Bo McCarver’s Weekly Housing Compilation – 9/15/2009

On the first anniversary of Hurricane Ike, coastal newspapers chronicled the plight of thousands of displaced residents still waiting to return home. Scare money during the recession has contributed to slow-or-no progress in rebuilding many homes and businesses. FEMA’s efforts have largely been ineffective and most residents and businesses take a “go it alone” approach.

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

Foreclosure Crisis Built on Racial Injustice

The recession has resulted from, and contributed to, America’s racial divide.

By Seth Wessler   In These Times September 9, 2009

Last week, CNN reported that Obama’s foreclosure prevention plan—the one that was supposed to keep millions of Americans in their homes by giving banks incentives to refinance mortgages—has not worked. In fact, just six percent of eligible households have received assistance.

The impact of this failure is catastrophic, as millions of homeowners continue to slide into foreclosure. People of color have been hit hardest by the crisis, facing disproportionate rates of foreclosure as well as higher levels of unemployment. The recession has deepened the racial divide.

Resisting Foreclosures

By Kathrina Vanden Heuvel   The Nation September 12, 2009

In Georgia, the ease with which someone can lose a home is staggering.

A foreclosure-eviction can occur without judicial review in just 35 days, and at 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of every month, the state’s 159 counties hold a sheriff’s auction of foreclosed homes.

That translated to 1,500 homes for sale in Atlanta on September 1. Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition–including 125 ministers from throughout the south–were in town to try to stop the auction.

A year after Ike, thousands waiting to go home

Houston Chronicle September 10, 2009

Hurricane Ike forced more than 85,000 Texas families out of their homes, but it posed a special dilemma for Karen Littlejohn: She bears her children at home, and she was seven months pregnant when Ike’s storm surge flooded her family’s house in Shoreacres.

When the Littlejohns returned to their property a few days after the storm, it was apparent that they wouldn’t be able to sleep in the house, much less have a baby there.

Uncertain when the federal government might provide temporary housing, Littlejohn, 43, and her husband, Marlon Littlejohn, 41, borrowed money to buy a new recreational vehicle that they parked on their property. It was there that a midwife delivered their third child, Stevie Ray, on Nov. 21.

Families who rented pre-Ike try to relocate

By Mike Smith   Corpus Christi Caller-Times September 11, 2009

A year after Hurricane Ike scattered her family to the winds, Cyndie Kessel is trying to reunite them.

Like many Southeast Texans who lived in rented homes and apartments destroyed in the storm, Kessel finds herself running out of options as the federal government begins to draw down its aid programs.

Kessel doesn’t have a car, but she does have a job making minimum wage as a convenience store clerk – with a chance for advancement.

Some businesses still fighting to reopen post-Ike

By Amy Moore   Beaumont Enterprise September 11, 2009

At 67-years-old, Esther Benoit still is young enough to fight and that’s exactly what she’s doing.

Not angry mobs or other physical forces, but insurance companies – Benoit is fighting for the future of a restaurant that bears her name and holds her memories.

Esther’s Cajun Seafood, which will turn 20 in November, is struggling to once again become the thriving business at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge.

“We’re just waiting to see what the flood insurance is going to do,” Benoit said. “That’s where the biggest part of our damage is from.”

Coverage is not a premium for some

By Laura Elder   Galveston County Daily News September 14, 2009

GALVESTON — Dr. Kevin Katz would seem the least likely person to forgo flood insurance. After all, he was one of thousands on the island who didn’t have coverage when Hurricane Ike struck a year ago. The island optometrist’s downtown office took in 6 feet of storm surge.

For years, Katz dutifully carried flood insurance on the downtown 1940s Art Deco Building and its contents at 515 22nd St. Unhappy about the high premiums — he was paying about $8,500 a year — he was in the middle of policy renewal discussions with his insurance agency. During those discussions, his insurance had lapsed when Ike pushed foul storm surge into the first floor of the building that had housed his Texas State Optical practice for 28 years, he said. The surge left 2 inches of muck in the building.

