Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 3-1-2011

Tuesday Report, March 1, 2011

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

While The Obama Administration’s 7.5 percent cut in Community Development Block Grants are not as bad as the 64 percent cut proposed by Republicans, the $300 million reduction has raised an outcry among city mayors from both major parties. The grants are generally regarded as highly successful on the local level but no programs are sacred in the present effort to cut federal spending.

“Money talks” for home-buyers in California where 30 percent of home sales are going to those who bypass the bank and pay cash.

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

Proposed Cuts To Block Grants Spark ‘Outrage, Panic’

By Alex Kellogg         NPR February 27, 2011

President Obama announced plans earlier this month to cut $1.1 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. But one proposed cut is causing deep concern among mayors and other local officials on both sides of the aisle — cuts to the longstanding Community Development Block Grant programs.

Roughly 1,200 communities in the U.S. receive Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs). The grants fund everything from affordable housing to job creation programs. Last year alone, the government gave out nearly $4 billion in block grants. Most of that money went directly to cities and counties; the rest flowed through states and on to local governments.

President Obama is now proposing a 7.5 percent cut to the program — that’s roughly $300 million worth of funding.

Full story at; http://www.npr.org/2011/02/27/134058899/proposed-cuts-to-block-grants-spark-outrage-panic

Foreclosure filings fall in January, rise for year

By Vic Kolenc         El Paso Times February 24, 2011

El Paso home foreclosure filings decreased in January from December, but increased from a year ago, new data show.

In January, El Paso had 59 homes with foreclosure filings — 32 fewer than in December, for a 35.2 percent decrease — reported RealtyTrac, a California company that tracks foreclosures. January had 16 more home foreclosure filings than in January 2010 — a 37.2 percent increase.

Foreclosure filings include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions.

In Texas, January foreclosure filings increased almost 22 percent from a year ago to 14,897. In the United States, January foreclosure filings decreased 17.2 percent from a year ago to 261,333 filings.

End of story: http://www.elpasotimes.com/business/ci_17464592

Cash-only home sales rise in California

By Lauren Beale           Los Angeles Times February 28, 2011

All-cash buyers grabbed a record 30.9% share of California house and condo sales in January. In Southern California’s most expensive communities, cash deals now account for as much as two-thirds of home sales.

Cash talks. And it’s speaking loudly in California real estate these days, even in the nicest parts of town.

All-cash buyers grabbed a record 30.9% share of the Golden State’s houses and condos in January as low prices lured investors and others, according to San Diego research firm DataQuick Information Systems.

Full story at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-cash-only-20110301,0,5886560.story?page=2&track=rss

To Sell an Apartment, No Detail Is Too Small

By Christine Haughney       New York Times February 23, 2011

On a recent Thursday morning, Jamella Swift, a Citi Habitats broker, was trying to anticipate every detail that would prevent a buyer from purchasing the two-bedroom condo she was selling in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She put a full-size bed in the bedroom so buyers wouldn’t think the room was too small. She dragged in a Lucite coffee table to create the illusion of a larger living space and set up three floor lamps to supplement the recessed lighting. Ms. Swift hoped that the $5,000 she had spent would help her land $395,000 to $425,000 for the apartment.

Ms. Swift learned how much details could detract from the value after representing a couple who was ready to buy an apartment for more than $7 million. The apartment had a rainy, musty smell that Ms. Swift thought the selling broker could have fixed by buying a dehumidifier. Ms. Swift’s client backed out.

Full story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/nyregion/22appraisal.html?src=me&ref=homepage

New hurricane model could impact insurance rates, availability

Houston Chronicle March 1, 2011

A new model used by insurance companies to measure the risk of hurricane damage could mean higher rates for those with property far from the coast.

The new model allows insurers to more accurately measure the risk of losses to wind damage, according to Risk Management Solutions, which announced an update of its model Monday.

The company expects to see wind risk for hurricane-prone states, including Texas, to increase. In its own analysis of property portfolios, RMS found that loss results increased 20 percent to 100 percent, though there were some cases of decreases.

Higher risk usually means higher rates. What individual insurers choose to do may depend also on what other models they use show and what the competition does.

Full story at: http://blogs.chron.com/primeproperty/2011/03/new_hurricane_model_could_impa.html

League City to level abandoned apartments

By Hayley Kappes       Galveston County Daily News March 1, 2011

LEAGUE CITY — The city will soon eradicate an urban blight near its municipal complex.

In a couple months, crews will demolish the Snug Harbor Apartments, which were abandoned in October 2009.

Unspent money from last year’s federal Community Development Block Grant program will be used to demolish the 66-unit apartment complex, 628 state Highway 3, which was built before 1970.

It took more than a year to demolish the structure because the city was updating its dangerous building ordinances, Chris Torres, a code enforcement officer, said.

League City’s Zoning Board of Adjustments in December declared the building dangerous.

It will cost about $250,000 to tear down the apartments, which require asbestos removal, Tony Allender, League City’s director of planning and research, said.

“It was in very bad shape,” Allender said. “Reallocating the money allows us to tear down something that we’d otherwise have to use general funds to do.”

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/214978

City steps up code enforcements

By Michael Smith        Galveston County Daily News February 27, 2011

GALVESTON — City officials said they have stepped up efforts to combat code violations such as high weeds, junk cars and litter and are seeking greater authority to deal with vacant, boarded-up buildings, both major sources of irritation among residents.

The effort began in December when City Manager Steve LeBlanc announced creation of a “Clean Team” program aimed at correcting the island’s littered and generally shabby appearance. It got a boost in January when the city council listed code enforcement among its three top priorities.

Clean Sweep

The program reached a visible level mid-month when teams of code enforcement and police officers, firefighters and other city employees began a street-by-street, house-by-house sweep of the East End citing code violators and logging problem buildings.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/214582

Blueprint for Austin’s growth heading to council

By Marty Toohey        Austin American-Statesman February 28, 2011

Members to vote March 10 on whether to endorse concentrating new residents between I-35 and MoPac.

Austin city planners have drawn a long-anticipated blueprint that they say would guide Austin to the more densely populated, urban-feeling future city leaders have long envisioned.

According to a 30-year, formal plan the city is creating, Austin would accommodate an anticipated 550,000 more people with more and sometimes taller buildings concentrated between Interstate 35 and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1).

Over time, most of the new arrivals would live and work between the highways, mainly in clusters or corridors encouraged by new city rules. For instance, Austin would see more of the mix of shops, apartments and condominiums emerging in places such as South Congress Avenue.

Meanwhile, a similar pattern would emerge immediately to Austin’s east along Texas 130, where the city hopes another 200,000 or so newcomers will work and take up residence.

Full story at: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/blueprint-for-austins-growth-heading-to-council-1287069.html