Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 9/28/2009

Thousands of Gulf Coast poor driven inland by Hurricanes Katrina and Ike have not returned; many choose not to and many simply can’t. While their stories vary widely, a common thread is that federal and state assistance is inadequate to help the most vulnerable.

In Texas, only about 40 percent of $428 million in federal emergency funds allocated in 2007 for Hurricane Rita recovery has been spent by the state.

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

Who Owns Your Mortgage? “Produce The Note” Movement Helps Stall Foreclosures

Huffington Post September 23, 2009

Modern-day home mortgages have been so sliced and diced by rapacious financiers that some homeowners are successfully delaying — or even blocking — foreclosures through the simple tactic of demanding that banks produce the original mortgage note, which amazingly enough is often not so easy for them to do.

As the foreclosure rate continues to set new highs, a little-noticed legal provision that requires bankers, if challenged, to prove they hold the original mortgage documents before getting possession has spawned a minor homeowner rebellion, alternately called “produce the note” or “show me the note“. For homeowners trying desperately to keep their homes, the tactic is one way to buy some time — and maybe even get the upper hand on the lender.

Full story at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/22/whos-got-the-mortgage-pro_n_294169.html

Austin area foreclosure postings jump

Austin American-Statesman September 22, 2009

Central Texas foreclosure postings for the Oct. 6 auction hit their highest level since early in this decade.

Foreclosure Listing Service Inc. said 1,481 properties were posted, 72 percent higher than for the October 2008 auction.

Postings were up 79 percent in Travis County, 66 percent in Williamson, 80 percent in Hays and 39 percent in Bastrop.

For the year to date, almost 11,600 properties in Central Texas — most of them homes – have been posted for foreclosure, 58 percent higher than in the same period of 2008, said George Roddy Sr., president of Foreclosure Listing Service.

Existing-Home Sales Unexpectedly Fall

By Bob Willis   Bloomberg Press September 24, 2009

Sales of existing U.S. homes unexpectedly fell last month for the first time since March, signaling the housing recovery will be slow to gain speed.

Purchases dropped 2.7 percent in August to a 5.1 million annual rate, the second-highest level in the last 23 months, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The median price dropped 12.5 percent from August 2008. A government report showed unemployment claims declined.

Vacant Homes Give Habitat a Leg Up

Famed for building homes for the poor from scratch, Habitat for Humanity sees a silver lining to thousands of foreclosed homes available for a pittance.

By: Pam Kelley   Miller-McCune Online Magazine September 25, 2009

Shanta Brown, a nursing assistant in Charlotte, N.C., walked through her soon-to-be home in August, pointing out favorite features — the living room’s vaulted ceiling, two full baths and new black countertops she chose for durability.

In a few minutes, Brown would stand outside the front door and cut a ribbon, dedicating the first house in Habitat for Humanity Charlotte’s ambitious new effort to rehab homes in neighborhoods decimated by foreclosures.

Across the country, Habitat chapters are doing the same — buying vacant, foreclosed-on homes at rock-bottom prices. For most, that’s a big departure from their longstanding model of using volunteer labor to build affordable housing from the ground up.

Chronically Displaced in NOLA

Four years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the disaster continues.

By Fatima Shaik   In These Times September 25, 2009

On July 26, about 50 people lined up to testify before a United Nations advisory committee in the cafeteria of McDonogh 42, a New Orleans elementary school. Though there had been only a small notice in the New Orleans Times-Picayune calling for public input, about 300 Hurricane Katrina survivors turned up to tell the UN-HABITAT advisors about the difficulties they still face returning to their ancestral homes even four years after the disaster.

According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center (GNOCDC), about a quarter of the city’s pre-Katrina population—more than 175,000 people—has not returned.

Though many of their neighbors have given up and left town, the group gathered at McDonogh wants to remain in New Orleans because their families have lived here, as one person says, “since before the United States.”

Many displaced islanders not coming back

By Rhiannon Meyers   Galveston County Daily News September 28, 2009

Annette Cooper is not coming home.

Two days after Hurricane Ike struck Galveston, the island native grabbed a handful of clothes from her flooded apartment, walked 20 blocks to Ball High School and hopped a bus for San Antonio.

She’s never been back to salvage her possessions. She never returned for a last look at her apartment before the Galveston Housing Authority tore it down.

“I don’t want to set foot on that ground,” Cooper, 53, said.

After Hurricane Ike damaged thousands of houses in Galveston, Cooper and scores of other islanders still live in Central Texas, where buses left them a year ago.

