Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 6/9/2009

Housing stories were scarce this week as national economic and international events dominated the news. The business indicators remained gloom, however, with the housing market stifled by conservative lending practices by large banks.  As they wait the general economy to recover, most builders are idle.

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

US housing starts at record low

BBC June 4, 2009

The number of new homes built in the US fell to a record low in April, official statistics have shown.

New housing starts fell 12.8% to an annual rate of 458,000 units – the lowest since records began in 1959 – the Commerce Department said.

The fall was steeper than expected with experts forecasting a fall to 520,000 from March’s revised rate of 525,000.

Full story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8057722.stm

US house prices continue to fall

BBC June 4, 2009

US house prices continued to fall in February, but the rate of decline in some markets is slowing down, a leading index has indicated.

Prices were 18.6% lower than in February 2008, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price index said.

This was slightly better than the 19% annual fall seen in January, and was the first time in 16 months that the annual decline was not a record.

Full story at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8023293.stm

Dallas-Fort Worth pre-owned home sales fall 24%

By Steve Brown        Dallas Morning News June 8, 2009

North Texas pre-owned home sales dived by almost a quarter in May compared to a year earlier.

But even with the big decline, median prices were down only a fraction, according to statistics released Monday.

Real estate agents sold just under 6,000 pre-owned single-family homes last month, Texas A&M University’s Real Estate Center and the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems reported. It was the lowest home sales total for the month since 2000.

Fort Lauderdale joins program to buy, resell foreclosed homes

Lauderdale joins program to fight foreclosures

By Randy Abraham       Fort Lauderdale Sun June 7, 2009

Fort Lauderdale has formally joined a national program that will provide $3.7 million to purchase and renovate foreclosed homes in the city and sell them as affordable housing. The city will receive the $3.7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

The city hopes to soon establish a qualifying period and deadline for those wishing to take part in the program and determine the price range of homes to be offered. City officials will meet with the three vendors to discuss program policies, procedures and processes.
To be eligible, applicants must have a total household income at or below 120 percent of the median income and must attend homeowner classes and receive other counseling. Those wishing to buy a home need not be a city resident or first-time home buyer; however, they cannot own another piece of property.

Hurricane victims get chance to buy trailers for as little as $1

The U.S. government will also provide $50 million to help others whose homes were destroyed in 2005 by Katrina and Rita. More than 3,400 people had faced eviction from FEMA trailers.

By Kate Linthicum       Los Angeles Times June 4, 2009

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that it would allow hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast still living in government-supplied trailers to buy their temporary homes for as little as $1.

The government will also provide $50 million to help other trailer residents, whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, move into rental or public housing.

The assistance comes just days after the official start of the 2009 hurricane season and one month after FEMA announced that it was ending the temporary housing program it started in the aftermath of Katrina.

Critics question deal on housing project

By Eric Dexheimer Austin American-Statesman June 9, 2009

In a deal that critics say sets a costly precedent, the City of Austin is poised to approve an affordable housing project this week that would give millions of dollars in tax breaks and other incentives to a for-profit developer.

In exchange, only one-fifth of the development’s apartments would be priced for the city’s poorer residents.

Supporters describe the Village on Little Texas as a creative response to Austin’s acute shortage of affordable housing.

“This is one of the better affordable housing deals the city has ever done,” said Anthony Snipes, City Manager Marc Ott’s chief of staff. “When you look at what the city is getting back, it’s unprecedented.”

Complicating the matter is that the project, to be built on 11 acres near Stassney Lane and South Congress Avenue in South Austin, is being developed by former partners of the city’s director of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, Margaret Shaw. City officials said Shaw removed herself late last year from any decisions involving Captuity Investments Three LP, a partnership led by William Lee and William Skeen.

Tales of Tent City

By Ben Ehrenreich The Nation June 3, 2009

“This is the bigger picture,” said John Kraintz, with a sweep of his arm, indicating the roughly two dozen remaining tents pitched around him on a muddy, pockmarked field between the city dump and the slow green waters of the American River. Kraintz is a thin man of 57, a former electrician who had lived in Sacramento’s parks and riverside lots for seven years. His home had been right here–in Tent City.

Kraintz had relocated to Tent City’s outer boroughs. Its downtown, which briefly attracted camera crews from all over the world–a Third World shantytown in the capital of the richest state in the richest country!–was a couple of hundred yards away. Depending on whom you ask, somewhere between 150 and 300 people lived in Tent City between November and April. But by the third week in April, when I visited, most had already packed up. Some had migrated to this spot to avoid police attention. But the cops came, handing out notices announcing, “It is unlawful to camp in the City of Sacramento” and giving people two days to leave. (“This is not camping–we’re living!” yelled one of Kraintz’s neighbors.) By the end of the week, everyone had left. Tent City, for that moment at least, had disappeared.

Army veteran, living in a shed, waits for help from the VA

By Regina Dennis       Waco Tribune-Herald June 8, 2009

Jerry Pole would like to take a warm bath, lay in a comfortable bed and eat a hot meal cooked on a stove.

His current living quarters do not allow for such conveniences. The 57-year-old Army veteran has been living for the past two years in a rented storage shed on an acre of land his girlfriend owns on the outskirts of Bellmead.

Pole is unable to work and takes 13 medications to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and a nervous condition he said was caused by his Army service, which includes a year in Vietnam.

Veteran Jerry Pole lives in a storage shed on property near Bellmead. With little income and a continued wait for veteran benefits, Pole and his girlfriend, who lives in a nearby shed, are four months behind in payments on the storage-unit homes. There’s no room for a kitchen or bathroom in the shed, or even space for a refrigerator. A used love seat serves as his bed and takes most of the space.