Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 3-22-2011

Tuesday Report, March 22, 2011

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Shoddy lending practices of major banks are slowly bringing a call for reform in the home mortgage industry. “Robo-signing” remains as one of the major scams as state attorneys general set up new standards.

Meanwhile, the prices of houses continue to freefall and further drag down the economy.

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

Home sales tumble, prices are near 9-year low

By Lucia Mutikani Reuters March 21, 2011

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes plunged in February and prices hit their lowest level in nearly nine years, indicating a housing market recovery was still a long way off.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday sales fell 9.6 percent month over month to an annual rate of 4.88 million units, snapping three straight months of gains. The percentage decline was the largest since July.

The weak sales were the latest evidence of the malaise in the housing sector and confirmed it would remain outside the strengthening and broadening economic recovery.

“The housing market is still very depressed and a major drag on the economy, especially household net worth,” said Chris Christopher, a senior economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Full story at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/21/us-usa-economy-housing-idUSTRE72F3XG20110321

Borrowers may get a mortgage servicing bill of rights

In response to alleged abuses, state attorneys general have crafted a draft proposal that sets out minimum standards and operating procedures that would govern how homeowners are treated.

By Kenneth Harney        Los Angeles Times March 20, 2011

When you take out a home mortgage, do you expect to be treated fairly and competently by your bank or loan servicer?

Most likely you do. But the widely publicized “robo-signing” and foreclosure scandals suggest that for thousands of homeowners, fair dealing and competence have not been routinely available at some of the largest mortgage servicing operations in the country.

According to witnesses at recent congressional hearings:

• Borrowers with on-time payment histories who sought loan modifications frequently were told they needed to stop payments for two to three months before they would be eligible to even discuss possible changes to their loan terms. Then they were sent foreclosure notices because they were in default.

Full story at; http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20110320,0,6604263.story

North Texas foreclosure postings drop 16 percent

By Sandra Baker      Fort Worth Star-Telegram March 17, 2011

Postings of residential foreclosures notices fell a whopping 16 percent for the April auctions in North Texas compared with a year ago.

Coupled with a 4 percent dip in postings for the year’s first four months, the latest numbers point to a possible recovery in the housing market, said George Roddy Sr., president of Foreclosure Listing Service. He said it was the first time in 11 years that year-to-date foreclosures were down from a year earlier in the region’s four largest counties.

Roddy remained cautious, though, because he said it will take several months of declines before he calls it a turnaround.

Full story at: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/17/2930486/north-texas-foreclosure-postings.html#my-headlines-default

SAHA snags planning grant

By Karisa King         San Antonio Express-News March 18, 2011

Efforts to revitalize the troubled Wheatley Courts public housing complex and the East Side neighborhood that surrounds it got a boost Friday from a new Obama administration initiative that rethinks the way the federal government improves housing for the poor.

Housing officials announced the award of a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that would bring neighborhood school, business and political leaders together with residents to draw up plans for transforming the area. The promise of more than $1.5 million in local matching funds helped the San Antonio Housing Authority win the grant.

“I believe we have the chance to make people’s lives better and we intend to use it,” SAHA president and CEO Lourdes Castro Ramirez told a group of about 75 people gathered on the complex’s basketball court.

Full story at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/SAHA-snags-planning-grant-1194701.php

Salvation Army of Lubbock will begin multi-year plan for transitional shelters, housing

On Wednesday, the board of The Lubbock Command Salvation Army approved a five-year, multi-million dollar plan to provide transitional sheltering and housing for Lubbock’s homeless.

By Irie Price       Lubbock Avalanche-Journal March 18, 2011

On Wednesday, the board of The Lubbock Command Salvation Army approved a five-year, multi-million dollar plan to provide transitional sheltering and housing for Lubbock’s homeless.

Capt. Michael Morton of The Salvation Army will present the $5 million plan to Lubbock’s Homelessness Committee on Thursday.

The Salvation Army currently has a functioning shelter, built in 2003, and an older shelter used for storage and some employee housing.

Ful story at: http://lubbockonline.com/faith/2011-03-17/salvation-army-lubbock-will-begin-multi-year-plan-transitional-shelters-housing

Tent city occupants, organizers pleased with new location

By Adam Young      Lubbock Avalanche-Journal March 18, 2011

It’s been only two months since a group of four homeless men and an area ministry signed a contract aiming to make better the lives of Lubbock’s homeless.

In doing so, they lived in tents through sub-zero temperatures, 50-mph winds and heckling passers-by at the corner of Broadway and Avenue Q.

But it was pressure from the city that, on Saturday, prompted occupants of Lubbock’s homeless tent city to move to donated land coordinated by Link Ministries.

And occupants and organizers of the tent city said they’re pleased with the move.

Full story at: http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2011-03-17/tent-city-occupants-organizers-pleased-new-location