Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 8/27/2008

My friend and fellow houser Bo McCarver shares with the Texas housers blog the housing related stories from his weekly compilation of print media stories he calls “The Tuesday Report”. Bo’s report is posted here each Wednesday. If you want a pdf file of the articles that includes social, environmental and other contextual news stories, send me a comment with your email address and I’ll pass it on to Bo.

Note that sometimes you must register with a newspaper web site in order to read the full article.

Here is Bo’s report….

All eyes were on Freddie and Fannie this week as investors held their breaths to see if the mortgage giants could service the debt on their loans. If foreign investors reject the terms and the Treasury Department has to take over, it could trigger further meltdown in the general economy.

Ever wonder about the book of tricks developers use to get passed city codes? See the brilliant story from the Dallas Observer at the end of this series.

Fannie and Freddie woes spread
The sharp decline in the value of preferred shares of the troubled mortgage finance firms could lead to billions of dollars more in bank writedowns.

CNN        August 25, 2008
NEW YORK — The problems plaguing mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could cause another big financial drain on banks.
Shares of Fannie and Freddie have plunged in recent weeks due to fears that the two companies may need to turn to the Treasury Department to raise more capital.

Some even speculate that Fannie and Freddie may wind up being nationalized, which would cause the stocks to lose most, if not all, of their value.

Fannie and Freddie debt gains as deep share dive abates
By Lynn Adler      Reuters       August 21, 2008
NEW YORK – Investors’ growing belief in the likelihood of a federal bailout of home-funding giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac triggered a rally in the debt prices of the two companies on Thursday while a steep fall in their shares prices abated.

Freddie debt sale eases concerns of nationalization
By Al Yoon       Reuters        August 25, 2008
NEW YORK – U.S. mortgage finance company Freddie Mac easily sold $2 billion of short-term debt on Monday, helping to reassure investors that both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae can fund operations without a government bailout.

Freddie Mac stock gained 17 percent and Fannie Mae shares rose 3.8 percent, while the benchmark U.S. S&P500 stock index ended down nearly 2.0 percent.

In the Ruins of the Housing Bust, the Price of an Illusion
By David Streitfeld        New York Times      August 23, 2008
ELLIE WOOTEN, the likable mayor of this likable Central Valley city, is on her way to the office when her cellphone rings. A constituent wants her mortgage payments reduced, and is hoping that the mayor has some clout with her lender.

More houses return to lender
Mortgage owners increasingly stuck with foreclosed homes they can’t move at auction

By Becky Yerak          Chicago Tribune          August 21, 2008
The number of vacant eyesore homes in your neighborhood could be on the rise.

The reason: At auctions, the last legal step in the home foreclosure process, a growing share are ending up back in the laps of lenders instead of sold to third-party investors.

That can spell trouble for lenders, who find themselves saddled with the added duties of property owner and manager, but also for city and suburban governments and neighborhoods that worry that the properties are more likely to become targets of burglars and vandals, rundown from lack of maintenance and their yards overgrown with weeds.

As the number of such homes increases it can bring down housing values even more.

U.S. pre-owned home sales rise 3.1% in July
Associated Press         August 25, 2008
WASHINGTON – Sales of existing homes rose 3.1 percent in July, surpassing expectations, as buyers snapped up deeply discounted properties in parts of the country hit hardest by the housing bust.

Fullerton residents see downside of downtown
The city’s effort to rebuild the urban core with mixed use projects is running into vocal community resistance.

By Paloma Esquivel          Los Angeles Times         August 19, 2008
On the worst days, Keith Kang’s commute from his home in Corona to his graphic design business in Fullerton could almost equal a quarter of the workday.

So when he learned about SoCo Walk, a mixed-use project in downtown Fullerton that opened in late 2006, he thought he had found a perfect solution. Kang and his wife grabbed one of the town homes and now run their business on the first floor.

Home, small home: 250 square feet in SoMa
New condo development targets young first-time buyers without too much stuff

By James Temple           San Francisco Chronicle        August 24, 2008
It’s about the size of seven ping-pong tables – and all yours starting at $279,000.

A San Francisco design and development firm has begun marketing 98 tiny condominiums – ranging from 250 to 350 square feet – at the Cubix Yerba Buena building in SoMa.

Architect George Hauser is the first to say the studios are too small for many people, families in particular. He and local planning groups, however, believe the so-called micro units represent one means of providing more first-time home-buying opportunities in a city where most prices outstrip most incomes.

Accessible Homes? Not Really, Say Disabled Residents
By Glenn Collins       New York Times        August 25, 2008
Even a kitchen cabinet can be an insurmountable challenge, when it is too high to reach. Or a sink – or a toilet – that is too low. And, as Roberta Galler knows, there are closets that cannot be entered. “You might get your wheelchair in, but you’ll never get it out,” she said during a tour of her apartment on a recent afternoon.

Mirasol Task Force disbands, its mission incomplete
By Josh Baugh     San Antonio Express-News      August 21, 2008
Created 15 months ago by the San Antonio Housing Authority to address persistent problems in its namesake West Side neighborhood, the Mirasol Task Force had outlived its usefulness by the time it held its 29th – and final – meeting Wednesday night.

Order bars BartonPlace developers from violating airspace over trailer park
By Lilly Rockwell and Shonda Novak        Austin American-Statesman      August 22, 2008
The owner of a mobile-home park on Barton Springs Road has filed suit in Travis County District Court against the developer of the adjacent $130 million BartonPlace condominium project over a construction crane that was encroaching on airspace.

Hewitt City council postpones vote on halting home construction
By J.B. Smith        Waco Tribune       August 25, 2008
The Hewitt City Council tonight tabled a motion to stop issuing home construction permits temporarily to prevent further strain on its sewer system.

Eat My Dirt
A builder’s guide to skirting the zoning laws and making the city look goofy

By Jim Schutze       Dallas Observer      August 21, 2008
I know. We’ll just do this as an IQ test. Here’s the situation: You’re a builder. The law says you can only build a new condo building on Oram Street in East Dallas 36 feet or three stories up from the ground. You want to go up four stories, so you can sell more condo units. That would be illegal.