Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 9/8/2009

As the housing market continues to sputter, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac falter under government conservatorship. The corporations have been redirected from their previous goal: unfettered quest for profit, and must now deal with troubled mortgages and other operations that yield little cash. Unable to find a balance between the two quests, frequent trips to the Fed for debt service seem the only solution.

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

The US couple behind the housing crisis

By Greg Wood   BBC September 7, 2009

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sound like a homely mid-Western couple – dependable, perhaps slightly dull.

But these two almost destroyed the US housing market and their downfall was the overture to the global financial crisis.

On 7 September 2008, these giants of the financial world had to be nationalised by the US government.

Fannie Mae was a child of the Great Depression.

The Federal National Mortgage Association was set up in 1938. A government agency, its job was to buy home loans from mortgage providers.

The mortgage providers would use the money they received from Fannie Mae to make more home loans. Freddie Mac, set up in the late 60s, did the same thing.

But once Fannie and Freddie held all these mortgages on their books they had to do something with them.

Home prices seen turning the corner

By Lynn Adler Reuters September 3, 2009

NEW YORK – U.S. home prices are nearing the end of a three-year slump and should rise in 2010, though the overall economy can rebound even if the housing market does not, according to a Reuters poll.

A new-found stability will be a far cry from recovery, however as record foreclosures, a sizable pool of bank-owned property, steep unemployment and wage cuts temper a rebound, economists said.

Dallas-area home listings fall substantially

By Steve Brown   Dallas Morning News September 3, 2009

North Texas homebuyers who are hoping to find a huge supply of houses for sale may be in for a surprise.

While many markets in Florida and the West are suffering from a surplus of for-sale signs, the number of houses available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has fallen substantially in the last year.

The supply of pre-owned homes for sale is down almost 17 percent from this time last year and has fallen by a quarter from the summer of 2007.

The drop in inventory of newly built homes is even steeper – about 50 percent since mid-2007.

And lower inventories generally provide support for home prices.

Fixing foreclosures through alliance: Habitat, state prepare to use $1.75M in stimulus funds in Bell and Coryell

By Harper Scott Clark   Temple Daily Telegram September 3, 2009

KILLEEN – Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity may enter into a $1.75 million contract with the state to act as its agent, selecting foreclosed homes in Bell and Coryell counties.

Habitat would manage rehabilitation of the properties – then match them to lower income families to buy. The state would pick up the tab out of federal stimulus funds.

The funds are part of a $90 million package the state received under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, said Gordon Anderson, senior communications adviser for the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

“These dollars are geared toward stabilizing neighborhoods that have suffered from foreclosures or abandoned homes, and arrest the slide of declining property values to surrounding neighborhoods,” Anderson said.

Tarrant’s property values rise 2.4 percent from 2008, smallest increase in 15 years

By Anthoby Spangler   Fort Worth Star-Telegram September 5, 2009

In the smallest increase in 15 years, Tarrant County’s property values rose 2.4 percent over last year’s, putting pressure on local government budgets.

Cities, county agencies and other taxing entities that rely on property taxes were concerned that the increase would be even lower after property owners filed a record number of protests with the Tarrant Appraisal District over their valuations, which are used to calculate tax bills.

Some 88,700 protests were filed, about 13,000 more than last year. So far, protests have resulted in appraisals being lowered by a total of $753,076,872, according to TAD. More than 34,000 protests are pending.

Price cuts clear out some downtown condo projects, but other developers are holding firm

By Shonda Novak   Austin American-Statesman September 5, 2009

Price cuts as steep as 25 to 30 percent have helped developers of two downtown-area condominium projects, the Shore and Bridges on the Park, sell off many of their remaining units.

At Bridges, which opened nearly two years ago on South Lamar Boulevard just south of Lady Bird Lake, 15 units are left, down from 30 before prices were cut June 29.

At the Shore, a 22-story tower at 603 Davis St. on the eastern side of downtown, 11 units remain, compared with 80 that were for sale before price cuts May 2.

Joe Pettyjohn, a sales associate at the Shore, expects the remaining units to be sold by Oct. 1.

Those units are priced from $194,000 to $680,000, marked down from original prices of $255,000 to $630,000.

Proposed apartment complex to place focus on families for a change

By Walt Nett   Lubbock Avalanche-Journal September 5, 2009

Lubbock’s first family-oriented apartment complex in four years is finally getting off the drawing board and on the ground.

Crews will start moving dirt Wednesday for Windsor Creek Apartments, an $18 million, 208-unit complex to occupy about 11 acres on the east side of Chicago Avenue between 53rd and 54th streets.

One Man’s Trash …

By Kate Murphy   New York Times September 3, 2009

Huntsville: AMONG the traditional brick and clapboard structures that line the streets of this sleepy East Texas town, 70 miles north of Houston, a few houses stand out: their roofs are made of license plates, and their windows of crystal platters.

They are the creations of Dan Phillips, 64, who has had an astonishingly varied life, working as an intelligence officer in the Army, a college dance instructor, an antiques dealer and a syndicated cryptogram puzzle maker. About 12 years ago, Mr. Phillips began his latest career: building low-income housing out of trash.