Bo McCarver’s Weekly News Compilation – 2/2/2010

Tuesday Report, Feb. 2, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

News about housing policies took a back seat last week to political and environmental events as the Obama Administration seems challenged on all fronts.

In Texas, Galveston continues to be the focus of cumbersome housing policies. The Galveston County Daily News has rendered the state an exemplary journalistic service for dogging the many stories forged in the wake of hurricanes.

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

Administration shifts gears on mortgage modifications

By Kevin G. Hall         McClatchy Newspapers January 29, 2010

WASHINGTON — Conceding that its initial mortgage relief program has been less than successful, the Treasury Department Thursday announced new rules to simplify and speed the decision-making process for struggling borrowers trying to modify the terms of their distressed mortgages.

The changes to last year’s Home Affordable Modification Program announced by the Treasury take effect on June 1, and are designed to address the continuing problem with borrower documentation that’s frustrated both homeowners and mortgage servicers, who act as bill collectors for investors that own pools of U.S. home loans.

The new HAMP requirements will force servicers to have in hand all the needed documents from borrowers before they extend a three-month trial modification. Currently, trial modifications can begin after authorization by phone, with related paperwork only needed sometime within the three-month trial period.

Full story at: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/83269.html

Big city, small condos: ‘Micro-lofts’ to come to Vancouver

By Darah Hansen         Vancouver Sun January 25, 2010

VANCOUVER — It could be the start of a new reality-television series: Call it “Big City, Small Condos.”

Two Vancouver property firms are expected to formally announce Monday the million-dollar creation of 30 so-called “micro-lofts” in the Downtown Eastside.

At approximately 270 sq. ft. — about the size of two municipal parking spaces — the market rental units will be the smallest in the city.

Full story at: http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/city+small+condos+Micro+lofts+come+Vancouver/2474576/story.html

AG opinion sought on home value rules

Galveston County Tax Office January 29, 2010

Galveston County Criminal District Attorney Kirk Sistrunk has asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion about property valuations that could make a huge difference in the 2010 property taxes of thousands of county residents.

Homeowners whose property values were reduced in 2009 after being damaged during Hurricane Ike face the prospect of revaluation to pre-2008 levels if their homes have been renovated fully in the meantime.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=a049b5e14a141e32

Ike funding plan still broken, officials say

By T.J Aulds        Galveston County Daily News January 29, 2010

Even though few dollars from the first round of federal Hurricane Ike disaster money for housing and infrastructure improvements actually have been spent, county and city of Galveston officials will be in Houston today fighting for more money from the second round of community development block grant funds.

The Texas Department of Rural Affairs will hold a public hearing tonight to take comments on its latest plan to distribute about $1.7 billion in disaster aid in Texas for hurricanes Ike and Dolly. Galveston County is scheduled to receive $178.7 million and the city of Galveston $189.8 million in block grant funding to repair homes damaged by the hurricane, as well as to harden infrastructure, such as power systems at crucial government facilities, and to improve drainage.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=a9323996945e1809

GHA not paying staff at demolished projects

By Rhiannon Meyers       Galveston County Daily News January 27, 2010

GALVESTON — The Galveston Housing Authority is not paying staff members to work at the demolished housing projects, despite claims by a watchdog group.

In response to claims by the Galveston Open Government Project that the housing authority continued to pay staff who worked at Oleander Homes, Palm Terrace, Cedar Terrace and Magnolia Homes, housing authority officials presented financial statements Tuesday showing the agency has not expended any money for salaries or benefits for staff members to work at those developments which were demolished in the spring.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=e2752a9b0e46e983

Buyout homes might be moved

By Rhiannon Meyers       Galveston County Daily News January 31, 2010

GALVESTON — At least one of the contractors hired to demolish upscale West End beach houses the city acquired through a federal buyout program said he intends to move the houses off the island and sell them.

Lamson Nguyen, who owns Lamson Construction, bid $1, or 33 cents each, to demolish three houses in Sands of Kahala Beach the city expects to buy out once the homeowners association releases the properties.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=1734a8512f19b843

Last tenants moved from The Oaks

By T.J. Aulds        Galveston County Daily News February 1, 2010

TEXAS CITY — Lola Moore looked around her apartment she’s called home for three years and just sighed. It was moving day Saturday, and she had enough stuff to fill a large U-haul truck, but instead had to figure out how to pack it all into the back seat of a 1993 Chevy Malibu.

Moore was among the 62 residents of The Oaks Apartments forced to move because the complex’s owners owe the city more than $60,000 in past due water bills and face fines for a slew of code violations. For more than a month, the city — working with Catholic Charities and owners of other apartment complexes in the county — tried to help the residents of the dilapidated complex find new places to live.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=c4552c009b8202bd

SAHA grants extension to apartments

By Vianna Davila       San Antonio Express-News February 1, 2010

About 64 families who receive public housing assistance will be allowed to stay in their West Side apartment complex through the end of February; but building owner must quickly address ongoing safety concerns if the residents want to stay permanently.

During a quality control inspection early last month, the San Antonio Housing Authority determined the garages and a playground at Las Villas de Merida Apartments in the 1700 block of South Hamilton Street had failed inspection. Both the garages and the playground have been severely vandalized: siding is ripped out and support beams are exposed; and the playground is virtually unusable, according to SAHA.

Full story at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/SAHA_grants_extension_to_apartments.html