Housing agency says it’s Rita aid pace picking up

By Kelley Shannon   Associated Press September 24, 2009

AUSTIN — Hundreds of southeast Texans displaced by Hurricane Rita four years ago are still waiting for new federally funded homes to be built while a state agency tries to spend the housing construction money it has a little faster.

Those waiting residents are living with relatives or in trailers, rental property or their dilapidated, blue-tarped houses damaged when the storm struck Sept. 24, 2005. Hurricane Ike further wrecked the region on Sept. 13 last year.

So far, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has spent only 38.5 percent of a $428 million federal allotment that arrived in 2007, agency executive director Michael Gerber confirmed this week.

SAHA, city awarded stimulus funds

By Guillermo Garcia   San Antonio Express-News September 28, 2009

Some 5,000 senior and disabled public-housing residents will benefit from improvements paid for with a $5.3 million federal stimulus grant awarded to the San Antonio Housing Authority on Monday.

“Fourteen separate facilities will see infrastructure improvements,” SAHA president and CEO Lourdes Castro Ramirez said at an afternoon press conference.

Upscale Riverside development a test case for lakeside high-rises

Houston developer offers to pony up for affordable housing – but is it enough?

By Marty Toohey   Austin American-Statesman September 24, 2009

As part of a special zoning agreement, a developer who wants to build an upscale East Riverside Drive apartment complex has offered almost $4 million for low-income housing in Austin. But as the City Council prepares for a possible vote today on the plan, a last-minute question has emerged: Is $4 million enough?

Grayco Partners says it’s giving the city a generous contribution to offset the loss of 600 relatively low-cost units, in addition to enhancing public waterfront access and numerous other concessions.

A defense against development

East Austinites strive to protect neighborhood from UT expansion

By Hudson Lockett   Daily Texan September 23, 2009

Seventeen years after the end of a land battle with UT, residents of a small East Austin community remain wary of the University’s plans for expansion along their western border.

Residents of Blackland, a community of 38 homes just east of UFCU Disch-Falk Field, began a round of meetings Sept. 12 with city entities.

Panhandlers for God

Not all street solicitors are created equal – some owe their souls to the company church

By Jordan Smith   Austin Chronicle September 24, 2009

Local radio talk-show host Charlie Hodge was driving to work one morning in late 2007 when he first encountered the Austin Restor­ation Ministries.

Hodge is one-third of the three-man, four-hour KLBJ-FM Dudley & Bob Morning Show and returns to the station for an hourlong midday chat with listeners on The Charlie Hodge Half-Time Show. Just before Christmas, a few weeks after he started hosting the noontime program, he was waiting at a red light at Rundberg and I-35, brainstorming a catchy intro for that day’s show. He wasn’t paying much attention to what was around him: just sitting, listening to the radio, staring at the red light, and thinking.

Herman: A safe place for homeless alcoholics to do their drinking?

By Ken Herman   Austin American-Statesman September 23, 2009

The head of an Austin organization working on homelessness included this caveat when she sent me her group’s thought-provoking new study on homelessness and alcoholism:

“These concepts, unfortunately, could easily end up as fodder for those interested in ‘shock-jock’ type of reporting,” Helen Varty, executive director of Front Steps, said in her e-mail. “That is the last thing that citizens of Austin need.”

The report is titled “Solutions for Homeless Chronic Alcoholics in Austin.” It was produced by ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) with financial support from Front Steps, which manages the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

U.S. seeing more female homeless veterans

By Thom Patterson   CNN September 28, 2009

When Iraq war veteran Angela Peacock is in the shower, she sometimes closes her eyes and can’t help reliving the day in Baghdad in 2003 that pushed her closer to the edge.

While pulling security detail for an Army convoy stuck in gridlocked traffic, Peacock’s vehicle came alongside a van full of Iraqi men who “began shouting that they were going to kill us,” she said.

One man in the vehicle was particularly threatening. “I can remember his eyes looking at me,” she said. “I put my finger on the trigger and aimed my weapon at the guy, and my driver is screaming at me to stop.”

“I was really close to shooting at them, but I didn’t.”

Now back home in Missouri, Peacock, 30, is unemployed — living in a friend’s home in North St. Louis County without a lease and paying minimal rent.

Homeless Ga. Sex Offenders Directed to Woods

Associated Press September 28, 2009

MARIETTA, Ga. — A small group of homeless sex offenders have been ordered to move from a makeshift camp in a densely wooded area behind a suburban office park.

The sex offenders had been directed to the camp by probation officers. The officers said it was a location of last resort for the sex offenders who are barred from living in many areas by one of the nation’s toughest sex offender policies.

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren said the decision to make the sex offenders move was made by the Georgia Department of Transportation — the owner of the property.

Warren said he did not know where the sex offenders would go next.