowners while turning profits generated much of the demise. As the Bush Administration begins to apply portions of the $700 Billion Bailout, CountryWide  will address 30,000 troubled mortgages in Texas.

Meanwhile, the Galveston County Daily News begins operations again and we see details of Galveston’s rebuilding struggle in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

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

Pressured to Take More Risk, Fannie Hit a Tipping Point
By Charles Duhigg       New York Times       October 4, 2008
When the mortgage giant Fannie Mae recruited Daniel H. Mudd, he told a friend he wanted to work for an altruistic business. Already a decorated marine and a successful executive, he wanted to be a role model to his four children – just as his father, the television journalist Roger Mudd, had been to him.

Fannie, a government-sponsored company, had long helped Americans get cheaper home loans by serving as a powerful middleman, buying mortgages from lenders and banks and then holding or reselling them to Wall Street investors. This allowed banks to make even more loans – expanding the pool of homeowners and permitting Fannie to ring up handsome profits along the way.

But by the time Mr. Mudd became Fannie’s chief executive in 2004, his company was under siege.

Countrywide deal provides options for those struggling
It may help 30,000 Texas homeowners

By Garry Scharrer         Houston Chronicle      October 7, 2008
AUSTIN – An estimated 30,000 Texas homeowners with mortgages from Countrywide Financial may get friendlier loan terms through a settlement announced Monday to help rescue those in over their head.

The deal, involving the company and several states, allows eligible homeowners to modify terms of their loans to make monthly mortgage payments more affordable.
The loan modification program affects Texans who are in default or likely to default on subprime mortgages from Countrywide, a financially struggling company recently acquired by Bank of America.

Possible help measures include:

  • Lower interest rates to as low as 2.5 percent for up to five years.
  • Conversion of adjustable-rate mortgages to fixed-term loans.
  • Reduced principal loan amounts.
  • Suspension of foreclosure for eligible homeowners who are in default but want to stay in their homes.

HUD money available to counter tide of foreclosures
By Ryan Honeywell      McAllen Monitor      October 5, 2008
McALLEN — City leaders are conducting a survey of more than 320 lending institutions to determine the extent of housing foreclosures here.

The results are expected to bolster their case when they apply to the Texas governor’s office for a piece of the $101 million the federal government made available to the state to assist with the foreclosure crisis.

State suing hotels for Ike price gouging
Attorney general cites raised rates following disaster declaration

By Evelyn Ngugi        Daily Texan       October 5, 2008
Attorney General Greg Abbott said Thursday his office is suing two Texas hotels for increasing room rates as residents evacuated the Gulf Coast for Hurricane Ike.

Housing Authority to reimburse rent for September
Galveston County Daily News         October 6, 2008
GALVESTON – The Galveston Housing Authority announced Friday it will reimburse September rent for low-income public housing residents because of Hurricane Ike.

Any resident who has more than $100 in receivables will be issued a refund check by the housing authority on request.

Any resident who has less than $100 in receivables will have that money as a credit with the housing authority, unless the resident is in dire need of that money and requests a refund.

City considers new rules to allow trailers, RVs
By Leigh Jones      Galveston County Daily News     October 6, 2008
GALVESTON – The city council Friday postponed for at least a week setting new rules to allow residents to live in trailers or recreational vehicles next to their damaged houses.

Ike victims face new line of windstorm insurance
By Laura Elder       Galveston County Daily News     October 6, 2008
Veronica De Los Santos spent four hours Friday morning waiting in a line of cars creeping into the parking lot of Gulf Greyhound Park in La Marque.

The Galveston resident waited the four hours to meet with representatives of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which set up a mobile claims center at the dog track, 1000 FM 2004, a few days after Hurricane Ike made landfall Sept. 13.

HUD Awards $20 Million to Revitalize Public Housing in Texarkana
HUD Press Release       October 1, 2008
WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steven Preston today awarded the Housing Authority of the City of Texarkana (HATT), Texas a $20 million grant to support the revitalization of three public housing developments in the historic Rosehill neighborhood.

“This HOPE VI Program will allow Texarkana to encourage other public and private investment in bringing quality affordable housing to Rosehill,” said Preston. “I’m proud that HUD can be a partner in breathing new life into this neighborhood and transform the lives of its residents.”

Mueller Revisits Affordability and Density
By Kimberly Reeves       Austin Chronicle      October 4, 2008
In at least one respect, the master-planned neighborhood at Mueller is a microcosm of the city of Austin’s own larger struggle with keeping the affordability factor in the local housing stock.

Mueller’s development team, like Austin’s City Council, is attempting to figure out how to squeeze as much affordability – and range of prices – into a single community as possible. And, like Austin, Mueller is looking at ways to go denser and taller without disrupting surrounding homes.

Crime-free housing program to be up for approval Tuesday
Jessica Langdon        Wichita Falls Times Record News
       October 4, 2008
When a rising number of calls for police at apartment properties over the past several years caught the Wichita Falls Police Department’s attention, the Community Services Section and the crime analyst took a look at the numbers and found that officers were spending a significant number of hours on those calls.

Everything under the sun
A duplex that combines a solar-powered modular home with a 1930s bungalow keeps East Austin weird and energy efficient

By Amber Novak      Austin American-Statement       October 5, 2008
It’s billed “The World’s Weirdest Duplex,” and it lives up to the name.
The home at 1701 E. 22nd St. connects a cutting-edge solar house, built with the most modern sustainable materials, to a rehabilitated 1930s bungalow.

And it’s a symbol of new cooperation between two traditional enemies: the Blackland Community Development Corp. and the University of Texas.

‘Broken Windows’ Rebuffed: The Social Life of Skid Row
By Rocco Pendola          Planetizen         October 6, 2008
As an urbanist I grow weary of repeated references to Jane Jacobs. Large numbers of planners and architects have heeded her advice of mixed-use, diversity-focused city crafting. The struggle of making it happen in the communities where they work is long underway. I argue, though, that some of the people advocating Jacobs’ legacy have missed an equally as important point she emphasized in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

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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