American Hobbit Houses

By Ian Lausa   newgeography September 13, 2009

Soon after President Obama took office, a proposed plan to “develop federal policies to induce states and local communities to embrace ‘smart growth’ land use strategies” was announced.

This “Livable Communities Program” is intended to save land and clean up the environment. It is seen as encouraging denser housing arrangements to deter automobile use and accommodate the transit industry, according to goals set by the Secretaries of HUD, EPA and Transportation.

One potential downside to this plan comes from the transit industry’s Moving Cooler study, which argues that the Administration’s greenhouse gas reduction proposals “may result in higher housing prices, and some people might need to live in smaller homes or smaller lots than they would prefer.”

Envision Next Session

Having lost its two big battles at the Lege, Envision Central Texas retrenches to win the war

By Katherine Gregor   Austin Chronicle September 10, 2009

“It was a failed session in many ways.”

Thus state Senator Kirk Watson, representative for District 14 and Travis County, assessed the bust that was the 81st legislative session and its results for bills “allowing local communities to make decisions on their own” regarding land use and transportation authority. “I misjudged it,” admitted Watson, recounting his pre-session optimism at an Aug. 31 legislative recap luncheon hosted by Envision Central Texas, a nonprofit that advocates for regional growth planning.

Camp Runamuck: A Glimpse of the East Providence Homeless Community

By John Mottern   t r u t h o u t September 9, 2009

Barbara Kalil and her husband John Freitas co-founded Camp Runamuck in late March 2009, after being forced to leave their campsite in the Roger Williams State Park in Providence, Rhode Island. The plaque above their home read “Shelter for Persons in Distress.” The irony came as a slap in the face to this unemployed nurse.

“The park ranger was really great to us, but one day the Preservation Committee found us while on a tour and were horrified to see our tent,” Kalil said. “We had to leave because we didn’t want the ranger to get in trouble.”

Now Kalil and Freitas live under a bridge with about 25 other homeless people, all residing in an assortment of tents, many covered with tarps for added protection. This makeshift village is located under a cathedral-like series of immense cement arches and pillars of the Washington Bridge, which is part of highway 195 in East Providence.

Small homelessness project by a Fort Worth photographer turning into exhibit to benefit city’s largest shelter

By Alex Branch   Fort Worth Star-Telegram September 11, 2009

FORT WORTH — B.J. Lacasse has traveled across Texas to photograph all 254 county courthouses. She has scoured small towns for picturesque movie theater marquees.

But the Fort Worth photographer says she has never taken on a project quite like the three full days she spent this summer snapping photos of Fort Worth’s homeless people.

On the streets and in shelters and campsites, she found people ranging in age from 8 months to 85 years.

“I felt torn between two worlds,” said Lacasse, who operates her studio out of her west Fort Worth home. “I came home at night and had to write in my journal to decompress. I couldn’t get the people off my mind.”

Officials hope to turn what began as a small project into a traveling exhibit at Tarrant County’s churches, agencies, businesses and schools. The prints are for sale and will benefit the Presbyterian Night Shelter.

Hope for the homeless

San Antonio’s Haven is made of big dreams, Big Brother, and huge potential

By Elaine Wolff   San Antonio Current September 11, 2009

If you’re homeless on the streets of San Antonio, beaten down by the heat, the omnipresent dust, the drought-dry fountains, and the near-constant hunger, hang in there. Early next year, Haven for Hope, the one-stop mega-shop for all your needs, will open just west of downtown. This not being much of a walking town, transportation will be provided. On its 37 acres, you’ll find housing, medical and dental care, optometrists, job training, a salon, child care and public-school enrollment, a bank, a kennel for man’s best friends, hot running water, and three square meals a day — all courtesy of the City of San Antonio and Bexar County, who are as tired of carting your ass to the drunk tank and running it off of the wide granite ledges at Travis Park as you are of being hauled and prodded.