Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 7/28/2009

The supply/demand principle of free markets appears to be ignored in Texas: although foreclosure rates continue to climb, Texas homebuilders lead the nation in pulling permits. Fort Worth is listed among the top cities in the nation for housing starts but has 4,200 foreclosed homes on the market.

Meanwhile, the Fed attempts to free-up mortgage loans but imposed restrictions on incentives for banks to administer them.

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

Fed plans consumer-friendly changes to mortgage rules

By Kevin Hall   McClatchy Newspapers July 23, 2009

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve governors on Thursday unanimously proposed tough new consumer-friendly disclosure rules for mortgages and home equity loans, tackling one of the less-appreciated causes of the nation’s deep financial crisis.

After 18 months of study and consumer testing, the Fed’s division of consumer affairs proposed, and governors accepted, a change to how finance charges and the annual percentage rate would be calculated. They also proposed restricting some bonus compensation from lenders to those who originate loans.

The action by the Fed’s Board of Governors, which requires a four-month comment period before becoming final, came as Congress is weighing an Obama administration proposal to strip the central bank of some of its regulatory authority over consumer credit products such as mortgages and credit cards.

Foreclosed and Evicted in Oakland

By David Bacon   t r u t h o u t July 28, 2009

Oakland – At eight in the morning on Monday, ten Alameda County sheriffs arrived in their patrol cars in front of the tan house on the corner of Tenth and Willow in west Oakland, the oldest African-American neighborhood in the city and one of the oldest on the west coast. The renovated home is surrounded by an iron fence, and the sheriffs poured through its open gate and up the stairs.

Tosha Alberty had just left for work for her job as a transportation services coordinator for Alameda County. Her children were still at home, though. Sheriffs told her adopted son Christian, a nine-year-old with autism still in his undershorts, to get dressed. Alberty’s daughter Sharquita rushed to collect the bottles and diapers she needed to take care of her nine-month-old baby Zmylan. All of them were then hustled out of the front door, down the steep steps, through the gate in the iron railings and onto the sidewalk.

U.S. home vacancies nearly steady at 18.7 million

Bloomberg News July 24, 2009

More than 18.7 million homes stood empty in the U.S. during the second quarter as the steepest recession in 50 years sapped demand for real estate and banks seized properties from delinquent borrowers.

The number of vacant properties, including foreclosures, residences for sale and vacation homes, was little changed from 18.6 million a year earlier, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report today. The quarterly homeownership rate was 67.3 percent, seasonally adjusted.

More than 14 percent of homes were vacant in the period, the Census said. Home values dropped 33 percent since 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, and the unemployment rate in June rose to the highest in almost 26 years. Tumbling home prices and rising job losses have thwarted government efforts to reverse the housing decline at the heart of the longest U.S. recession since the 1930s.

Existing home sales show signs of recovery

For 1st time in 5 years, sales of previously occupied homes rose for 3rd straight month

Associated Press July 23, 2009

WASHINGTON — The U.S. housing market is finally on the mend after its most far-reaching collapse in 70 years. That could help rebuild consumer confidence and revive the economy.

For the first time in five years, sales of previously occupied homes rose for the third consecutive month in June, while foreclosure sales and the glut of homes on the market both declined.

The figures, released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors, and a string of rosy corporate earnings reports sparked a rally on Wall Street as the Dow Jones industrials rose above 9,000 for the first time since January.

“People believe that the worst is behind us,” said Julie Longtin, a real estate agent with Re/Max Professionals in Providence, R.I., an area that has suffered deeply from record foreclosures of risky loans.

House passes increase for housing, high-speed rail

By Andrew Taylor   Associated Press July 24, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Democratic-dominated House Thursday approved generous funding for housing subsidies for the poor and President Barack Obama’s initiative to build high-speed railroads as it passed a $123.1 billion transportation and housing bill.

The measure, approved 256-168, provides a 13 percent increase in total funding for the programs it covers, including $4 billion for Obama’s high-speed rail initiative, which was launched in February with an $8 billion infusion from the economic stimulus bill. Obama had only sought $1 billion in additional money for high-speed and other intercity rail lines.

The earlier $8 billion appropriation has generated a “huge demand” of more than $100 billion in projects submitted by more than 40 states, said Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., the main author of the bill. “We must keep this momentum going,” Olver said.

Texas Leads the Nation in Homebuilding

By Steve Brown   Dallas Morning News July 27, 2009

Texas cities continue to lead the nation in homebuilding, even in the face of huge construction cutbacks.

Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth are the top markets in the country for building permits for single-family homes, based on numbers for the 12-month period ending in May.

And Texas had more homebuilding permits than California and Florida combined, according to data provided by California-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Along with Houston and D-FW, Austin and San Antonio also rank among the country’s 10 busiest homebuilding markets.

Infusion of federal money aims to stabilize Tarrant County neighborhoods devastated by foreclosures

By Darren Barbee   Fort Worth Star-Telegram July 26, 2009

Sonia Green plans to buy a home, courtesy of up to $25,000 in almost-no-strings-attached cash from federal funds handed out by Fort Worth.

One foreclosed home down, 4,200 more to go.

Out of 254 Texas counties, Tarrant is the neediest for foreclosure assistance.

The county is in bad shape as the raw number and percentage of foreclosures climb, along with unemployment levels and the poverty rate, according to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Home-sales Picture: El Paso data show decline, with some good market news

By Vic Kolenc   El Paso Times July 26, 2009

EL PASO — Home sales continued to decrease in El Paso in the first half of the year, as they have in much of the nation.

El Paso home prices, after several years of increases and remaining flat last year, also declined in the first half of the year.

“Every Realtor in the country hoped the real estate market would turn around faster than it has, and El Paso is no exception,” said Suzy Shewmaker Hicks, president of the Greater El Paso Association of Realtors and a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty.

Report blasts FEMA on storm trailer formaldehyde

By Cain Burdeau   Associated Press July 24, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — The Federal Emergency Management Agency took too long to respond to initial reports of dangerous levels of formaldehyde in trailers delivered to victims of the 2005 hurricanes, exposing people to possible health risks, a report of the Homeland Security Department inspector general said Thursday.

“FEMA did not display a degree of urgency in reacting to the reported formaldehyde problem,” the report said, “a problem that could pose a significant health risk” to those living in the temporary housing.

Another recession sign: Room to rent

By Megan Woolhouse   Boston Globe July 27, 2009

John Murphy does not want a roommate; he needs one. The former advertising executive, who bought his Milton home when he was earning a six-figure salary, has been unemployed for nearly a year and a half and hopes a boarder will help him make mortgage payments.

Murphy, 51, is looking for someone within 10 years of his age who can afford to pay $1,200 a month to share his house and garden. It needs to be someone he “clicks with,’’ he said.

“Looking for a roommate, it’s a bit of a blow to the ego,’’ he said. “But it all boils down to: You gotta do what you gotta do.’’

Murphy and other reluctant roommates like him are being forced by economic necessity to open up their homes and share living space.