Bo McCarver’s housing news compilation – 8/18/2009

Across the nation, struggling homeowners who are behind in paying taxes on their homes are now faced with huge fees from companies that have bought their tax accounts from counties. While the policy rids counties of troublesome accounts, it has dire repercussions on communities hard hit by the recession.

Meanwhile, renting returns to vogue as more Americans face the grim realities of having too much house and not enough cash. For those who have built up equity, reverse mortgages are increasingly the choice for making ends meet.

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

Home foreclosures set another record in July

By Lynn Adler   Reuters August 13, 2009

NEW YORK – U.S. home loans failed at a record pace in July despite ongoing federal and state programs to avoid foreclosures, which have severely strained housing and the economy.

Foreclosure activity jumped 7 percent in July from June and 32 percent from a year earlier as one in every 355 households with a loan got a foreclosure filing, RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

Filings — including notices of default, auction and bank repossession — have escalated with unemployment.

More than 30% of D-FW mortgages are underwater, study says

Nationwide, almost a third of houses with loans are worth less than the debt

By Steve Brown   Dallas Morning News August 17, 2009

More than 30 percent of Dallas-Fort Worth mortgage holders now owe more than their property is worth.

That’s a big increase from the 21 percent of local home borrowers who were underwater at the end of 2008, according to a study released Monday by First American CoreLogic.

Nationwide, almost a third of houses with loans are now worth less than the debt, the California-based mortgage and real estate analysts said in its June report.

Central Texas foreclosures top 10,000 for the year so far

By Shonda Novak   Austin American-Statesman August 14, 2009

Central Texas foreclosure postings reached another high, with 1,071 properties posted for the Sept. 1 auction, up 40 percent from the same month last year.

For the first nine months of this year, there were 10,098 notices in Travis, Williamson, Hays and Bastrop counties, up 56 percent compared with the same period last year. That level tops the 9,008 notices filed for all of 2008, according to Foreclosure Listing Service Inc., the Addison firm that tracks the numbers.

Reverse mortgages growing in popularity

Lisa Chamoff   McClatchy-Tribune Regional News August 9, 2009

More than a year ago, Dee Lewis was struggling to afford her escalating property taxes, plus pay the mortgage on the small Glenville farmhouse where she’s lived since 1982.

Lewis, now 64, had been considering a reverse mortgage, which allows senior citizens to tap into the equity of their homes, providing them access to money (OTCBB:AEMI) without the burden of monthly payments. The loan is repaid when the borrower sells the house or dies.

Last April, Lewis took the plunge, becoming one of a growing number of people to take advantage of the government-backed program.

The New American Dream: Renting

By Thomas J. Sugrue   Wall Street Journal August 17, 2009

‘A man is not a whole and complete man,” wrote Walt Whitman, “unless he owns a house and the ground it stands on.” America’s lesser bards sang of “my old Kentucky Home” and “Home Sweet Home,” leading no less than that great critic Herbert Hoover to declaim that their ballads “were not written about tenements or apartments…they never sing about a pile of rent receipts.” To own a home is to be American. To rent is to be something less.

Every generation has offered its own version of the claim that owner-occupied homes are the nation’s saving grace. During the Cold War, home ownership was moral armor, protecting America from dangerous outside influences. “No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist,” proclaimed builder William Levitt. With no more reds hiding under the beds, Bill Clinton launched National Homeownership Day in 1995, offering a new rationale about personal responsibility. “You want to reinforce family values in America, encourage two-parent households, get people to stay home?” he said. George W. Bush similarly pledged his commitment to “an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, ‘welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property.'”

Surveys show that Americans buy into our gauzy platitudes about the character-building qualities of home ownership—at least those who still own them. A February Pew survey reported that nine out of 10 homeowners viewed their homes as a “comfort” in their lives.

More share space to shave costs in recession

By Carolyn Said   San Francisco Chronicle August 17, 2009

Cathy Herlicy was getting desperate for a way to meet expenses after her hours as a limousine dispatcher were slashed and she couldn’t find other work.

Everything bottomed out for me, and I was having trouble making my home loan payments,” said Herlicy, 59. Then a lightbulb went off: Why not rent out a room in her Milpitas home?

She contacted HIP Housing, a San Mateo nonprofit that helps arrange shared housing. They interviewed her and two days later proposed several potential renters, one of whom moved in with Herlicy.

Tax Bills Put Pressure on Struggling Homeowners

By Jack Healy   New York Times August 17, 2009

Hard times are causing more homeowners to fall behind on their property taxes. But in thousands of cases, they are not responsible to their local governments, but to private companies that charge double-digit interest and thousands of dollars in service fees.

This is because in recent years struggling cities and counties have sold their delinquent tax bills to the highest bidder. It seemed a painless way to turn old debts into cash to finance schools or public services.

But housing advocates say the private companies may be exacerbating the foreclosure crisis, pushing out homeowners faster than would governments, which are increasingly concerned about neighborhoods becoming wastelands of abandoned properties.

Renewal set for Lincoln public housing project

Public housing units will be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use development.

By Margaret Jackson Denver Post August 13, 2009

Over the next seven years, one of Denver’s oldest public housing projects will be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly, mixed-income residential development.

At a meeting Tuesday, the Denver Housing Authority unveiled the master plan that will guide redevelopment of the 15 acres near the light-rail stop at West 10th Avenue and Osage Street. The plan calls for demolishing the 270-unit South Lincoln Homes that serves low-income residents and replacing it with up to 900 mixed-income units.

The project will be done in phases, and current residents will have the chance to move into the new buildings.

Dallas public housing agency to require tenants’ overnight guests to register

By Kim Horner   Dallas Morning News August 17, 2009

The Dallas Housing Authority will begin requiring public housing tenants to register overnight guests as part of a new lease requirement aimed at cutting crime.

The agency’s five-member board of commissioners voted unanimously Monday on the new lease requirement. Residents currently do not register overnight guests, but that will change Nov. 1.

Officials have said that visitors are the main source of crime at public housing developments – including theft, drug dealing, gang violence, assault and domestic violence.

Before revisions, the proposed policy also required guests to go through criminal background checks.

City to discuss RDA — again

By Laura Elder   Galveston County Daily News August 13, 2009

GALVESTON — The city council again today will discuss the contentious issue of Galveston Island Redevelopment Authority’s role in overseeing millions of tax dollars used to pay developers for roads, water lines, decorative pavers, dune walkovers and other improvements at shopping centers and luxury residential projects.

Condo location might be a little lacking in ambience

Bel Air in South Congress a little like a chili cookoff at Buckingham Palace.

By John Kelso   Austin American-Statesman August 14, 2009

I don’t understand why developers put the Bel Air condo project where they stuck it.

It seems as out of place as a chili cook-

off at Buckingham Palace, or maybe the Austin Club.

In case you’re not familiar with the Bel Air, it’s those condos at 4801 S. Congress Ave., south of Ben White Boulevard, not far from the Salvation Army Family Store.

Maybe they put the condos there because it would be convenient if you got foreclosed on, since it would mean you’d be close to a place to pick up some inexpensive furnishings.