Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compliation – 9/23/2008

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….

The Bush Administration presses Congress for a quick fix for the economy that would include measures for bad mortgages. Both sides of the House, however, are reluctant to rescue inept corporate CEOs and to institute FDR’s methods in handling the First Great Depression.

Meanwhile, Texas ponders what to do in the wake of Hurricane Ike. Many Galveston residents will not be able to rebuild under Texas environmental laws.

Rescue Plan Seeks $700 Billion to Buy Bad Mortgages
Associated Press          September 20, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration asked Congress on Saturday for the power to buy $700 billion in toxic assets clogging the financial system and threatening the economy as negotiations began on the largest bailout since the Great Depression.

Home foreclosure aid reportedly added to bailout plan
Rep. Barney Frank says the Bush administration has accepted demands that the $700-billion rescue of financial institutions include help for ordinary mortgage holders.

By James Gerstenzang,         Los Angeles Times       September 22, 2008
WASHINGTON — As President Bush urged Congress today to act quickly on his $700-billion plan to rescue troubled financial institutions without adding new provisions, a key Democrat said the administration had agreed to include new help for homeowners facing the prospect of foreclosure on their mortgages.

Fed’s $85 Billion Loan Rescues Insurer
By Edmund L. Andrews, Michael J. de la Merced and Mary Williams Walsh       New York Times      September 17, 2008
WASHINGTON – Fearing a financial crisis worldwide, the Federal Reserve reversed course on Tuesday and agreed to an $85 billion bailout that would give the government control of the troubled insurance giant American International Group.

Saving Wall Street, Ignoring Main Street
By Nicholas Von Hoffman        The Nation         September 17, 2008
When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he knew he was starting a new political system. As the Bush administration takes over trillion-dollar AIG, it has no idea what it is starting. It does not even know what to do next.
All that Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson knew was that if AIG was allowed to slip under the waters, all hell would break loose. There might be something close to panic in the streets.
Full story at:

HUD sees glut of homes, subprime loans
By Dawn Kopecki and Bob Willis        Bloomberg News       September 18, 2008
The U.S. economy is suffering from a “fundamental oversupply” of homes and a glut of subprime mortgages scheduled to reset through 2010 that will continue to weigh on housing prices, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steven Preston said.

Foreclosure records show market shift
Third-party buyers taking advantage of area housing auctions
By Dawn Cobb        Denton Record       September 17, 2008
Third parties have bought foreclosed homes at a higher rate in Denton County than any other in a four-county region during the past nine months.
In an area that includes Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties, third parties bought an estimated 700 properties at auction from January through September.

In hard times, tent cities rise across the country
By Evelyn Nieves          Associated Press        September 22, 2008
RENO, Nev. – A few tents cropped up hard by the railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.

Then others appeared – people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy, or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no one was hiring.

Within weeks, more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless population. Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a “tent city” – an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go.

From Seattle to Athens, Ga., homeless advocacy groups and city agencies are reporting the most visible rise in homeless encampments in a generation.

Democrats Sue Michigan G.O.P. on Voter Issue
By Michael Falcon       New York Times      Sept. 17, 2008
Responding to allegations that Republican Party officials in Macomb County, Michigan plan to use home foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls in November, the Obama Campaign and the Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court to prevent what they contended was an illegal practice.

Needy residents desperate for relief
Busy signals, deportation fear increase anxiety in North Houston

By Dane Schiller, Chase Davis and Leslie Casmir         Houston Chronicle        September 16, 2008
They pulled together Tuesday and used kitchen knives and brute strength to rip out sopping carpet and the padding beneath it.
Their belongings, a pile of wet clothing and children’s toys, mingled in a stinky mound outside their apartment.

The Suarez family wasn’t in Galveston or anywhere near the Gulf Coast. They live in North Houston, home to many gritty neighborhoods that know suffering. Now, days after Hurricane Ike tore off roofs and overturned lives, tough times have gotten tougher.

The Suarezes, like many families, are taking matters into their own hands.

Authorities vow to force holdouts off Texas coast
By Juan Lozano       Associated Press      September 17, 2008
GALVESTON — About 250 people who withstood Hurricane Ike on a coastal sliver of land will be forced off it so crews can begin the recovery effort, authorities said Tuesday, vowing to invoke emergency powers to make it happen.

Flooded apartments could mean terminated leases
By Lindsay Wise and Bill Murphy       Houston Chronicle    September 19, 2008
Kat Joel-Reich weathered Hurricane Ike in her century-old home on M Street in Galveston.

On Friday, the 56-year-old coordinator at UTMB’s Institute for Medical Humanities criss-crossed the Island in her black Mazda, checking on the homes and pets of friends and co-workers who had evacuated before the storm and have been unable to return since.

