Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 12/9/2008

The axe continues to drop on home buyers who bought more than they could afford. Federal and private bank efforts have thus far been unable to stem the tide of foreclosures that have reached record highs across the nation.

In Galveston, the poor remain unhoused while the city’s shakers and movers chat at visioning conferences. The city does not want mobile home parks for residents displaced by Hurricane Ike because it “sends the wrong message.”

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

Regulators scratch heads over housing crisis
By John Poirier and Karey Wutkowski       Reuters       December 8, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top U.S. banking regulators said on Monday that some of their foreclosure prevention efforts are floundering and that they have no agreed plan for the future, two years into a housing crisis that has dragged the economy into a deep recession.

More than half of troubled borrowers face losing their homes even six months after lenders have eased their monthly payments, one regulator said, a discouraging sign for reversing a tide of foreclosures.

Double whammy: Job losses at 34-year high; foreclosures hit highest level ever
By Kevin Hall        McClatchy News        December 5, 2008
WASHINGTON – November dealt a one-two punch to the U.S. economy, as employers shed more jobs than any month since December 1974 and mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures leapt to their highest quarterly totals since records have been kept, new reports showed Friday.

Days after the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that the U.S. economy has been in recession since last December, the Labor Department said that employers slashed nonfarm payrolls by 533,000 jobs in November. The agency said that the unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent, up from 6.5 percent a month earlier and the highest rate in 15 years.

The second blow came from the housing sector, as the Mortgage Bankers Association released its quarterly survey on late mortgage payments and foreclosures. The group said that 6.99 percent ofmortgages are 30 days or more behind on payment, and that 2.97 percent of all mortgages are in foreclosure proceedings.

Lower mortgage rates help but jobs, prices key
By Lynn Adler       Reuters       December 3, 2008
NEW YORK  – The lowest mortgage rates in three years are luring first-time buyers and cost-cutting refinancers, but falling home prices and mounting unemployment will keep U.S. housing in its deepest slump since the Great Depression.

Applications to buy and refinance homes hurtled higher last week as the lowest rates since the summer of 2005 unleashed pent-up demand. But the rush of activity does not portend a sustained boon to housing and the economy, analysts said.

Homebuilders shrink American dream, spark wrath
By Helen Chernikoff        Reuters      December 3, 2008
NEW YORK  – Builders desperate to put up smaller, cheaper homes are incurring extra expense and customers’ wrath by redesigning communities, even when people are already living in them.

As the U.S. housing slump accelerates, homebuilders from California to New Jersey are now being forced back to the drawing board and the local planning board to downsize the American dream.

U.S. housing crisis also hitting the wealthy
By Nick Carey         Reuters       December 7, 2008
HINSDALE, Illinois (Reuters) – Less than a year ago, few people in this affluent Chicago suburb expected the subprime U.S. housing crisis would hit close to home.

“We thought Hinsdale was virtually immune and we wouldn’t see any foreclosures, but we have,” said Dave Hanna, managing partner of Chicago-based Prudential Preferred CRE and president of the Chicago Association of Realtors. “Nowhere is immune.”

Financial industry pushes for lower mortgage rates
Associated Press          December 4, 2008
Reporting from Washington — Financial industry lobbyists are urging the Treasury Department to take steps to lower mortgage rates in hopes of stabilizing the housing market.

Under the proposal, the Treasury Department would seek to lower the rate on a 30-year mortgage to 4.5%, Scott Talbott, a vice president at the Financial Services Roundtable, said Wednesday. That’s about 1 percentage point below the current rate of 5.6%.
albott said.

More than 1 in 10 Texas mortgage holders face home loss
By Steve Brown         Dallas Morning News       December 5, 2008
More than one in 10 Texan mortgage holders are facing the loss of their home.

A just-released report on nationwide mortgage delinquency and foreclosure says that Texas is one of the top 10 states for late loan payments. At the end of the third quarter, 8.41 percent of Texans were at least a month behind on their home loan payments.

