Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation, 2-7-2012

Present negotiations with big banks over reconciliation of sleazy mortgages would turn much of the enforcement over to states. Thus far, however, states have demonstrated a variety of stances toward banks with some pressing for larger settlements and other almost disinterested.

In Galveston, NIMBYs fall out in droves to protest plans for construction of 50 scattered-site housing to replace 569 units destroyed in Hurricane Ike in 2008.

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

Exclusive: Mortgage deal would give states enforcement clout

By Rick Rothacker and Aruna Viswanatha        Reuters        February 1, 2012

A proposed settlement to resolve mortgage abuses by top U.S. banks will give states broad authority to punish firms that mistreat borrowers in the future, according to documents seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Under the settlement, which states are currently reviewing to decide whether they will join, the states and a separate “monitoring committee” will have the authority to go to court to enforce the terms and seek penalties of up to $5 million per violation.

A strong enforcement mechanism could help the states and the Obama administration sell the deal to the public, after left-leaning activist groups have questioned whether the negotiations were too lenient on the banks.

Negotiations between state and federal officials to resolve allegations of misconduct in servicing home loans have stretched into their second year.

The delay is partly due to some states trying to extract a bigger settlement from the banks and to reserve their ability to file more mortgage-related suits in the future.

However, the deal now looks imminent.

Full story at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/01/us-mortgage-settlement-exclusive-idUSTRE8101YJ20120201

 

US states near $25bn foreclosure settlement

California close to sharing in a multi-state deal with banks to obtain mortgage relief and reforms; deal would come today

By Dominique Rushe         The Guardian [UK]        February 7, 2012

The US states hardest hit by the housing collapse will decide today whether to sign off on a potential $25bn settlement with America’s biggest lenders, the largest industry fine since 1998’s massive multi-state agreement with the tobacco industry.

Government officials have been trying for over a year to negotiate a settlement with states to agree to a package of loan write-downs, refinancings and other homeowner assistance, as well as cash penalties for some of the US’s largest lenders.

California, the state with the most homeowners now in negative equity, quit talks last year but is now back in negotiations. The multi-state deal deadline is today.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, another former critic, has also signaled that he may now be willing to sign off on an agreement. President Barack Obama recently appointed Schneiderman to head a new financial crimes unit dedicated to investigating and prosecuting financial fraud.

Full story at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/feb/06/us-multi-state-home-loan-settlement

 

New York sues Reston firm over foreclosure documents

By Brady Dennis       Washington Post       February 3, 2012

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued a handful of the nation’s largest banks Friday, claiming they deceived homeowners and court officials by filing flawed and fraudulent foreclosure documents through a popular electronic mortgage registry.

Schneiderman’s suit, filed in a New York State Supreme Court in Brooklyn, names Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo as defendants. It also names Reston-based Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, known as MERS, and its parent company, MERSCORP.

MERS, a privately run electronic database that was created by the mortgage industry in the 1990s, has saved financial firms millions of dollars over the years by allowing them to reassign loans without the time and expense of filing mortgage documents and paying local recording fees each time a loan changes hands.

Full story at; http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/new-york-sues-big-banks-local-firm-over-foreclosure-documents/2012/02/03/gIQAkmuznQ_story.html?hpid=z3

 

Texan stakes claim on vacant house for $16

Associated Press        February 6, 2012

ROANOKE – A man who’s gained notoriety for claiming he can live in a $340,000 suburban Dallas home for $16 is being taken to court by the bank that says it owns the house.

Kenneth Robinson says he’s filed an “affidavit of adverse possession” that gives him the right to live in the empty foreclosed home in Flower Mound. He’s been featured on local television, spoken to law school students and created his own website: 16dollarhouse.com

Real estate experts and Bank of America see it differently. The bank says it foreclosed on the house last month and wants the 51-year-old Robinson out. And Arlington real estate lawyer Grey Pierson says Robinson and others have misinterpreted what adverse possession means.

Prosecutors also are cracking down on others seeking to emulate Robinson.

End of story: http://www.chron.com/news/article/Texan-stakes-claim-on-vacant-house-for-16-3066016.php

 

Local homeowners file separate suit over Kitec damages

A group of South Plains homeowners has filed a separate lawsuit in Lubbock County District Court against the manufacturer and wholesale distributor of a defective plumbing pipe system recalled in 2005.

By Walt Nett       Lubbock Avalanche-Journal        February 2, 2012

A group of South Plains homeowners has filed a separate lawsuit in Lubbock County District Court against the manufacturer and wholesale distributor of a defective plumbing pipe system recalled in 2005.

The suit, filed Jan. 24 and assigned to 99th District Judge William C. Sowder, seeks unspecified damages from IPEX USA, the U.S. division of the Canadian manufacturer of the Kitec plumbing system, and Fort Worth-based Morrison Supply Co., a nationwide plumbing supply wholesaler.