Her first stop was the Tradewinds Apartments in the 100 block of Strand. Her boss, Dr. Sandra Riegle, evacuated from Apt. No. 11 before Ike hit. Now she’s stranded in Austin.

On Wednesday, Riegle got a call from her landlord, Trish McDaniel, notifying her that her lease was being terminated because her flooded apartment posed a health and safety hazard.

Building may not be an option
Patterson says erosion imminent and communities won’t be the same

By Matthew Tresaugue          Houston Chronicle         Sept. 15, 2008
The impulse to rebuild follows any catastrophe, but homeowners and public officials are facing questions of whether parts of the hurricane-ravaged Texas coastline will even be salvageable.

Hurricane Ike all but erased the communities of Gilchrist and Crystal Beach along the Bolivar Peninsula.

Beachfront houses may be barred from repair
Michael Graczyk,Cain Burdeau        Associated Press        September 19, 2008
Galveston, Texas — Hundreds of people whose beachfront homes were wrecked by Hurricane Ike may be barred from rebuilding under a little-noticed Texas law. And even those whose houses were spared could end up seeing them condemned by the state. Now here’s the saltwater in the wound: It could be a year before the state tells these homeowners what they may or may not do.

Worse, if these homeowners do lose their beachfront property, they may get nothing in compensation from the state.

Judge approves fast-tracking Texas rental-ban case
By Anabelle Garay           Associated Press      September 22, 2008
A federal judge Monday agreed to fast-track a lawsuit challenging a Dallas suburb’s ordinance that would essentially bar illegal immigrants from renting homes there.

Two years later affordable housing money gets put to work, with mixed results
Tested non-profits get lion share of $11.8 million distributed so far. Critics still wonder about city strategy.

By Sarah Coppola        Austin American-Statesman       September 22, 2008
Tracey Zielonka never thought she would be homeless.
But in March, she and her 1-year-old son left her abusive boyfriend and could not afford an apartment.

Zielonka, 36, got a protective order and applied to St. Louise House, a North Austin apartment complex for abused or homeless women and their children. VinCare Services, a nonprofit group that runs the complex, rented Zielonka and her son a $20-a-month, one-bedroom apartment and helped her get food, furniture, counseling and career services. She will graduate from Austin Community College next year with a teaching degree.

“I don’t know where I would be right now if I hadn’t been able to come here,” she said.

VinCare will soon house more people. It is one of 10 nonprofit organizations and developers that have received money to build or buy and renovate affordable housing from a $55 million bond measure passed by Austin voters in November 2006.

The City of Austin has awarded $11.8 million so far for 404 apartments, homes and townhomes, an investment of about $29,000 a unit. To date, 100 units have been completed.

Voluntary home energy upgrades get the nod
Task force nixes mandatory updates by homeowners trying to sell; council to consider ordinance later this fall.

By Katie Humphrey       Austin American-Statesman       September 18, 2008
A task force charged with finding ways to make existing Austin homes more energy-efficient has backed away from mandatory upgrades, instead favoring required energy-efficiency audits and incentives.

Downtown Waco developers want more walking, fewer parking spaces
By J.B. Smith       Waco Tribune-Herald        September 22, 2008
The architects for the downtown Waco of the future are betting that it will be so pedestrian-friendly, vibrant and full of attractions that you won’t mind parking blocks away from where you want to go. And that someday, you may even be willing to pay to park.

A quiet revolution in thinking about downtown and its parking needs has taken hold with city planners and business leaders. It’s reflected in new projects such as the $75 million mixed-use Town Square development around City Hall, now rising on the site of the old square the city tore down years ago for a massive parking lot.

Conflicts arise as city grows above, under ground
When it comes to a boom, two things happen in Midland: more drilling and more development.

By Courtney Bacalso
         Midland Reporter-Telegram          September 22, 2008
When it comes to a boom, two things happen in Midland: more drilling and more development.

But government has been caught in the middle when oil and land developers can’t work things out on their own.

Since 2004, Midland’s city limits have expanded by 2,700 acres. Building permits for single-family homes have increased by 2,061. At the same time, the city has approved a total of 27 drilling permits and rejected one. As a result of the city being sued by both mineral and surface rights owners for that one rejection — and an ordinance that doesn’t seem to solve the problem — the city started its Oil Task Force this month.

Capitol Strives to Define ‘Homeless’
By Rachel Swarns        New York Times     September 15, 2008
WASHINGTON – With unemployment and foreclosures rising and growing numbers of families struggling to find affordable housing, lawmakers in Congress are debating who should be considered homeless.
For more than 20 years, federal housing law has counted as homeless only people living on the streets or in shelters. But now the House and the Senate are considering an expansion of the definition to include people precariously housed: those doubled up with friends or relatives or living day to day in motels, with money and options running out.