Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compliation – 10/15/2008

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

White House Overhauling Rescue Plan
By Edmund Andrews and Mark Landier       New York Times      October 12, 200
Washington – As international leaders gathered here on Saturday to grapple with the global financial crisis, the Bush administration embarked on an overhaul of its own strategy for rescuing the foundering financial system.

Two weeks after persuading Congress to let it spend $700 billion to buy distressed securities tied to mortgages, the Bush administration has put that idea aside in favor of a new approach that would have the government inject capital directly into the nation’s banks – in effect, partially nationalizing the industry.

Barack Obama calls for moratorium on mortgage foreclosures
The Democrat unveils a package of proposals in his ‘economic rescue plan for the middle class.’ John McCain says he’ll keep fighting, and plans to announce more economic proposals himself Tuesday.
By Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta      Los Angeles Times           October 13, 2008
TOLEDO, Ohio — Democrat Barack Obama today called for a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures as part of a package of proposals to deal with the effect of the current economic crisis on voters, while Republican John McCain portrayed himself as a fighter who should not be counted out of the race for president.

Study: U.S. housing costs soared as incomes lagged
Households are likely to face higher utility and transportation costs this year

By Alex Veiga       Associated Press        October 09, 2008
LOS ANGELES – The financial squeeze on Americans got tighter in the past decade as housing expenses – mortgage payments and rent, utilities and insurance – far outpaced the growth in incomes, a new study shows.

Overall, yearly housing costs rose by an average of $5,314, or nearly 65 percent, between 1996 and 2006, according to the report released Wednesday by the Center for Housing Policy.

Home improvement takes a hit as property owners scale back and drive a harder bargain
Remodelers see market fading
By J.W Elpinstone       Associated Press        October 12, 2008
NEW YORK – Contractors are bending over backward – even for small jobs like bathroom renovations and cabinetry – as the housing slump infects the remodeling industry and gives homeowners the upper hand in price negotiations.

Credit crunch squeezes Central Texas home starts
Builders putting off planned projects but are confident of rebound.
By Shonda Novak and Kate Miller Morton       Austin American-Statesman      October 12, 2008
By now, rows of houses should have replaced the bales of hay on the 700-acre Goodnight Ranch 10 miles south of downtown Austin. But more than two years after the city approved the 3,500-home development, construction has yet to disturb the pasture and farm land just east of Interstate 35 and Slaughter Lane.

Two years ago, developer Terry Mitchell said eight large homebuilders had expressed interest in taking 200 to 300 lots apiece at Goodnight Ranch. They offered between $5 million and $7 million in earnest money, which would help pay for $8 million worth of water and wastewater lines and other improvements.

Galveston remains in ‘stage of grieving’
36 dead, power still out, debris in piles – recovery is just beginning
By Harvey Rice and Allan Turner         Houston Chronicle      October 14, 2008
Dawning with a tickle of breeze and a hint of fall, Monday was a glorious day for a walk on the beach. But on the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Ike’s brutal assault on the Texas coast, few in Southeast Texas were in the mood for seaside reverie.

In Ike’s wake, at least 36 are dead and 134 missing. Downtown Galveston, inundated by as much as 12 feet of storm-churned water, was a veritable ghost town of gutted storefronts and piled debris. At least 14,000 area utility customers remained without electricity.

Almost 700,000 households in the 29-county disaster zone sought state or federal emergency relief. The city of Houston racked up more than $87 million in Ike-related expenses. At Surfside Beach, 16 houses washed away or were wrecked; in Baytown, 60. Monday afternoon, an estimated 420 Galveston Island residents still lived in a Red Cross tent city.

Texas officials ask FEMA for trailers
Associated Press      October 8, 2008
BEAUMONT — With thousands still homeless after Hurricane Ike and little housing available in Beaumont, Texas officials are pleading with FEMA to make good on its promise for more trailers.
A federal plan to provide rental assistance fell flat in the Beaumont area because little housing is available. Thousands are staying away from their homes or sleeping in cars and tents outside their flooded homes.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials have said more manufactured houses were on the way.

