Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 10/6/2009

The bank doesn’t want your mortgage: with more profit to be made at less risk in other ventures, banks are increasingly rejecting mortgage applicants. The reasons are often miniscule but data show a clear racial bias against people of color.

In Dallas, jurors have found former mayor pro tem Don Hall guilty of taking kickback from housing contractors.

For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles in economic, environmental and legal issues, contact Bo McCarver at

Report: 1 in 3 loan applications denied

By Alan Zibel   Builder September 30, 2009

WASHINGTON – Nearly one in three borrowers who applied for a mortgage last year was denied as lenders kept their standards tight as the mortgage crisis accelerated, the government reported Wednesday.

In its annual look at mortgage practices among lending institutions, Federal Reserve said the denial rate for all home loans was about 32 percent last year – about the same as in 2007, but up from 29 percent in 2006. The denial rates for blacks and Hispanics were more than twice as high as the rate for white borrowers.

Frustrated Homeowners Turn to Media, Courts

By Alexandra Andrews   ProPublica October 1, 2009

Qualified homeowners are being routinely denied loan modifications through the Obama administration’s Making Home Affordable plan, but they have little recourse to correct the mistaken denials, housing advocates say. In the absence of an effective appeals process, some borrowers have improvised their own solutions: They turn to journalists or congressmen – or take Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to court.

According to the government’s latest public figures, less than 12 percent, or roughly 360,000, of the borrowers projected to pass the program’s initial eligibility test had received loan modifications by the end of August, about five months in. The process of reviewing those borrowers for final qualification has been “pretty haphazard,” according to Geoff Walsh of the National Consumer Law Center.

“People are wrongly denied all the time. Every day,” said Irwin Trauss, supervising attorney at Philadelphia Legal Assistance. “The lenders are generally applying the criteria incorrectly.”

Firms are getting billions, but homeowners still in trouble

By Chris Adams   McClatchy Newspapers October 4, 2009

WASHINGTON — The federal government is engaged in a massive mortgage modification program that’s on track to send billions in tax dollars to many of the very companies that judges or regulators have cited in recent years for abusive mortgage practices.

The firms, called mortgage servicers, have been cited for badgering, manipulating or lying to their customers; sticking them with bogus fees, or improperly foreclosing on them.

Mortgage servicers are the middlemen between homeowners and the investors that hold their mortgages, collecting homeowners’ checks and disbursing payments for the mortgages, property tax and insurance. They’re a necessary player for any modification.

The reliance on such companies points to an ironic paradox for federal regulators: Cleaning up the nation’s financial crisis often rewards the firms that helped create the mess. Those Wall Street banks and mortgage servicing companies argue that they’re best positioned to repair the damage they’ve helped cause. In the case of the mortgage program, the firms getting the taxpayers’ money are, after all, the firms that control the troubled mortgages.

Days of using homes as wealth generators is over, experts say

By Peter Y. Hong   Los Angeles Times   October 3, 2009

For generations of Americans, a home was seen not simply as a dwelling, but as an engine of personal wealth. That view was promoted by the homebuilding and real estate sales industries as well as the U.S. government, which subsidized home loans and provided tax deductions for mortgage interest.

There have been booms and busts along the way, but from the second half of the last century through the start of this one, nothing derailed the real estate locomotive on its uphill climb. The train stalled here and there and rolled back now and then, but each time it roared back up and got homeowners to the mountaintop.

Now, however, the worst housing crash since the Great Depression might mean that a home purchase perhaps ought to be considered with the same warning issued to investors in securities: Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Dallas-Fort Worth apartment demand improves

By Steve Brown   Dallas Morning News October 5, 2009

Third-quarter demand improved for Dallas-Fort Worth apartments after months of declines. But the increase in net leasing wasn’t enough to keep rents and occupancy levels from falling.

Overall apartment occupancy in the D-FW area dipped below 90 percent for the first time, according to statistics released Monday by apartment analyst MPF Research Inc.

And a steady stream of new apartment openings pushed Dallas-area rents down by more than 4 percent in the quarter.

The best news in the new apartment data is that net leasing rose by 2,770 units – the first such increase in four quarters.

