Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation – 5/25/2010

Tuesday Report, May 25, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Home sales are up, thanks to the tax credit boost, but defaults on prime loan mortgages are soaring. Analysts see no end to the sagging market in the short term.

NIMBYs in Frisco have beaten out an affordable housing project and replaced it with a park. Residents near the property cited increase in crime and congestion in staving-off the initiative by Dallas’s Inclusive Communities organization.

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

Tax credit boosts home sales, but supply also up

Reuters May 24, 2010

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes touched a five-month high in April amid a late rush to take advantage of a homebuyer tax credit, but a jump in houses on the market pointed to a slow recovery.

While analysts generally expect a lull in homebuying over the next few months, they stressed that a strengthening economy and improving labor market should prop up the housing sector in the absence of more government aid.

April sales of existing homes rose 7.6 percent month-over-month to an annual rate of 5.77 million units, the National Association of Realtors said on Monday, beating market expectations of a 5.65 million-unit pace.

Full story at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE63F2NT20100524

Prime mortgages going bust at an alarming rate

By Kevin G. Hall         McClatchy Newspapers May 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — Aftershocks from the nation’s financial crisis continue rumbling through the housing sector as fixed-rate mortgages held by the safest borrowers accounted for nearly 37 percent of new foreclosures during the first three months of this year, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.

Additionally, more than one in 10 homeowners were behind on their mortgage payments in the first quarter — a record, the association said. That’s up from 9.47 percent in the last three months of 2009.

Prime loans, those made to the safest borrowers with the highest credit scores, account for almost 66 percent of outstanding U.S. mortgages, so their rising foreclosure numbers are troubling.

Full story at: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/05/19/94464/prime-mortgages-going-bust-at.html

Dallas-Fort Worth commercial foreclosures up 58 percent

By Steve Brown        Dallas Morning News May 20, 2010

A 46 percent jump in apartment building foreclosure filings this year helped push Dallas-fort Worth commercial foreclosures to their highest point in more than a decade.

Filings for the first six months of 2010 show that commercial foreclosures are up 58 percent from the same period last year, Addison-based Foreclosure Listing Service said Thursday. So far 1,659 commercial foreclosure postings have been recorded in the four-county area.

“But still, this is nothing compared to the crisis in the late 1980’s when around 8,000 commercial postings were filed in one year,” Foreclosure Listing Service president George Roddy said in the report.

Apartments accounted for the largest share of buildings posted for foreclosure this year, followed by shopping centers and office buildings.

More than half of the total postings were for land or miscellaneous buildings.

And Tarrant County has seen the largest jump in commercial foreclosure postings in 2010 – up 98 percent from the first six months of last year.

[End of story: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/052110dnbuscommercialforeclosures.2188720d.html]

Homes sales soar in April, fueled by tax credit

By Shonda Novak Austin American-Statesman May 20, 2010

Central Texas home sales skyrocketed nearly 31 percent in April and pending sales were up almost 47 percent from a year ago, as buyers rushed to beat the April 30 deadline for a federal income-tax credit, the Austin Board of Realtors said today.

“Although the tax credit has expired, we are entering a growing economic, real estate and seasonal cycle which we hope will continue to provide momentum to carry our market upward,” said board Chairman John Horton.

The tax credit was $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers. For purchases where a binding contract was signed by the end of April, qualified buyers have until June 30 to complete the sale.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/realestate/entries/2010/05/20/_central_texas_home_sales.html

LA the Least Gentrified Major City?

By Howard Ahmanson Newgeography May 13, 201

Los Angeles has been “gentrified” and made more stable in many of its areas by immigrant settlement, but the phenomenon of Anglo “gentrification” – what used to be “yuppies” or their more contemporary counterparts (original “yuppies” are now in their 50s) upgrading a formerly “bad” neighborhood by pushing up rents and squeezing out existing relatively poor folks – is rarer in Los Angeles than in almost any other American city.

The closest thing to it has occurred in a few “paleo-urbanist” beach communities. (“Paleo-urbanist” means planned to New Urbanist specifications, but nearly a century ago!) And I think the reason for it has to do with the massive projects by the Irvine Company especially in the 60s and 70s. These projects, plus the nearby existence of Newport Beach – already a “watering spot” for the WAS (WASP but including Catholics, this being California) – plus the riots of 1965, plus the perception that the air in the Irvine and Newport region was less polluted at a time when smog was worse than now, led to a massive secessio patriciorum, a secession of the patricians, It was a physical manifestation of Christopher Lasch’s The Revolt of the Elites.

Full story at: http://www.newgeography.com/content/001567-la-least-gentrified-major-city

The Grocery Gap

The Atlantic May 17, 2010

Urban revitalization does not at first glance relate to the growing national interest in fresh fruits and vegetables. But the Pennsylvania-based Food Trust views the supermarket as the perfect starting point for improving the commercial viability of a neighborhood. When the group launched back in 1992, it was originally dedicated to expanding farmers’ markets throughout Philadelphia. Today, the group is working tirelessly to eliminate food deserts–areas without any access to “real” food.

To accomplish this goal, the Food Trust is working with Pennsylvania lawmakers to develop a series of public/private partnerships that address food access problems. One such program is the Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a grant and loan program that encourages supermarkets to open in underserved areas. The group is also working on nutrition policy for Philadelphia schools and is helping corner stores improve their produce offerings. Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust’s executive director, spoke with The Atlantic about what supermarkets can accomplish for cities nationwide.

