Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 1/6/2009

Among the foreclosures and general decline in the housing market, this week we witness a huge drop in occupancy of rental housing in Dallas. The writers suggest it is related to loss of jobs but there is no suggestion as to where residents of 6,000 units have gone or in which employment sectors they worked.

A Boston Globe story suggests a clue, however. It cites a study relating a city’s employment to housing production. Dallas housing starts/,along with those of other urban areas in Texas, have fallen sharply in the past quarter.

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

Dallas-Fort Worth apartment demand plummets
By Steve Brown         Dallas Morning News       January 5, 2009
The Dallas-Fort Worth apartment market suffered a huge hit in the final months of 2008 as thousands of renters moved out.

Apartment occupancy in the area fell by almost 6,000 units – more than erasing gains from earlier in the year, analyst M/PF YieldStar reported Monday.
The big decline in net apartment leasing also indicates that the local job market is in decline, analysts say.

Study finds housing key to job growth
Boston Globe            January 4, 2009
Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Columbus, Ohio, all added jobs while Boston’s employment declined between 2000 and 2006. These cold-weather metropolitan areas did something else, too: They produced new housing units at more than twice the pace of Boston in the previous decade.

Housing production – more than home prices or tax levels – is among the most important factors in promoting long-term job growth, a new study concludes.

The study, for the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, a quasi-public development agency, analyzed economic conditions in more than 200 US metropolitan areas and found that Greater Boston’s failure to build enough housing contributed to its subpar job growth in recent years.

Mortgage rates fall to third straight record low
Associated Press          December 31, 2008
WASHINGTON — Rates on 30-year mortgages fell to a record low for the third straight week and borrowers took advantage of the drop, sending new applications soaring.

With the Federal Reserve on the verge of pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into the devastated U.S. housing market, mortgage rates have plunged to the lowest level since Freddie Mac started tracking the data in April 1971.

Low rates are a great opportunity for borrowers with solid credit and plenty of equity in their homes. But those in danger of foreclosure are still sidelined, and defaults are expected to keep rising in the coming months.

Fannie says IndyMac has $1 bln in mortgage obligations: report
Reuters       Jan 2, 2009
Fannie Mae, the largest U.S. home funding company, believes that failed mortgage lender IndyMac has obligations to repurchase around $1 billion of home mortgages that failed to meet Fannie’s standards, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the situation.

Banks that sell loans to Fannie or its smaller rival, Freddie Mac, must make “representations and warranties” that those loans meet certain quality standards, the paper said. If not, the lenders can be forced to buy the loans back, the paper reported on its website late on Thursday.

A spokesman for Fannie told the paper the company is working with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) to resolve the issue.

Fannie could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters.

A consortium of private equity and hedge fund firms, including J.C. Flowers & Co, is close to a deal to buy the assets of IndyMac, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week.

The FDIC, which took control of IndyMac in July 2008, is seeking a buyer.

Waco banks seeing a boom in mortgage refinance applications
By Mike Copeland       Waco Tribune         January 2, 2009
With mortgage rates hitting record lows, Mary Jo Teakell is seeing a growing backlog of refinance applications.

“We’re quite busy right now,” said Teakell, senior vice president at Extraco Banks, commenting on the surge in people wanting to get a lower interest rate on their homes.

Interest rates generally are hovering around 5 percent – a little lower on some days, a little higher on others.

Jumbo mortgage loan rates put damper on refinancing
By Jenifer McKim       Boston Globe       January 5, 2009
While plunging mortgage rates have spawned a frenzy of refinancing, borrowers with larger, so-called jumbo loans are still seeing interest rates in the 7 percent range, prompting many to abandon refinancing plans altogether or resort to creative transactions. The high rates are particularly an issue in Greater Boston, where expensive housing forces many people into jumbo-loan territory, which is currently $465,750 and above. In 2006, more than 10 percent of borrowers in Massachusetts took out jumbo mortgages.

Home starts drop 32 percent in 2008
By Creighton Welch      San Antonio Express-News      January 5, 2009
Single-family home starts declined 32 percent in San Antonio and single-family home sales were down 29 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, a worse than expected decline.

During 2008, 8,719 new homes were started and 11,112 homes closed, according to Metrostudy, a housing research firm that presented its numbers at the annual Greater San Antonio Builders Association housing forecast.
In 2007, there were 12,800 home starts and 15,675 closings.

As a result of deteriorating economic conditions, Metrostudy expects construction and sales to continue to fall for much of 2009 as the San Antonio area remains a buyers market for much of the year.

There are 38 months worth of vacant developed lots available, and there were 8,053 lots delivered in 2008, 7,326 less than in 2007.

New home inventory did decline during the past year, falling 30 percent from 7,532 new homes in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 5,147 in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Influx of black renters raises tension in Bay Area
By Paul Elias         Associated Press         January 3, 2009
ANTIOCH, Calif. – As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.

In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.

Many illegally in U.S. live in public housing
By Elliot Spagal      Associated Press         January 2, 2009
Untold thousands of illegal immigrants live in public housing at a time when hundreds of thousands of citizens and legal residents are stuck waiting years for a spot.

Illegal immigrants make up a tiny portion of the 7.1 million people in federal housing, according to government statistics. But authorities may be unaware of thousands more, and critics say no illegal immigrant should get housing benefits.

Storm-condemned apartments spawn break-ins
By Chris Paschenko       Galveston Daily News       January 6, 2009
GALVESTON – Just last week, authorities charged 11 people with living illegally in a storm-battered and condemned apartment complex, but neighbors say its open doors and broken windows still are spawning crime, with 10 burglaries reported nearby during the weekend.

Despite recession, Haven for Hope is on schedule
By Nancy Martinez       San Antonio Express-News       January 4, 2009
The sights and sounds of hammers, drills and cranes at the city’s Haven for Hope campus signify more than a new approach to dealing with the estimated 2,500 people who sleep on San Antonio’s streets each night. The buzz of construction shows that tangible progress is being made in the midst of a recession that could push more people into homelessness.

Haven for Hope leaders say the massive $47 million construction project for the one-stop homeless transformation center is going smoothly. It is about 86 percent funded, and work should be completed later this year.

Deadly fire
By Mary Madewell       Paris News       January 5, 2009
Five men were confirmed dead and two others unaccounted for early today in a fire at Christians In Action, 410 Clarksville St. in Paris.

Fire units battled the blaze more than two hours before bringing it under control.

Firefighting activities were hampered by rain and chilling temperatures, and the residents of the facility were forced to stand outside in the soaking rain for a time.

More than 30 men were residents of the shelter and most were asleep when the blaze began, apparently near the sorting room where workers go through items donated to the shelter. No one was working there at the time the fire began shortly after 2:30 a.m.