Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation – 5/4/2010

Tuesday Report, May 4, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Buyers rushing to take advantage of an expiring federal tax credit program created an up-tick in housing sales – and a surge of rosy, speculative stories nationwide.

In Galveston, the state has found yet another way to delay awarding federal home repair funds for hurricane recovery: the city must now produce records showing applicants do not owe for child support.

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

Pending home sales at five-month high, orders jump

Pending sales of previously owned U.S. homes hit a five-month high in March as buyers rushed to sign contracts before a tax credit expired, while a jump in factory orders pointed to manufacturing strength.

Reuters May 4, 2010

The data on Tuesday further confirmed the economic recovery was gaining more muscle.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in March, increased 5.3 percent to 102.9, building on the prior month’s revised rise of 8.3 percent.

Analysts polled by Reuters forecast pending home sales rising 4 percent in March. Compared to March 2009, the index was 21.1 percent higher. Pending sales lead existing home sales by one to two months.

Full story at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63F2NT20100504

East Side land mine

PART TWO IN A SERIES When the City creates its new land bank, it’ll find plenty of capital in Denver Heights

By Elaine Wolff       San Antonio Current April 28, 2010

We were a real neighborhood. We weren’t a generic neighborhood.”

The gentleman prefers that I don’t use his name or take his picture. We’re standing in the crisp April sunshine on a wheelchair ramp attached to his mother’s house, next to an empty lot in Denver Heights on San Antonio’s East Side. The lot’s raw dirt shows the regular claw marks of a City bulldozer, as if it were a raked Zen garden decorated with random colorful stones. In another bare yard up the street, fresh grass has grown up around the stumps of cedar foundation posts; still other lots look as if they’ve always been empty plots of clover and ragweed. Elsewhere, a no-dumping sign guards a fractured sidewalk and lonely driveway. The houses that remain show various stages of repair and entropy. A small, frail white woodframe is boarded up, but a mustard-colored bungalow is ready for its home-makeover feature. A Folk Victorian with a sagging roof line and tilted front porch is on the market, its official realtor sign a notable contrast to the frequent handwritten offers of houses for cash or rent-to-own, no credit check required.

“This is one of the most famous neighborhoods in San Antonio,” the neighbor says, populated at one time by prominent lawyers, doctors, police officers, and educators. Nowadays he and his friends get harassed when they hang out at the corner of Iowa and Pine, once a commercial hub for this side of town. “We hold near and dear to everything that was around us,” he says. His mother is one of two of the old residents remaining on the block. “The City is just taking over. … After we’re gone, the neighborhood is gone.”

Full story at: http://www.sacurrent.com/news/story.asp?id=71136

Aid for Ike housing repairs finally available

By Harvey Rice       Houston Chronicle April 30, 2010

LA MARQUE — Scores of blue-tarped roofs still dot Galveston County, the legacy of Hurricane Ike and tardy government aid that is only now becoming available a year and seven months after the storm.

Clark Daymude, 29, of Texas City lives under one of those roofs. A single father with two boys, ages 1 and 4, Daymude was unaware that money to repair his storm-damaged roof and living room is finally available. He was sure that the blue tarp was all the help he was going to get.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency “did the blue tarp, and that was it,” said Daymude, who was a maintenance supervisor before he was laid off.

Galveston County officials believe that untold numbers of people qualify but have not applied for the more than $200 million in federal assistance that has only recently become available.

Like Daymude, many are unaware that the money for repairing or rebuilding storm-damaged homes is there for the taking. Others believe they make too much money or are too proud to ask until there is nowhere else to turn.

Full story at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6984461.html

State: No Ike aid if back child support is owed

By Rhiannon Meyers       Galveston Daily News May 4, 2010

Hundreds of islanders still are waiting to find out how much help they will get in repairing or reconstructing their hurricane-damaged homes as the city wades through layers of state-mandated restrictions on who is eligible for assistance from federal disaster recovery dollars.

The Texas Department on Housing and Community Affairs, the state agency charged with overseeing housing in the Hurricane Ike disaster recovery program, recently added an additional requirement for eligibility, forcing the city to dig even further into homeowners’ backgrounds to determine whether they have any unpaid child support payments.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/156060

Paris Living looks at developing Casa Bonita

By Krsta Goerte        Paris News May 2, 2010

Tentative plans are in the works to make use of the former Casa Bonita property after the Paris City Council gave the go-ahead at a recent meeting.

Clifton Fendley of Paris Living said although the council indicated they would like to see Paris Living move forward with its plans for approximately 80 single family and duplex properties, there are still many hurdles to face.

“We are still in the pure infant stages,” Fendley said.

But the opportunity to utilize the 20 acres of property is one Paris Living is not willing to pass up.

“We have a real chance to reinvent that side of town,” Fendley said.

Full story at: http://theparisnews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=db27b8ff2963d01d

Struggling Neighborhoods: Time To Think Big About Broad-Scale Solutions

By Neal Peirce       Washington Post May 2, 2010

WASHINGTON — What’s happening to America’s low-income neighborhoods in the face of the Great Recession? What can be done to protect them?

Late in April many of the big guns of the nation’s community development movement met in Washington to hear about a brand new institute designed to stimulate thinking and action on full panoplies of services for troubled neighborhoods.

The challenges, right now, are immense. Lost jobs, stunning declines in family incomes, evictions and business failures have hit poor areas nationwide. Troubled families churn in and out of the hard-hit neighborhoods. Street gangs, plus a proliferation of firearms, strike terror in many inner-city neighborhoods.

But the misery isn’t focusing in inner cities alone. It’s “gone metro” in a big way, as poverty afflicts more and more suburbs. Between 2000 and 2008, reported Amy Liu of the Brookings Institution, suburbs of America’s largest 100 metro regions saw their populations living under the poverty line grow five times faster than the rise in center city neighborhoods. Overall, joblessness in this recession is up equally in cities and suburbs.

Full story at: http://citiwire.net/post/1941/

Rough start to a new life

By Brian Chasnoff San Antonio Express-News May 3, 2010

Brad Cain was in a bad mood.

On Friday, his fifth day at Haven for Hope, he was scheduled for three hours of mandatory motivational classes, a requirement that caused him to lament the loss of his time not spent at a job off campus moving furniture.

“This whole deal, getting in here, has cost me 100 bucks,” Cain said. “How can I be working if I’m doing workshops?”

Later, he said, “My biggest problem right now is I’ve already got this locked in my mind, and you’re wasting my frickin’ time.”

Cain had other complaints, bemoaning an uncomfortable bunk mat, the unavailability of coffee and friction with management over his plans to go camping over the weekend.

Yet Cain, 48, also was prolific with praise for his new home, acknowledging its professional staff, reliable air conditioning and secure locker beside his bunk.

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