Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation – 3/16/2010

Tuesday Report, March 9, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Everything that can be wrong with the housing industry is amplified in Detroit. As auto jobs evaporate, mortgage defaults soar and you can now buy a house for peanuts – but you better bring your own means to make a living.

Meanwhile, the feud between the Galveston Housing Authority and its critics deepens as the agency is caught suppressing a controversial report.

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

Detroit homes sell for $1 amid mortgage and car industry crisis

One in five houses left empty as foreclosures mount and property prices drop by 80%

By Chris McGreal       The Guardian [UK]         March 6, 2010

Some might say Jon Brumit overpaid when he stumped up $100 (£65) for a whole house. Drive through Detroit neighbourhoods once clogged with the cars that made the city the envy of America and there are homes to be had for a single dollar.

You find these houses among boarded-up, burnt-out and rotting buildings lining deserted streets, places where the population is shrinking so fast entire blocks are being demolished to make way for urban farms.

“I was living in Chicago and a friend told me that houses in Detroit could be had for $500,” said Brumit, a financially strapped artist who thought he had little prospect of owning his own property. “I said if you hear of anything just a little cheaper let me know. Within a week he emails me a photo of a house for $100. I thought that’s just crazy. Why not? It’s a way to cut our expenses way down and kind of open up a lot of time for creative projects because we’re not working to pay the rent.”

Full story at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/02/detroit-homes-mortgage-foreclosures-80

Crystal Beach condo project moves forward

But project faces certain appeal

By Mark Sommer        Bullalo News March 4, 2010

FORT ERIE, Ont. — Mayor Doug Martin cast a tie-breaking vote early Tuesday morning, clearing a major hurdle for a 12-story condominium in Crystal Beach.

The vote culminated a 6½-hour meeting at Fort Erie Municipal Centre, in which an overflow crowd heard opponents object to the project by a more than 2 to 1 margin.

The vote to amend a zoning bylaw allows the 12-story height on Bay Beach.

Full story at: http://www.buffalonews.com/2010/03/02/973970/most-speak-against-crystal-beach.html

Braving a dismal apartment market

Depressed apartment market attracts adventurous investors

By Morris Newman       Los Angeles Times March 6, 2010

It’s a cold winter for apartment investors in Los Angeles County: Rents are down, prices have fallen and vacancies are way up.

Deal velocity — broker slang for sales volume — is a thin stream compared with the overflowing activity of 2005 and ’06, the most recent boom years.

But to smaller investors like Johnny Caal, with cash in hand and a taste for risk, the weather is delightful.

Full story at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-cover-apartment7-2010mar07,0,1791487.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29

Dominican Authorities Approve Container Cities For Haiti Housing Relief

By Bridgette Meinhold       Inhabitat February 26, 2010

Numerous disaster relief housing projects have been proposed to help in the aftermath of the Haiti Earthquake last month, and while many of them seem workable, none (as of yet) will actually be implemented. But a new shipping container project designed by Richard Moreta and his team may change all that. Dominican Authorities just recently gave approval for Moreta’s “Container Cities” project, which utilizes a modular construction system along with recycled shipping containers, to be built in the Dominican Republic to supply housing for victims of the earthquake.

Full story at: http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/02/26/dominican-authorities-approve-of-container-cities-for-haiti-housing-relief/

Controversial Architect Is Barred by City

By Karim Fahim       New York Times March 4, 2010

Robert M. Scarano Jr., a Brooklyn architect who has long been criticized by community groups for flouting zoning laws, was barred by the Department of Buildings on Wednesday from filing construction plans — threatening, at least temporarily, his ability to work as an architect in the city.

The order, which applies both to pending applications that Mr. Scarano has before the Buildings Department and to any new ones he might want to file, came after a scathing recommendation by an administrative law judge, who found that he had made numerous false statements about three properties in Brooklyn.

The judge, Joan R. Salzman, accused Mr. Scarano of “deliberately overbuilding” and said some of his filings were “so deceptive that they call to mind out-and-out fraud.”

Full story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/nyregion/04scarano.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Housing authority releases report it tried to hide

By Ian White        Galveston County Daily News March 5, 2010

GALVESTON — The Galveston Housing Authority has relented in its attempts to prevent a self-styled watchdog group from seeing a report about public reaction to its redevelopment plans.

The authority has released the report, compiled by two Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service mediators, after asking the state’s attorney general in January to allow it to withhold the document from Galveston Open Government Project.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=5e320f628d1f5731

Desperate situations force city to examine policies on substandard housing

By Erica Rodreguiz        Victoria Advocate March 7, 2010

Kismosa Evans, her three young daughters and disabled mother lived in a squalid one-bedroom apartment for about a year.

A sheet of black plastic was all that separated the living room, where her mother slept, from the outside after her front door shattered.

The family probably would have lived there longer, but a fire in a neighboring building brought the apartment complex in the 1600 block of North Liberty Street to the attention of city officials.

“It’s hard, as you see,” Evans, 33, said, sitting in her living room with her children days before she moved. The floor, a patchwork of warped plywood, threatened to cave beneath her weight. The home was falling off its foundation.

Full story at: http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2010/mar/06/er_slums_022110_85884/?business

Homeless a tough target in census

By Juan Castillo       Austin American-Statesman March 6, 2010

Local organizations join effort to gather complete numbers for a group that likes to stay hidden

Faced with finding a place to lay their heads for the night, homeless people in Austin confront difficult, limited choices outside the sparse number of beds available at shelters.

They can sleep downtown, on a park bench or on a sidewalk, but risk being fined for sleeping in a public place. Or they can find cover in one of the dozens of homeless camps in greenbelts all across the city, but also risk being fined if the public area is not designated for camping.

“In Austin, it’s a little bit against the law to be homeless,” says David Gomez, a longtime advocate and the coordinator of homeless services with Austin Travis County Integral Care , the former Mental Health Mental Retardation Center.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/insight/homeless-a-tough-target-in-census-324665.html

Fliers to homeless: Be good neighbors

By Andrea Ball Austin American-Statesman March 8, 2010

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless is urging people to stop standing outside its building at East Seventh Street.

Shelter employees are passing out fliers asking people not to stand on the streets, sidewalks or patio of the ARCH. The flier, in part, reads:

“Two housing programs for homeless people were defeated last year — one of the main reasons is that neighbors were afraid that people would be hanging around as they do at the ARCH.

“Also, people standing on the streets can serve as a “cover” for those who are selling drugs.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/charity/entries/2010/03/08/note_to_the_homeless_be_a_good.html?cxntfid=blogs_charity_chat

Teen living on streets determined to graduate

By Joe Gulick        Lubbock Avalanche-Journal March 6, 2010

Zeke was a 15-year-old high school sophomore when he moved out of his mother’s house in 2007. He estimates he has stayed in 35 places since then, going from relative to relative to friend to friend, sometimes for months at a time and sometimes for a week or less.

The 17-year-old has also spent more than a few nights sleeping out in the open. He recalls a night a few weeks ago when he fell asleep on a bench in Rodgers Park and woke up wet and shivering because snow had started falling while he was asleep. He also tells of sleeping on the ground next to houses and keeping warm by lying under dryer vents.

Full story at: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/030710/loc_571879863.shtml