Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 8/25/2009

This story is repeated so often its headline is no longer news: more US homeowners find themselves “underwater” as the value of their houses plummet below their mortgages. The worsening job market fuels more foreclosures.

In Galveston, hapless FEMA is removing unused trailer homes that were emplaced so long after Hurricane Ike that homeless residents found other shelter or gave up entirely and left the island.

For a pdf file of the full articles, plus contextual stories in environmental, social and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at

What rebound? Foreclosures rise as jobs and income drop

By Kevin G. Hall   McClatchy Newspapers August 21, 2009

WASHINGTON — Delinquency and foreclosure rates for U.S. mortgages continued to rise in the second quarter, with loans to the most qualified borrowers going bust at an unnerving clip, especially in hard-hit states such as Florida and California.

The numbers reported Thursday by the Mortgage Bankers Association show clearly that rising job losses are worsening the nation’s housing troubles and threaten the Obama administration’s efforts to keep owners from losing their homes.

The quarterly National Delinquency Survey showed that almost one in 10 homeowners with a mortgage was at least one payment late, and thus delinquent, while another 4 percent had entered the foreclosure process on their loan.

Existing Home Sales in U.S. Jump to Two-Year High

By Shobhana Chandra   Bloomberg August 21, 2009

Sales of existing U.S. homes jumped more than forecast in July to the highest level in almost two years, signaling the housing crisis that crippled the world’s largest economy is easing.

Purchases climbed 7.2 percent to a 5.24 million annual rate, the most since August 2007, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. The gain was the biggest since records began in 1999. The median price fell 15 percent.

Foreclosure-driven declines in prices, government credits for first-time buyers and near-record-low borrowing costs may keep stoking demand, helping the economy recover from the worst recession since the 1930s. At the same time, more Americans will probably lose their homes as companies cut payrolls, indicating a rebound will be slow to take hold.

Austin area home sales level out

By Shonda Novak   Austin American-Statesman August 20, 2009

Existing home sales in Central Texas were flat last month, the first time in more than two years that they were not lower than the same month a year earlier.

The Austin Board of Realtors reported that there were 2,069 sales last month, and 2,068 in July 2008.

In a sign of a stabilizing market, the year-over-year percentage decline had been shrinking in recent months, after a string of double-digit percentage drops.

More Dallas-Fort Worth businesses seeing opportunity in abandoned property

By Sheryl Jean   Dallas Morning News August 23, 2009

Starbucks’ woes turned out to be a boon for Jose and Gloria Fuentes of Dallas.

When the company said it would close its coffee shop on Greenville Avenue in February, they jumped at the chance to expand their adjacent Gloria’s Restaurant into the space. And because the couple owned the building, Starbucks paid $75,000 to end its lease four years early.

“I’m very happy with that,” Jose Fuentes said. “I got $75,000 plus the space.”

Austin office market shares national distress

Northwest especially hard-hit by vacancies

By Shonda Novak   Austin American-Statesman August 23, 2009

Champion Partners brought its Ladera Bend mixed-use development to market in the second half of 2008, promoting the project’s Hill Country views, high-end interior finishes and location on RM 2222, in one of Austin’s prime technology corridors.

Champion started the project in late 2007, when the region was still experiencing healthy job growth.

Now, Ladera Bend, with just 3.5 percent of its 170,000 square feet of office space leased, has been posted for foreclosure, one of five major Austin-area properties to be listed in the past year or so. A sixth project, Aspen Lake, is in bankruptcy.

FEMA removing vacant mobile homes from isle park

By Rhiannon Meryer   Galveston County Daily News August 21, 2009

GALVESTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is hauling away unused mobile homes from a half-empty park in Galveston.

Three months after the mobile home park opened, fewer than half of the park’s 54 furnished mobile homes were occupied. The agency is scheduled to have all the vacant mobile homes moved by today.

Island officials begged FEMA for months after Hurricane Ike to open the mobile home park as hundreds of displaced Galvestonians remained in hotels, unable to find other places to live.

Homeowners await grants so they can rebuild

By Leigh Jones   Galveston County Daily News August 23, 2009

GALVESTON — The lot on 10 Mile Road where Dorothy and William Auzston’s house stood for 61 years is overgrown, with nothing left to decorate the front yard but a broken bird bath and the concrete steps that once led to the front door.

Behind the steps, three rows of tall wooden pilings are the only thing the couple has to show for almost a year of work and waiting. The Auzstons are among about 700 families who are dependent on federal disaster recovery money to undo the damage wrought by Hurricane Ike, which made landfall Sept. 13, almost one year ago.

While most Galvestonians have finished repairing their roofs, walls and flooring, the island’s poorest property owners still are waiting for a piece of the $103.9 million the city has set aside for housing repair projects.

Denver’s Revamped Zoning Code Could Set Precedent

By David Hil   Architectural Record August 14, 2009

Denver’s 639-page zoning code, written in the 1950s and amended countless times since, is getting an overhaul. Gone will be arcane zoning terms like R-1 and B-2, replaced by specific guidelines and illustrations describing what new buildings should actually look like. And instead of the old code’s one-size-fits-all approach, the new rules could vary neighborhood to neighborhood.

Unveiled in May at a series of public meetings, the proposed new code is an attempt to better manage growth in a city that’s seen hundreds of older homes torn down in recent years and replaced by much-larger—critics say inappropriate—houses, explains Peter Park, Denver’s manager of community planning and development. The new code won’t prevent teardowns, but it will establish guidelines to ensure that new construction fits in better with a given neighborhood’s historic context.

Full story at: