Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation – 6/8/2010

Tuesday Report, June 8, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Class wars abound in Texas cities: San Antonio begins to press its homeless population out of downtown while razing older homes under capricious judgments of city inspectors. Meanwhile, Dallas contemplates bulldozing homes in its historic districts if they don’t pass muster with new standards.

Galveston struggles to recover from hurricane damage but the city is now faced with a myriad of law suits from homeowners claiming various abuses. State Farm has raised its home insurance rates on the island 39 percent.

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

Bank of America to pay borrowers $108 million

By Alan Zibel      Associated Press June 7, 2010

WASHINGTON — Bank of America will pay $108 million to settle federal charges that Countrywide Financial Corp., which it acquired nearly two years ago, collected outsized fees from borrowers facing foreclosure.

It’s the latest evidence of misconduct at Countrywide, once an industry giant that has since fallen. Last year, three top executives, including former CEO Angelo Mozilo, were charged with civil fraud and insider trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The settlement, which seeks to refund money to about 200,000 borrowers, was announced Monday by the Federal Trade Commission. It is the largest mortgage industry settlement for the agency, which oversees non-banking functions such as debt collection.

The FTC’s chairman, Jon Leibowitz, accused Countrywide of “callous conduct, which took advantage of consumers already at the end of their financial rope.”

Bank of America purchased Countrywide in July 2008. The actions in the case took place before the acquisition.

Full story at: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_BANK_OF_AMERICA_LENDING_SETTLEMENT?SITE=TXDAM&TEMPLATE=BUSINESS.html&SECTION=HOME

Outstanding debt exceeds appraised value on growing number of foreclosed Dallas-Fort Worth homes

By Steve Brown       Dallas Morning News June 2, 2010

A growing number of Dallas-Fort Worth homeowners who are losing their property to foreclosure owe more than it is worth.

More than 20 percent of foreclosure postings in D-FW during the first half of the year were for homes with more debt than the appraised tax value, according to a new study by Foreclosure Listing Service.

That’s more than a 40 percent increase in foreclosure postings for negative equity homes since a year ago, the Addison-based foreclosure tracking firm said Wednesday.

“Upside-down postings have risen at a much higher pace than overall residential foreclosure posting activity,” Foreclosure Listing Service CEO George Roddy said in the report. “Generally, the homeowner cannot sell the home for what they owe on the mortgage.

Full story at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/0603dnbusforeclose.64a21e9a.html

Dallas-Fort Worth home sales jump 18 percent

By Steve Brown         Dallas Morning News June 7, 2010

North Texas home sales jumped by 18 percent in May – the third month in a row of double-digit annual gains.

Local real estate agents sold 7,119 pre-owned single-family homes last month, the highest monthly total so far this year.

Through the first five months of 2010, sales of homes through Realtors’ multiple listing services are up 12 percent from the same period of last year, the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and the North Texas Real Estate Information Systems said Monday.

May home sales got a boost from the recently expired federal tax credit which provided up to $8,000 to homebuyers who had a house under contract by the end of April.

Now that the tax credit has expired, most analysts anticipate a slowdown in residential sales.

Indeed, pending home sales are down 23 percent in North Texas, indicating a slower sales pace ahead.

Median pre-owned home sales prices last month were up 2 percent from a year earlier at $151,980.

And the number of homes on the market last month was down 2 percent from a year earlier, according to the latest MLS reports.

In May, there was a 6.6-month supply of pre-owned single-family homes listed for sale in North Texas. A six-month inventory is considered a balanced market.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/060810dnbusdfwhomesales.7e157741.html

Audit says Georgetown Housing Authority misspent $195,855 in federal funds

Board chairman disputes findings, says agency was using reserves that had no federal restrictions.

By Claire Osborn      Austin American-Statesman June 4, 2010

The Georgetown Housing Authority spent $195,855 in federal money on legal, development and payroll costs that the money wasn’t supposed to cover, according to an audit released this week by the U.S. Office of the Inspector General .

The audit’s recommendations include asking the housing authority to pay back $48,269 to its housing choice voucher program with nonfederal funds and requiring it to hire an independent firm to review what it says are $137,009 in misspent federal funds.

The figures in the audit are wrong, said Larry Raper, chairman of the Georgetown Housing Authority board. The housing authority had reserves that it was free to spend without authorization and can properly account for all but about $9,000 of the federal money, he said.

Raper said the housing authority plans to meet with an official with the Housing and Urban Development office in San Antonio to resolve the differences it has with the inspector general’s office over the audit.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/audit-says-georgetown-housing-authority-misspent-195-855-728372.html

Training days

Condemning houses with a rough guesstimate

By Elaine Wolff      San Antonio Current June 4, 2010

The sun hadn’t yet come up on the remains of Liz Llanas’s home when the City asked her to sign its death warrant. The fire had started around 11 p.m. June 18, 2008, in her King William bungalow and burned for hours, but the columns on the porch were still intact, as was much of the rest of the building. The house had belonged to her grandmother, who had moved into the neighborhood when the City forced her out of her home as part of the great urban-renewal push of the ’60s, which cleared a large swath of downtown San Antonio’s old neighborhoods, from HemisFair west past El Mercado.

“We lived on San Saba street, where Santa Rosa [Hospital] is. In ’67, ’68, Urban Renewal bought that section. They told her she had to sell it. Something big was supposed to happen,” Llanas said. “It became Santa Rosa’s parking lot is what happened, I think.”

Now, City of San Antonio Dangerous Premises Officer Diana Alameda was telling Llanas this home couldn’t be saved, either, and that Llanas needed to sign the City’s demolition order.