Neither company responded to telephone messages seeking comment for this story.

The 30 homeowners include 26 from Lubbock and one each from Levelland, Plainview, Ralls and Sundown.

All of them had chosen to be excluded by the end of September last year from a class-action suit in U.S. and Canadian courts so they could file a separate suit. IPEX agreed to settle the class-action case in November for $125 million.

Full story at: http://lubbockonline.com/business/2012-01-31/local-homeowners-file-separate-suit-over-kitec-damages#.Tyt2ypgqPJw

 

Off the Grid in the City

By Carrie Jacobs       New York Times        February 4, 2012

MINNIE J. CHAPA, a 75-year-old great-grandmother and proud renter of a nearly new, minimalist-style, three-bedroom home here, said old neighbors from Haskell Street, a stretch of cottages just east of downtown where she spent nearly 50 years, regularly ask her, “Do you live over there in the matchbox houses?”

To describe SOL Austin, the five-and-a-half-acre development in which Ms. Chapa resides, as “the matchbox houses” is both accurate and unfair.

Yes, the houses are small by American standards (they range from 1,030 to 1,816 square feet), and the architectural style is decidedly rectilinear. But the boxiness is mediated by the skyward tilt of butterfly roofs, angled to hold photovoltaic arrays and channel rainwater into barrels.

SOL, an acronym for Solutions Oriented Living, is an ambitious attempt to upend the conventions of the American subdivision. It was developed by a partnership between Chris Krager, a 43-year-old architect who heads a firm called KRDB, and Russell M. Becker, 47, a civil engineer and general manager and owner of Beck-Reit & Sons Ltd., a construction company.

The community is intended not just to be sustainable in its design and materials, but “net zero” — in other words, a housing development that would produce all the energy it consumed, with super-efficient homes outfitted with solar panels and geothermal wells. Moreover, this small development is also doing its part to take on the problems of economic and social injustice.

That it has been, so far, only partly successful in achieving these goals makes it no less interesting as a design experiment.

SOL is in East Austin, about three miles from downtown, an area designated African-American by a 1928 city plan. In 1962, the construction of I-35, a major north-south artery, further isolated the area’s population.

Full story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/02/greathomesanddestinations/a-texas-developer-attempts-to-upend-the-american-subdivision.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Islanders: We do not want scattered public housing

By Amanda Casanova       Galveston County Daily News       February 7, 2012

GALVESTON — A standing-room-only crowd packed into the Island Community Center on Monday at the Galveston Housing Authority’s public hearing about proposed scattered sites.

The homes on scattered sites are part of the Galveston Housing Authority’s plan to rebuild 569 public housing units that were damaged during Hurricane Ike and later demolished.

Of the 569 units, housing authority officials have said they want to build single-family or duplex developments at 50 scattered sites.

Unlike traditional public housing developments, the units are scattered in neighborhoods throughout the city to avoid concentrations of poor.

Monday, residents living near the 12 proposed sites told the Galveston Housing Authority Board of commissioners they were worried the developments would drive property values down and turn neighborhoods into hubs for crime.

“There are no jobs here in Galveston,” Jason Reuter, a Galveston resident, said. “(The public housing residents) aren’t going to work. I worked all my life and I’m not going to have this come in and destroy what I’ve worked for.

“Don’t do this to Galveston.”

While more than 50 people spoke at the nearly three-hour long meeting, only a handful of people said they supported the scattered sites initiative.

Full story at: http://galvestondailynews.com/story/291418

 

Planned apartment boom raises traffic questions in Barton Springs-South Lamar area

By Shonda Novak      Austin American-Statesman       February 6, 2012

With Zilker Park a stone’s throw away and a stretch of popular restaurants in place to lure diners, the area around South Lamar Boulevard and Barton Springs Road already has its share of traffic snarls.

Now, it’s about to get even more crowded, with developers working on a handful of projects that would add nearly 1,700 apartments near the busy intersection in the next few years.

While the projects are planned for an area that developers say has a shortage of apartments, some neighborhood leaders say the developments could lead to a “perfect storm” for streets and neighborhoods not built to handle the traffic load, and they question whether taxpayers could end up paying for road improvements they say will be needed.

Jeff Jack, a member of the Zilker neighborhood group, said no one is looking at the cumulative effects from all the planned projects.

By Jack’s calculation, nearly 2.2 million square feet of commercial and residential space could be added along South Lamar, one of 14 major city roads the city has targeted for dense mixed-use development, if all potential sites are developed.

Full story at; http://www.statesman.com/business/real-estate/planned-apartment-boom-raises-traffic-questions-in-barton-2152552.html