Agency faults reinsurance purchases

Consumers needlessly pay extra, office says

By Purva Patel   Houston Chronicle October 4, 2009

Texas homeowners covered by the state’s three largest home insurers could save an average of 8 to 14 percent a year on premiums if they didn’t bear the cost of coverage that companies buy for themselves, a state consumer agency says.

Allstate, State Farm and Farmers all buy policies, known as reinsurance, to help pay claims after a major disaster and say what they spend is necessary. They usually pass on part of that cost to policyholders.

“But they don’t need it,” said Deeia Beck, head of the Office of Insurance Counsel, which represents consumers before regulators. “Some smaller companies that only sell in Texas or are highly concentrated on the coast might need it, but for the larger diversified companies, it doesn’t make sense.”

A Modern Answer to the Commune

By Penelope Green   New York Times September 30, 2009

JOHANNA BRONK wants to make communal vegetarian meals and keep chickens. Mariel Berger hopes for social, artistic and political collaborations. Harmony Hazard is into hula hooping, book groups and anarchism.

Oh, to be a young city-dweller in search of a house share. Finding a roommate has never been easy, but for some, the endeavor has lately assumed all the urgency, emotion and extreme specificity of shopping for a life partner.

Last month, just in time for leases to turn over, the housing portion of Craigslist, the uber-community bulletin board and road map to the 20-something’s psyche, featured dozens of impassioned tone poems, vivid personal biographies and ideological wish lists.

Are the plans to build a green, sustainable building of tomorrow smack in the heart of downtown Dallas some pipedream or a reality?

By Robert Wilonsky   Dallas Observer October 2, 2008

Imagine, if you will, a utopia smack in the heart of downtown Dallas. In this green, sustainable building of tomorrow, you might roll out of bed, take a shower and find your runoff water feeding vegetation growing on the roof and walls, upon which you’ll feast later that night. Or maybe you’ll move downtown and become a cattle rancher several stories above the concrete jungle. Or perhaps you’ll grab a bite in the slow-food café downstairs after knocking off your shift working the counter in the holistic pharmacy next door.

Solar panels heat and light your home, and the high-tech and the natural mesh seamlessly in a Logan’s-Run-to-a-kibbutz kind of way. It’s a place so inviting, so self-contained that there’s really not much reason to ever leave home.

The possibilities, say the three architectural firms competing to design this future world, are endless—so much so they can’t really pin down what life in their buildings would be like, which is precisely what makes it so hard to believe one will ever exist. But if local affordable housing advocates Brent Brown and John Greenan have their way—and they insist they will—this world of tomorrow might be a lot closer than you think.

Housing Battle Reveals Post-Katrina Tensions

By Campbell Robertson   New York Times October 3, 2009

CHALMETTE, La. — The parish of St. Bernard, a quiet, insular suburb just east of New Orleans, has in the end agreed to allow housing for low-income families.

But even though it is only a few hundred apartment units, it had to be ordered by a federal judge. The parish has fought desperately to prevent such housing and an influx of renters, at one point even approving a law that prohibited homeowners from renting to anyone other than a blood relative, before it was challenged and repealed.

The battle over low-income housing has been one of the most bitter that anyone in the middle-class, mostly white parish can remember, one that has stoked issues the region has been grappling with since Hurricane Katrina: anger at the federal government and long-simmering class and racial tensions.

It also reflects widespread anxiety about just how drastically the area changed after the floodwaters receded.

Housing authority facing renewed opposition

By Leigh Jones   Galveston County Daily News September 30, 2009

GALVESTON — Galveston Housing Authority officials are planning a series of informal meetings for island residents to ask questions and voice concerns about the agency’s plan to rebuild the four public housing developments demolished after Hurricane Ike.

Harish Krishnarao, the agency’s executive director, suggested the meetings after several residents started asking questions about the housing authority’s housing choice voucher program and the island’s largest neighborhood association adopted a resolution questioning the rebuilding plans.