Study: Dallas area at ‘moderate’ risk for widespread mortgage defaults
By Steve Brown        Dallas Morning News       December 3, 2008
The latest mortgage market measure gives the Dallas area a “moderate” risk of widespread mortgage defaults.

San Francisco-based researcher First American CoreLogic rated the Dallas area 174 out of the 376 metropolitan areas it includes in its fourth quarter 2008 mortgage risk forecast.

Other Texas cities in the ranking include Houston which also has a “moderate” mortgage default risk and Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio which are deemed to have a “low” economic risk of mortgage default. To come up with the rankings researchers use factors including expectations for the local economy and home price declines.

County leads foreclosure list for area
By Dawn Cobb       Denton Record      December 6, 2008
Denton County topped the list of regional counties in the number of commercial foreclosure postings this year – a statistic first apparent in October after the first three quarters in 2008.

The county showed a 78 percent increase in commercial foreclosures with Collin County closing in at 72 percent, according to records from Foreclosure Listing Service Inc.

A total of 132 postings of commercial real estate were listed for 2008, up from 74 in 2007. Collin County showed 134 commercial foreclosure listings, up from 78 last year.

For a four-county area including Dallas and Tarrant counties, a total of 1,918 commercial properties were listed, up 32 percent from the 1,458 posted in 2007.

State lawmakers mull disaster recovery fund
By Rhiannon Meyers        Galveston County Daily News       December 6, 2008
Frustrated by bureaucratic red tape and the sluggish trickle of federal dollars into hurricane-ravaged areas, state lawmakers are considering pumping $100 million into a statewide disaster recovery fund and creating the state’s own disaster housing program.

Rep. Sylvester Turner, the chair of a House of Representatives committee charged with investigating the response and recovery after Hurricane Ike, said the committee will recommend setting aside at least $100 million over two years for cities and schools to dip into as they await reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Grants available for housing, infrastructure
By Rhiannon Meyers       Galveston County Daily News       December 9, 2008
GALVESTON – Officials representing cities in Galveston County on Monday urged state officials to spend more than $1.3 billion allocated by the federal government for Texas hurricane recovery on repairing infrastructure, rebuilding housing and helping businesses rebound.

Officials with the state’s Office of Rural Community Affairs and the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, charged with administering $1.3 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds, heard public testimony Monday as they work to devise a plan to divide the federal funds among 68 counties damaged by hurricanes Ike and Dolly.
community and to rebuild our economic options,” LeBlanc said. “Our needs are great in all areas.”

County hears pleas for trailers
By T.J. Aulds        Galveston County Daily News       December 8, 2008
LEAGUE CITY – Representatives from neighborhoods north of Broadway in Galveston – neighborhoods that were home to many poor, minority residents before Hurricane Ike – pleaded with county commissioners Monday to be more accommodating to communities of mobile homes provided by FEMA.

Even as an estimated 500 Galveston residents are without places to live, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said fewer than 100 people eligible to live in those temporary communities said they were willing to do so.

City prepared to offer McDougal downtown contract
By Eric Finley      Lubbock Avalanche-Journal      December 3, 2008
City leaders will offer Lubbock’s McDougal Land Company up to $1.7 million during the next five years to oversee downtown development during Thursday’s City Council meeting.

The contract allows includes a $500,000 cap on reimbursable expenses. The contract can be extended for two additional five year terms, and either side has an option to back-out out with 90 days notice.

As master developer, the company – owned by developer Delbert McDougal, who spearheaded the North Overton development – will be tasked with evaluating buildings downtown, finding tenants and marketing the project, among a host of duties spelled out in the contract. City leaders hope to turn downtown into the vibrant heart of the city it was decades ago.
“It just makes sense to do it under one project leader,” Lubbock Mayor Tom Martin said. “We think it’s a fair price and we negotiated down from what they originally asked.”