Full story at: http://www.sacurrent.com/news/story.asp?id=71225

Blight law is surveyed by Dallas City Council committee

By Steve Thompson       Dallas Morning News June 7, 2010

The Dallas City Council’s housing committee was briefed Monday on a proposed ordinance aimed at streamlining and strengthening the city’s ability to demolish blighted structures in historic neighborhoods.

The city staff’s presentation focused on small residential properties, largely in the southern part of the city. But preservationists worry it might give city attorneys and judges unchecked power that could potentially be used in a variety of situations.

The committee heard Monday from Katherine Seale, director of Preservation Dallas, who said her organization largely supports the ordinance change.

“Preservation Dallas is not opposed to the demolition or removal of structures that are dangerous, with walls that are toppling over,” Seale said.

Full story at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/060810dnmetpreservation.1cc39cc.html

Galveston’s recovery still a work in progress

By Allan Turner Houston Chronicle June 4, 2010

Glorious weather, high spirits and the ringing of cash registers marked Galveston’s Memorial Day weekend as thousands jammed the city’s beaches for the annual end-of-spring fling.

But just one day later, moods darkened and locals warily eyed the sky as the 2010 hurricane season launched with predictions of a violently stormy summer.

Even as the National Hurricane Center forecast as many as 23 named storms and 14 hurricanes, Galveston was haunted by reminders of Hurricane Ike, which on Sept. 13, 2008, inundated the city with as much as 10 feet of water.

Full story at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/galvestons_recovery_still_a_work_in_progress_95657684.html

City asks state for FEMA trailer extension

By Rhiannon Meyers and T.J. Aulds       Galveston County Daily News June 2, 2010

Galveston city officials have said they will allow Hurricane Ike victims to continue living in temporary mobile homes for as long as necessary until a long-delayed federal program to repair and rebuild houses gets off the ground in Galveston.

However, officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing the program to house hurricane victims in mobile homes, said they have no immediate plans to extend to the deadline beyond July 9.

Deadline extensions happen only after the state makes a request for such an extension. As of Tuesday, no request had been made nor was expected, FEMA spokeswoman Patricia Brach said.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/157599

County may take over managing FEMA trailers

By T.J. Aulds        Galveston County Daily News June 3, 2010

With the deadline approaching for those living in federally issued mobile homes to find other lodging, county commissioners are considering getting into the mobile home business ­— temporarily.

Federal Emergency Management Officials said Wednesday that of among people in 77 mobile homes in the county, excluding those in Galveston, people in 45 have plans to get into new housing after the July 9 deadline. Many of those residents have applied to have houses built or repaired through the county’s disaster housing assistance program. People in about 20 mobile homes have no plan for where they will live after the deadline passes.

The remainder have plans to move on to another housing situation, which could include having their house rebuilt or repaired, before the deadline, FEMA spokesman Bill Alexander said.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/157643

County bracing for flood of Ike lawsuits

By T.J. Aulds        Galveston County Daily News June 7, 2010

Galveston County is bracing for a second Hurricane Ike storm surge. Only this one won’t come as a wall of water, but rather file boxes of paper.

County court officials expect as many as 7,000 storm-related lawsuits to be filed within the next year. That volume is about three times the normal number of civil cases filed in Galveston County each year, District Clerk Latonia Wilson said.

There already are about 2,500 Ike-related lawsuits filed in the county, Wilson said.

Most of the lawsuits are from homeowners against their insurance carriers for underpaying or nonpayment on hurricane-related damage claims.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/157834

State Farm hikes home insurance rates again

By Ian White         Galveston County Daily News June 8, 2010

GALVESTON — State Farm Insurance Co. has hiked its homeowners insurance policy price for the second time in less than eight months, effectively increasing the annual rate for Galvestonians by 39.4 percent since this time last year.

Texas’ largest homeowners insurance company has added 11.8 percent to the price of a Galveston policy in its latest increase, after hitting island customers with a hike of 24.7 percent in October. The full effect of adding both increases is a raise of 39.4 percent in the price of a policy due to expire between now and October this year.

In cash terms, it takes the price of a policy that cost Galveston residents $2,292 before October last year to $3,196, according to the Texas Department of Insurance’s website.

Full story at: http://www.galvnews.com/story/157873

City manager reassigns housing director

By Sarah Coppola Austin American-Statesman June 3, 2010

City Manager Marc Ott has moved city housing director Margaret Shaw to a new job, as a senior program manager in the Economic Growth department.

The news came as a surprise to some at City Hall, as there were no obvious signs of discontent with Shaw’s work heading up the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/cityhall/entries/2010/06/03/city_manager_reassigns_housing.html

Crackdown begins in the SAMM area

By Brian Chasnoff San Antonio Express-News June 2, 2010

Time has run out for homeless people who habitually cluster under the bridges and in the streets around the SAMMinistries emergency shelter near downtown.

“People that are around here, they will be either ticketed or arrested,” said Arturo Rivera, a security guard at the red-brick building in the 900 block of West Commerce Street. “They’re trying to clear this place out. If you refuse to move, that’s when the local authorities take over.”

The largest emergency shelter in the city stopped offering overnight asylum Tuesday, the first day in a phase of the city’s so-called “transition plan” to move the homeless population to Haven for Hope, the state-of-the-art homeless center about five blocks from the SAMM shelter.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul on Tuesday also stopped offering hot meals inside the emergency shelter. The organization now is offering cold meals inside Prospects Courtyard, the safe-sleeping area at Haven for Hope.

Full story at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/crackdown_beginsin_the_samm_area_95386864.html?c=y&page=3#storytop