Full story at: http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/the-future-of-the-city/archive/2010/05/the-grocery-gap/56677/

Little Green Thumbs

Roof farms sprout on schools across New York City

By Alex Ulam       The Architects Newspaper May 20, 2010

The Fifth Street Farm Project has it all: It addresses childhood obesity, stormwater runoff, and climate change. Conceived by a grassroots organization of teachers, parents, and green-roof advocates, the project’s plan calls for a roof farm atop the Robert Simon Complex, a massive public school building on the Lower East Side that houses elementary schools P.S. 64 and the Earth School, as well as the Tompkins Square Middle School.

Construction is due to commence this fall, and by next spring, school children should be planting vegetables on a 3,000-square-foot roof deck with spectacular views of the surrounding neighborhood. This experiment in urban agriculture, led by the World Trade Center Memorial designer Michael Arad, will be integrated into existing school courses on science and nutrition. The children will also have the opportunity to eat the food grown on the roof in their school cafeteria.

Full story at: http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4532

HUD Announces the End of Urban Sprawl as We Know It, New Urbanists Feel Fine

By Greg Lindsay       Fast Company May 21, 2010

“It’s time the federal government stopped encouraging sprawl,” Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan declared this morning before the Congress for the New Urbanism.

He’d announced moments before that the department would fund $3 billion worth of projects this year alone, and they’d henceforth use “location efficiency” (based on transportation access, residential density, and so on) to score grant applications. They’ll also use the criteria of LEED-ND, the brainchild of CNU, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the National Resources Defense Council, Donovan said. It was launched last month to apply the green principles of LEED to urban development.

Full story at: http://www.fastcompany.com/1650533/the-end-of-sprawl-obama-administration-to-take-new-urbanism-mainstream

Frisco property proposed for low-income housing to become parkland instead

By Valerie Wigglesworth        Dallas Morning News May 23, 2010

Property in Frisco proposed earlier this year for a controversial low-income housing project will instead become parkland.

The Frisco Community Development Corp. board last week approved the purchase of three tracts, two of which were under contract for development earlier this year.

The CDC, which is funded by a half-cent city sales tax, will pay about $2.09 million for 16.8 acres that will join more of Bicentennial Park with Frisco Commons Park.

“This is fan-freaking-tabulous,” Ricki Levitan said when she heard the news.

Levitan’s house faces Bicentennial Park, and she was among dozens of residents opposed to the planned apartment complex.

Full story at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/city/collin/frisco/stories/DN-frapts_23eas.ART.Central.Edition1.19315c2e.html

Work to begin soon on public housing replacements

By Rhiannon Meyers         Galveston County Daily News May 19, 2010

GALVESTON — Galveston Housing Authority commissioners have awarded a $2.75 million contract to a construction company to build 20 duplexes, the first of 569 units replacing hurricane-damaged public housing.

Construction could begin this month, authority spokesman Justin Herter said. Crews already have removed dead trees from the property.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/156849

County’s first Ike house on way

By T.J. Aulds       Galveston County Daily News May 21, 2010

SAN LEON — It may not look like much now, but in a few weeks, George Fowles should see what is bare land replaced by an 1,800-square-foot elevated home.

Works crews from Oak Creek homes showed up at Fowles’ San Leon homestead Thursday and began preparation work on what will be the county’s first Hurricane Ike house. It’s the first of about 500 homes to be built or repaired using about $85 million in federal disaster funds. On Wednesday, county housing officials said there are 27 more homes close to final approval, nine of which will be built on the Bolivar Peninsula.

For Fowles and his wife, Laura Jane Weir, who lived in a horse trailer for more than three months before moving into a Federal Emergency Management Agency mobile home after Hurricane Ike destroyed their house, the new house marks the nearing of the end of 20 months of frustration.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/156933

Downtown land deal scrapped after council members raised concerns

Analysis showed purchase could have removed up to $9 million from taxes for Waller Creek improvements.

By Mark Toohey        Austin American-Statesman May 25, 2010

City officials scuttled a plan nearly two years in the making to spend almost $16 million on a downtown parking lot after a City Council member raised concerns last week that the deal could undermine a city effort to revitalize the Waller Creek neighborhood.

Officials pursued the purchase — tentatively scheduling it last week for a City Council vote this Thursday — to accommodate future expansions to the nearby Austin Convention Center.

But they had not considered that the deal could hinder a plan to use some of the area’s property taxes to pay for improvements, such as beautifying and shoring up Waller Creek, Assistant City Manager Rudy Garza said.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/downtown-land-deal-scrapped-after-council-members-raised-706771.html

Tiny buildings for Fresno’s homeless need a home

Fresno architect is building eco-villages for transients, but a suitable location is needed.

By Marc Benjamin      The Fresno Bee May 13, 2010

Fresno architect Arthur Dyson says he has the solution to the city’s homeless problem: villages of tiny homes built with recycled materials and surrounded by fruit trees.

The first structures — some measuring only 80 square feet — are already under construction on the Fresno State campus, where Dyson has been working with students in a construction management class to develop concepts.

But the structures won’t become living spaces for the homeless unless city officials can find a suitable spot for them.

Gregory Barfield, Fresno’s homeless prevention and policy manager, said the city is ready to assist Dyson with the project, including finding a site.

Full story at: http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/05/13/1932637/buildings-for-fresnos-homeless.html