Orange County officials said at a meeting Tuesday that about 4,000 are needed. FEMA says as of Tuesday, 14 mobile homes were occupied in the region.
The area is among many still struggling to recover since Ike slammed the Texas coast last month.

FEMA extends hotel stay for Hurricane Ike victims
For two more weeks, agency will pay costs for those qualified
Houston Chronicle         Oct. 11, 2008
FEMA officials announced Saturday that they will cover the cost of hotel rooms for qualified Hurricane Ike victims for at least two more weeks.
The agency planned to end the shelter benefit Tuesday, but will extend it until at least Oct. 28 for people displaced from their homes because of damage or power outages.
FEMA officials said they will notify applicants individually if they’re authorized to stay beyond Oct. 28. Ineligible applicants will have to foot the expense themselves after that date.
Applicant with questions should call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 or visit http://www.fema.gov

TWIA lowers payout estimate
By Laura Elder       Galveston County Daily News       October 12, 2008
The state-backed windstorm insurer has slashed by almost half an earlier estimate of Hurricane Ike damage, bringing it to about $2.7 billion.

But officials concede the payout figure still is a moving target as they and others sort out what caused damage to houses and businesses – flood or wind.

Lubbock ceremony tops off Overton centerpiece
By Eric Finley      Lubbock Avalanche-Journal     October 10, 2008
The skyline above Overton Park is almost set.

About a year after construction crews broke ground on the Overton Hotel and Conference Center, one of its highest beams was hoisted into place Friday in a topping-off ceremony to mark the progress.
There’s still a long way to go. But business and city leaders who converged at the 15-story site were heaping praise on the luxury center, which already has a renter – it will host the state’s FFA convention in 2011.

Big changes in small town
As suburbia rapidly makes its way west, Fulshear officials have been busy getting ready

By Mike Snyder and Nancy Sarnoff       Houston Chronicle      October 9, 2008
FULSHEAR – Readers of a local newsletter this month learned of the birth of twins to a young couple, clipped and saved a schedule of upcoming Women’s Club meetings and received an invitation to the Waggin’ Tails Pet Ranch.

Major news events they are not, but they resonate in Fulshear, population 716, a town that clings tightly to its rural traditions and down-home values. Preserving these qualities, though, is likely to grow more difficult as large new housing developments march steadily westward to Fulshear’s doorstep and over the threshold.

The surge of development, including one project planning 6,000 homes, promises to transform this sleepy hamlet into the metropolitan area’s next major growth center, with a population that reaches 40,000 or more over the next 10 to 15 years.

Garden Gnome Politics
The age-old battle over landscape expression
Greg Beato       ReasonOnLine        November 2008
Reconnoiter a few suburban subdivisions these days, and it’ll be clearer than ever that there are two Americas. One decorates its front yards with giant patriotic teddy bears and halfburied zombies. The other has to get approval from its homeowners association (HOA) to change the color of its front door from beige to light tan.

Groves looks to limit number of adults who can share home
By Greg Hayes       Beaumont Enterprise           October, 9, 2008
GROVES – The Groves city council will consider the approval of an amendment to the city’s housing code ordinance when they convene in their regular meeting today.
The council approved the ordinance for the agenda that will be posted today at Groves City Hall in their Thursday afternoon workshop.

“This amendment will require the registration and inspection of one- and two- person units and family units,” said Steve Sanborn, a city building official. “It will address the square footage per adult be 300 square foot per unit.”

Homeless man’s death inspires Lubbock shelter mission
By Jeremy Henderson       Lubbock Avalanche-Journal     October 12, 2008
It’s been nearly a year since Richard Haley died. Chad Wheeler thinks Haley should still be alive.
Haley, a homeless man in his early 60s, died on a Lubbock street bench Nov. 18, 2007, a victim, says Wheeler, of the elements and of indifference. Haley had been a member of Carpenter’s Church (a ministry of Broadway Church of Christ) where Wheeler, 24, is a minister.

Driven by his passion for the homeless and inspired by Haley’s death, Wheeler, a recent graduate of Lubbock Christian University, is helping to organize a grassroots consortium of homeless advocates (tentatively known as Lubbock Inner City Ministries) with a mission of raising not only awareness of Lubbock’s homeless, but putting a roof over their heads.