Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 2-22-2011

Tuesday Report, February 22, 2011

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

 

The cogs of the federal bureaucracy slowly turn and bring forth charges of gross fraud against bankers who have screwed homeowners. The Comptroller of the Currency issued findings that reinforce those of Congressional investigations. While the allegations mount, little is said about how to bring justice to the situation.

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

U.S. close to punishing banks over foreclosures

Reuters February 16, 2011

U.S. bank regulators are finalizing punishments against mortgage servicers after a probe found “critical deficiencies” with the industry’s foreclosure processes.

John Walsh, the acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said a national probe of foreclosure paperwork and procedures found that mortgage servicers broke laws, and that a small number of homeowners were wrongly evicted.

“These deficiencies have resulted in violations of state and local foreclosure laws, regulations, or rules and have had an adverse affect on the functioning of the mortgage markets and the U.S. economy as a whole,” Walsh said in congressional testimony obtained on Wednesday by Reuters.

Full story at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/17/us-financial-regulation-foreclosures-idUSTRE71G0BT20110217

Shaun Donovan’s Demand: Embrace Sustainability, If You Want Federal Money

By Kenneth Harney         Urban Land February 18, 2011

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), knows a lot about big-city housing rehabilitation and construction issues. After all, he was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s housing commissioner for four years before joining the Obama administration. 

But to tap into his core passions when it comes to real estate, talk to him about the decades-long disconnects between American housing locational decisions and jobs, transportation, and smart energy policies. 

He foresees—and is working to bring about—a future in which prospective homebuyers routinely receive not only energy-efficiency ratings and annual cost projections on houses they are considering, but also estimates of energy consumption for a commute to work. In combination, these disclosures should help them better understand which houses are energy guzzlers and which locations expose them to higher fuel costs to get to work and back.

Full story at; http://urbanland.uli.org/Articles/2011/Feb/HarneyDonovan

 

Homeownership loses its luster

By Alana Semeuls       Los Angeles Times February 18, 2011

Economic uncertainty, unstable prices and simple math have given Americans less incentive to buy.

Meredith Carr and Vince Melamed of Brentwood are just the sort of couple real estate agents have always counted on to buy a home.

 

Melamed is a successful keyboardist and songwriter who wrote hits including Trisha Yearwood’s “Walkaway Joe,” and Carr is a freelance editor. They owned a home in Nashville, but when they moved to Los Angeles last year they decided they did not want to tie up their money in real estate, or be on the hook for home repairs and upkeep.

 

“I never want to let the mortgage stand in the way of a business decision,” Melamed said. “I don’t want to be in a position where I want to buy a piece of equipment but I can’t because all my money is tied up in the house.”

Full story at; http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-renters-20110219,0,4309077.story

 

January home sales up 14 percent

By American-Statesman February 21, 2011

Austin-area existing home sales were up 14 percent last month compared to a year earlier.

January was the second month in a row that sales have been higher than the year-ago month.

A total of 975 homes sold last month, at a median price of $190,000, up 6 percent, the Austin Board of Realtors reported.

Active listings fell 5 percent, to 8,144, and new listings fell 14 percent, to 2,403.

Last year was the fourth in a row that home sales were down from the year before. Economists say an improving job market, and an improving national economy, could reverse that trend this year.

“The latest figures show that we are seeing the economic recovery continue in Austin,” said Judith Bundschuh, chairman of the real estate board.

“Looking at these results, sellers should be encouraged that demand and prices are strong, but they should expect to be patient to achieve full value. Buyers should know that fewer listings combined with increased demand could mean they will encounter more competition for properties.”

End of story: http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/theticker/entries/2011/02/21/january_home_sales_up_14_perce.html

 

Ike-damaged apartments to get $26.5M rebuild

Bu Chris Paschenko       Galveston County Daily News February 20, 2011

GALVESTON — A waterfront apartment complex, fenced and deteriorating since Hurricane Ike, was sold last week and is expected to undergo a $26.5 million rebuild, the new owner said.

Odyssey Residential Holdings, headquartered in Dallas, will rebuild Marina Landing Resort, 7302 Heards Lane, with $26.5 million in disaster recovery funds, Bill Fisher, the company’s vice president, said.

Construction should begin next month on the 256-unit property, using $16.5 million in disaster housing recovery tax credits and $10 million in Community Development Block Grant funding, Fisher said.

Jim Guidry and his neighbors, Gustavo Valbuena and his wife, Catalina Valbuena, welcome improvements to the low-income rental property, which is vacant and surrounded by galvanized fencing. The complex has deteriorated since Hurricane Ike’s Sept. 13, 2008, landfall.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/212770

 

Lubbock: Loophole allows homeless to camp on city land

By Adam Young        Lubbock Avalanche-Journal February 20, 2011

When it comes to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Lubbockites Richard Lence and Cliff Van Loan say they have the first tier covered.

Considering that triangular diagram that shows tiered priorities from basic physical needs to self actualization, the men say they’ve covered the first level with sleeping bags, four walls and a roof over their heads — even if those walls are paper-thin nylon that don’t do much to keep the chill out on cold winter mornings.

“Your cold feet are the first thing to wake you up,” Van Loan, 56, said.

And despite being homeless, they said, they often have or are offered more food and basic necessities than they can use.

“We’ve been running people off for bringing too many supplies,” Lence, 43, said with a laugh.

One exception this winter: pocket-size hand warmers.

“We will take all the hand warmers that anyone will bring out,” Van Loan said of the packs that can keep the foot of a sleeping bag warm for a night.

But whether the men have secured that first tier is debatable, city officials and shelter operators say.

Even more debatable: How long their nylon sanctuaries in downtown Lubbock will last.

Full story at; http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2011-02-20/loophole-allows-homeless-camp-city-land?v=1298183291