Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compliation – 9/16/2008

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….

While Texas emergency response to Hurricane Ike was greatly improved over those for Katrina and Rita, it remains to be seen if thousands of homes of work force and marginal families will be restored. The massive loss of housing will impose major hardships on marginal households and possibly redevelop large areas of affordable units with recreational and upscale units. News stories have thus far focused on the immediate plights of victims; the long-term prospects are largely ignored.

The situation is not helped by the Wall Street meltdown where the major dominoes begin to fall and a general reshuffling transpires that shakes up International markets. Although Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have been buttressed by Federal takeover, it remains to be seen if that change will impose a different leadership mentality; the presidential election may prove critical in that regard. While the recession sets in hard, analysts remind us that the program was once one of FDR’s social welfare programs.

Texas races to bring relief to hurricane victims
By Tim Gaynor       Reuters      September 15, 2008
GALVESTON, Texas – Texas urged thousands of people to leave Galveston on Monday as relief supplies failed to meet the needs of hungry and exhausted residents of the island city ravaged by Hurricane Ike and millions struggled to cope without power in the U.S. energy hub of Houston.

About 2,000 people have been plucked from flooded areas by helicopters and boats in the largest rescue effort in the state’s history as searchers scoured battered communities along the coast and Galveston Bay.

Nationalize Fannie Mae? It Worked Until It Was Privatized
By Robert Kuttner        Huffington Post       September 9, 2008.
Amid all the hubbub, it’s important to remember Fannie Mae’s pedigree.

In the past several days, before the U.S. Treasury Department acted to seize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, several people asked me if I thought it was a good idea for the government to “nationalize” the two mortgage giants. In virtually none of the coverage of the Bush administration’s latest emergency action did anyone bother to tell the backstory. Fannie Mae, nee the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA), began life as a government invention. It was born “nationalized” — and it worked beautifully until it was privatized.

Is the Fannie/Freddie Bailout “Socialism”?
By James Ridgeway       Mother Jones      September 11, 2008
Within conservative circles, most politicians and commentators recognize corporate welfare when they see it. They just downplay its true nature by giving it more palatable names, like “providing stability to financial markets” or “implementing a liquidity backstop”-terms Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson used on September 7 when he announced the massive government bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But there are always a few true believers-who deserve credit for their consistency, if nothing else-ready to use the dreaded S-word. Free-market zealots like those at the libertarian Cato Institute are now arguing that the problem with Fannie and Freddie is that they were “socialism from the start,” while others are applying the term to the federal takeover. Republican Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky said that when he first heard about the bailout plan, “I thought I woke up in France. But no, it turns out socialism is alive and well in America.”

McCain and the Mortgage Breakdown
By Robert Scheer      truthdig        September 10, 2008
Ignorance is bliss, which perhaps explains Gov. Sarah Palin being so confidently wrong about the root cause of the federalization of most of the nation’s mortgage market. But what is Senator John McCain’s excuse? Both act as if the financial meltdown of the US economy has nothing to do with the policies of the political party they represent–but she at least may not know any better.

Distracted momentarily from her campaign revelries of maverick opposition to the “bridge to nowhere,” which she had supported until it became a public relations debacle, and congressional earmarks for which she, as a small-town mayor, had hustled piggishly at the federal trough, Palin made the mistake of dealing with an unscripted subject.

Across Country, New Challenges to Term Limits
By David Chen and Michael Barbaro        New York Times      September 9, 2008
A decade after communities around the country adopted term limits to force entrenched politicians from office, at least two dozen local governments are suffering from a case of buyer’s remorse, with legislative bodies from New York City to Tacoma, Wash., trying to overturn or tweak the laws.
The campaigns against term limits, should they succeed, would drastically change the process by which millions of Americans elect a variety of their leaders – and how much power those leaders can amass once in office.

The elected leaders, some of whom supported term limits when they were imposed, argue that the limits severely hamper government and leave the officials little time to figure out the mechanics of their office. That forces them to gravitate toward small-bore projects that can be done quickly, rather than anything visionary that would take years to achieve.

In what could be called the second-term itch, they are pushing to revise the laws so they can serve another term (New York City and Rowlett, Tex.) or to repeal them so they can seek re-election indefinitely (State College, Pa., and Daytona Beach Shores, Fla.).

“It has been an unmitigated disaster for the city,” said Phil Hardberger, the departing mayor of San Antonio, who supports a November referendum to lengthen term limits to four two-year terms from two.

Green growth gambit
By MARJORIE CHILDRESS             New Mexico Independent       September 9. 2008
ALBUQUERQUE — Depending on whom you talk to, five new zoning codes currently being considered by Albuquerque’s Environmental Planning Commission are either a positive step forward, toward less sprawl and more transit-oriented development, or they’re potentially a Trojan horse that will allow developers to more easily deviate from existing neighborhood sector plans. 

The new codes are called “form-based,” which is a wonky way to describe a new way of regulating how the city develops. 

Instead of focusing on how land can be used, as traditional zoning does, form-based zones regulate the form and type of a building, and how it relates to the street and the surrounding neighborhood in general. 

The idea is that the encouragement of a certain type of built environment will create mixed-use, pedestrian friendly and transit oriented development, which Albuquerque’s long-range plans call for.

To slow global warming, install white roofs
Such roofs and reflective pavement in the world’s 100 largest cities would have a massive cooling effect, according to data released at California’s annual Climate Change Research Conference.

By Margot Roosevelt          Los Angeles Times        September 10, 2008
Builders have known for decades that white roofs reflect the sun’s rays and lower the cost of air conditioning. But now scientists say they have quantified a new benefit: slowing global warming.

If the 100 biggest cities in the world installed white roofs and changed their pavement to more reflective materials — say, concrete instead of asphalt-based material — the global cooling effect would be massive, according to data released Tuesday at California’s annual Climate Change Research Conference in Sacramento.

Solar Helps Keep Eastside Homes Affordable
Thanks to neighborhood-based nonprofit Blackland CDC

By Daniel Mottola         Austin Chronicle       September 11, 2008
The little pink house at East 22nd and Leona looks like most of the others in the area – a simple 1930s frame bungalow – except for the kooky-looking, solar-panel-laden addition jutting off the back. Known as the Harden-Solar Duplex, the property’s two living spaces will soon house a struggling family as well as a grad student and her husband. More than just a residence, the duplex is a study in the power of the grassroots to provide low-income housing solutions, plus a living lesson in the real-world challenges of making residential solar power work and proof that rooftop renewable energy can make sense for everybody. On a recent Saturday evening, about 100 neighbors and volunteers gathered in the back yard over beer, barbecue, and live R&B to celebrate the activation of the duplex’s sizable 8-kilowatt solar system.