Tuesday Report, June 28, 2011
Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac undergo more scrutiny as it is discovered that almost 100 possible foreclosure fraud cases were never referred for investigation. Meanwhile, as inventories of foreclosed homes stack higher, the two agencies hold fire sales to reduce inventories.
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Oversight Group Did Not Refer Housing Complaints
By Gretchen Morgenson New York Times June 21, 2011
The federal agency overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer-owned mortgage finance giants, failed to refer to criminal investigators and other authorities almost 100 complaints about possible foreclosure abuse and mortgage fraud at the companies over a recent two-year period, according to a report issued late Tuesday by the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
While the report did not determine whether these and other complaints had merit, it said that the agency’s unresponsiveness to them was problematic.
“Failure to recognize and quickly provide law enforcement authorities with information about allegations of fraud and other potential criminal conduct presents a significant risk for the agency,” the report said.
The inspector general’s report is the third to assess the agency that acts as conservator for Fannie and Freddie, which have cost the taxpayer roughly $154 billion since they nearly collapsed in September 2008.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac hold summer clearance sales
The mortgage giants, which have taken back massive numbers of foreclosed homes, are offering significant incentives for new owner-occupant purchasers.
By Kenneth R. Harney Los Angeles Times June 26, 2011
Looking for a deal where the home seller pledges in advance to contribute potentially thousands of dollars to your closing costs? If so, check out the summer sale terms available from two of the largest and most motivated sellers of foreclosed homes in the country — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
You may know the companies for their troubled mortgage businesses or the financial foibles that crashed them into the control of federal conservators in 2008. They now have massive numbers of properties taken back through foreclosures.
Fannie Mae had 153,549 of them at the end of the first quarter. Freddie Mac owned 65,174. That’s nearly 220,000 houses for which they need to find new owners quickly or they’ll rack up even bigger losses for taxpayers.
The Post-Foreclosure Wait
By Mayann Haggerty New York Times June 26, 2011
MORTGAGE troubles won’t necessarily shut you out of the housing market forever.
As the economy and real estate market continue to struggle, millions of Americans have lost their homes through foreclosure, short sale (when a property is sold for less than is owed) or a deed in lieu of foreclosure (when the bank takes ownership without foreclosure).
Even if you think you never want to own a home again, clean credit is important. Bad credit can make it more expensive to rent. In some fields, especially financial services, it can make it difficult to find or keep a job.
How quickly your credit score improves depends in part on how the problem is reported, said Sarah Davies, a senior vice president of VantageScore in Stamford, Conn., a credit-scoring company that competes with FICO, the dominant scoring system.
In a short sale where the balance is forgiven and no deficiency is recorded in public records, recovery can be quick. “Simply paying all your debts on time could bring your score up to a reasonable range in nine months,” Ms. Davies said. “Reasonable” may not qualify you for a mortgage, but it will help in other situations.
Housing vouchers a golden ticket to pricey suburbs
By Stephanie McCrummen Washington Post June 25
CHARLOTTE — It was clear that Liza Jackson’s luck had changed when she drove her pearl-white Dodge sedan, the one with the huge pink plastic eyelashes over the headlights, into Pinebrook, an eight-year-old subdivision where residents tend to notice cars with huge pink eyelashes.
“There goes the neighborhood,” one homeowner said when she heard that her potential new neighbor had a federal housing voucher known as a Section 8.
But Jackson could well be Pinebrook’s salvation, a means by which landlords can rent an empty, crime-magnet of a house to a tenant with a steady, government-backed check.
From Jackson’s point of view, the dismal housing market appeared as a glorious reversal of fortune: Fresh swaths of suburbia were opening up to the very people it has so often excluded.
She had seen one house, and now she rolled up to another, a tan three-bedroom with red shutters. She got out and looked around, a vaguely glamorous vision crossing the grass in a long, leopard-print dress. She peeked into the windows, making out what appeared to be vaulted ceilings.
“Dang,” Jackson said approvingly.
She put the house, a foreclosure turned rental, on her list of possibilities.
As Objections to Supportive Housing Project Grow Louder, Solutions Become Harder to Find
By Anna Merian Dallas Observer June 23, 2011
As we noted just last month, a group of parents with kids at the First Presbyterian Church Developmental Day School on St. Paul are upset that a permanent supportive housing project (PSH) for the chronically homeless may be going up next door to the school. They’re especially concerned that parts of the 141-unit complex will overlook the school’s playground, and they’re not convinced that requiring background checks or putting smoked glass on the windows of the St. Paul building — two things the developer, Hamilton Properties, has proposed to placate them — will make their children safer.
“There is no guarantee that all sex offenders will be prohibited from living in this development,” reads a flyer they’ve produced about the project. “The impact of this facility upon the quality and security of the School’s children and employees is unknown, but it is easy to imagine the worst” (emphasis theirs).
Stakeholders unite against downtown supportive residences
By Adrea Liptinsky Impact June 14, 2011
As the Downtown Austin Plan nears its scheduled City Council vote in August, one group of stakeholders is making known its opposition to one of the plan’s called-for improvements—more permanent supportive housing downtown.
The plan is a list of recommendations advising the future development and growth of the downtown district.
According to the proposed plan, the City of Austin “should to commit to the creation of approximately 225 single-room occupancy units of permanent supportive housing in downtown, in conjunction with nonprofit partners that can provide needed services.”