Study fans worries at port

By Laura Elder   Galveston County Daily News October 3, 2009

GALVESTON — A county decision to spend $80,000 in Hurricane Ike recovery money to study redevelopment of the island’s downtown has raised ire and eyebrows, even among some who voted for the measure.

“I’m having second thoughts,” said County Commissioner Ken Clark, who on Wednesday voted with four others to approve using federal Community Development Block Grant money to help pay for a study commissioned by the Historic Downtown Strand Seaport Partnership, which represents businesses and merchants.

Contaminated housing authority land’s fate uncertain

By Denise Malan   Corpus Christi Caller-Times October 3, 2009

CORPUS CHRISTI — The artist’s rendering of D.N. Leathers Townhomes still sits in the office of Corpus Christi Housing Authority CEO Richard Franco.

It wasn’t going to be a typical public housing project. The tan, two-story townhomes with red roofs were supposed to house residents of varying incomes.

“The whole idea of that was to change the stigma of low-rent (housing),” said Elmer Wilson, chairman of the housing authority’s board of commissioners.

But in the process of planning the 130-unit project, the housing authority received a shock: Required environmental assessments found petroleum and lead contamination that rendered the land unusable.

Housing authority restricts, delays access to public information

Lawyer: Board’s meeting “one of the clearest and most profound violations I’ve ever heard of”

By Denise Malan   Corpus Christi Caller-Times October 3, 2009

CORPUS CHRISTI — The Corpus Christi Housing Authority board of commissioners discussed the defunct D.N. Leathers Townhomes project at its meeting Tuesday — but the public wasn’t privy to that conversation or notified beforehand that the housing project would be discussed.

The board’s agenda included an executive session, to be conducted behind closed doors. But no issues for discussion were listed under the executive session, as would be required by the Texas Open Meetings Act.

Don Hill plans to appeal in Dallas City Hall corruption case

By Jason Trahan   Dallas Morning News October 5, 2009

Former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill and four others were found guilty on major charges in the Dallas City Hall public corruption case.

Hill was found guilty on seven charges, including bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. He was found not guilty on money laundering. D’Angelo Lee, who was Hill’s appointee to the Dallas Plan Commission, was found guilty on seven counts and he was not entrapped.

Proposed panhandling ban Downtown

Groups want council to change ordinance

By Shannon Wolfson   KXAN Sept. 29, 2009

AUSTIN – Several Downtown business and residential groups are asking the Austin city council to ban panhandling Downtown. The current ordinance only bans panhandling Downtown at night.

“I’m panhandled every day Downtown. I’m panhandled aggressively Downtown,” said Bill Brice, with the Downtown Austin Alliance.

The DAA, along with several Downtown churches and even the ARCH, support a Downtown ban. They have proposed a ban to the Austin city council which would prohibit any panhandling from 11th Street to the West Frontage road of I-35 and Cesar Chavez to San Antonio.

Partnership proposes day shelter for homeless

By Nick Cenegy   Galveston County Daily News October 5, 2009

GALVESTON — Each morning the men and women set out on their migration across the island, toting beaten plastic shopping bags or ratty rucksacks containing their possessions.

Some take a morning meal at the Salvation Army, 2228 Broadway. Others seek sustenance elsewhere. But between breakfast and dinner, when the doors of the shelters are closed, police say some of the homeless fall asleep in residents’ yards, urinate in public and commit petty crimes. As the sunshine intensifies, the men and women with no place to go set off down 23rd Street or other thoroughfares to seek out the haunts and crags of the island and wait out the day. Some beg for money off tourists. Some just cross the street and wait for the Salvation Army to reopen.

The homeless long have been at odds with businesses and homeowners, but after Hurricane Ike, with social programs only partially reinstituted, the problem is more obvious, Mike Winburn, executive director of the Gulf Coast Center, said. The center is the designated mental health authority for Galveston and Brazoria counties.

But a new partnership between police and the Gulf Coast Center may yield a day shelter for the homeless.

1 Comment

  1. please help me and my husband we are homeless an needing a place to stay tonight or any other night we just got here from detroit and im really needing some help please any thing will help if u could call y husband 2 morrow id appreciated so much lovingly tiffany sutton please

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