Permanent supportive housing is a term used for units inhabited by residents who are in the low end of the median family income spectrum—they are either homeless or in danger of becoming so.
Attorney General files suit accusing roofer working Coastal Bend of deceptive practices
By Mike Baird Corpus Christi Caller-Times June 26, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI — A residential roofing contractor whose crews worked throughout the Coastal Bend after recent hail storms is being sued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for suspected deceptive practices.
“I had a gut feeling something was truly wrong,” said Aubrey Bryan, owner of a local insurance agency who had several customers with complaints about Holden Roofing Inc., the company named in the suit. “I appreciate the attorney general’s actions, but a lot of roofers are doing the same things.”
The company and its President Brett Holden are named as defendants in the state’s lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Patricio County District Court. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
Holden’s main office is in Rosenberg, near Houston, but there are branch offices throughout Texas, including Aransas Pass, Rockport and Corpus Christi.
State investigators say the company’s sales reps targeted communities after severe weather events, and offered consulting services to negotiate insurance claims for roof repair or replacement. However the company’s contract obligates homeowners to hire the company for the work or pay a penalty of 20 percent of their roof replacement if another contractor does the work.
GHA picks master developer
By Amanda Casanova Galveston County Daily News June 22, 2011
GALVESTON — The board of commissioners of the Galveston Housing Authority voted Tuesday to select McCormack Baron Salazar Inc. as the master developer to oversee the rebuilding of most of the island’s public housing. The vote was unanimous, with Commissioner Betty Massey abstaining. The company, based in St. Louis, has developed more than 16,000 units and is experienced in developing mixed-income communities nationwide. The housing authority now will enter into a predevelopment agreement and start negotiations for a final contract to build some of the 569 public housing units destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008. “We do have a lot of work to do,” Chairwoman Paula Neff said. “This is the first hurdle, and we made it over. I thank all of (the staff) for your continued service and dedication.” Commissioners and Mayor Joe Jaworski also thanked former Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas for starting the effort after Ike hit the island. A six-member evaluation team, including a representative from the housing authority and Massey, recommended McCormack Baron Salazar Inc. as the master developer.
Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/239674
Council defers $5M request
By Amanda Casanova Galveston County Daily News June 24, 2011
GALVESTON — The city council deferred a request Thursday from the Galveston Housing Authority to release $5 million of a $25 million restricted allocation that the city approved for the housing authority in 2009. Council members wanted more time to consider the request and give Mayor Pro Tem Linda Colbert, who was absent Thursday, an opportunity to vote on the release of the federal funds. Council members have been reluctant to lift the restrictions on the funding, which was approved for the housing authority in 2009 to rebuild 569 units that were damaged or destroyed during Hurricane Ike. The money was limited to use only for construction costs and only after the city approved a rebuilding plan. “There will never be 100 percent support from the community on this (rebuilding plan), just like anything the city does,” said Paula Neff, chairwoman for the board of commissioners of the housing authority. “Right now our hands our tied.”
Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/240054
Residents Awarded New Homes Through Assistance Program
By Andy Taylor Tyler News June 24, 2011
City of Tyler officials issued a “welcome home” to four residents in a series of ribbon-cutting ceremonies Friday.
Ida Ford, Willie Hayter, Petra Bradley and Bobby Donaldson each received new homes after their houses were declared structurally poor and not feasible for rehabilitation, Neighborhood Services Director Brenda Johnson said.
The original homes, all located in the city’s District 2, were demolished and replaced as part of the Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Assistance Program.
“Indeed this is a great day in Tyler, Texas,” Councilman Donald Sanders said to friends and family members of the recipients. “We are always honored and blessed to be able to award a new home to deserving citizens in our community.”
Full story at: http://www.tylerpaper.com/article/20110625/NEWS08/110629835
Lawsuit filed against state Formula One subsidy
By Eric Dexheimer Austin American-Statesman June 23, 2011
Two Austin-area educators and an accountant went to court Wednesday seeking to prevent Texas Comptroller Susan Combs from paying a $25 million public subsidy to local organizers of the Formula One race planned for next June.
Their lawsuit, filed in state District Court in Travis County, claims Combs promised the money illegally and asks that any payment from the state to the promoters be halted.
The plaintiffs, Austin teacher Ewa Siwak , Del Valle school board Trustee Richard Franklin and accountant Richard Viktorin are represented by Bill Aleshire, a former Travis County tax collector and Commissioners Court judge who has been a vocal opponent of using taxpayer money to support the project. Viktorin represents a group called Audits in the Public Interest and also has been critical of using the trust fund money for the race.
The Self-Sustaining, Solar-Powered Emergency Shelter: We’re Going to Need It
Good Environment June 24, 2011
At next month’s Little Tokyo Design Week, the Japanese company Daiwa House will be showing off the EDV-01, a self-sustaining, solar-powered emergency structure. It’s a temporary structure, much like a FEMA trailer, that’s meant to house emergency workers as they deal with hurricanes, fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, and their aftermath.
But the EDV-01 promises to do so much more than a regular trailer. The prototype’s hydraulic legs adjust automatically to uneven terrain, leveling out the structure. It draws its power from solar panels and also collects and condenses water to provide basic utilities to the structure. There’s a bathroom, a kitchen, and storage space. The second floor, which comes collapsed around the main structure for easier transport, has two bunks and a desk. The shelter is designed to be trucked into disaster areas, but once it’s set up, it can function for a month with no additional inputs.