Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation – 11/10/2009

Facing a huge deficit issue, Congress finally acts to give tax breaks to homebuyers but does not address the broader problem of lack of affordable units across the nation. Meanwhile, HUD is implementing a new measure January 1, that will require full disclosure of closing costs to homebuyers.

In Galveston, an anti-public housing organization is offering its own redevelopment plan to deal with units destroyed by Hurricane Ike.

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


Senate approves jobless, housing aid

By Andy Sullivan   Reuters November 4, 2009

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate vote unanimously on Wednesday to extend aid for jobless workers and broaden tax breaks for homebuyers and businesses in a bid to breathe life into the struggling U.S. economy.

After weeks of partisan bickering, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 98 to 0. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on it as soon as Thursday and send it to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

Democrats who control Congress are under pressure to get the economy moving before the November 2010 congressional elections. But they have been reluctant to assemble another massive stimulus package after February’s $787 billion measure, fearing a voter backlash over record federal budget deficits.

Instead, they have opted for a smaller package that broadens several existing measures without adding to the deficit.


More homebuyers could get tax break

House passes bill offering at least $6,500

By Stephen Ohlemacher   Associated Press   November 5, 2009

WASHINGTON — Missed out on Cash for Clunkers? Congress has another deal for you: Buy a home before May 1 and collect up to $6,500 from the government. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, get up to $8,000.

As part of the government’s efforts to encourage people to spend money to help revive the economy, the House voted 403-12 on Thursday to expand a popular tax credit for homebuyers. The bill, which also extends unemployment benefits and expands a tax break for money-losing businesses, now goes to President Barack Obama, who plans to sign it Friday.

First-time homebuyers have been getting tax credits of up to $8,000 since January as part of the economic stimulus package. But with that housing program scheduled to expire at the end of November, the House voted to extend it into the spring — and to expand it to many people who already own homes.


Report: More than 6% of Dallas-area home loans in trouble

By Steve Brown   Dallas Morning News November 5, 2009

More than 6 percent of Dallas-area home loans were significantly behind in payments or already in foreclosure in September, a mortgage industry analyst reported Thursday.

The number of Dallas-area home loans that was 90 days or more late rose to 4.95 percent in September, First American CoreLogic said in its report. An additional 1.26 percent of mortgages were already in foreclosure.

The Dallas-area’s late loan payment rate is slightly higher than the Texas’ 4.57 percent but remains well below the national average of 7.27 percent.

The nationwide foreclosure rate totaled 1.67 percent in September.

Late loan and foreclosure rates in the Dallas area were both up significantly for the month from a year ago.

A second report show similar loan delinquency and foreclosure rates for the Fort Worth area.


Dallas-Fort Worth pre-owned home sales score double-digit gain

By Steve Brown   Dallas Morning News November 9, 2009

North Texas pre-owned home sales surged in October – up 11 percent from a year ago.

It was the first double-digit gain in more than a year and the best sign yet that the local housing market has turned the corner.

Real estate agents sold more than 6,300 single-family homes last month through the Multiple Listing Service, according to numbers released Monday by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and North Texas Real Estate Information Systems.


Home equity loans harder to find

By E. Scott Reckard   Los Angeles Times November 8, 2009

Traditional 30-year mortgages are unusually affordable by historical standards, but if you’re looking for a home equity line of credit, don’t expect any deals.

The market for such credit lines, which practically shut down as home prices tumbled, remains tight despite signs of life in the rest of the home-loan market. And offers that let you pay only the prime rate or just above that benchmark are long gone.

“The days of lenders falling all over themselves to help you empty the equity out of your home aren’t coming back anytime soon,” said Keith Gumbinger, vice president at loan data tracker HSH Associates.


New HUD rules aim to get rid of closing cost surprises

Starting Jan. 1, loan charges and settlement fees will be spelled out on a revised version of the good-faith estimates form that borrowers are supposed to get after their mortgage applications.

By Kenneth Harney   Los Angeles Times November 8, 2009

Reporting from Washington – Remember the bad old days of 11th-hour mortgage cost shocks and mystery junk-fee charges? Remember when the “good-faith estimates” your lender gave you upfront said closing costs would be about $2,000, but somehow they ballooned to $3,500 on the final closing sheet?

Worse yet, you had to come up with the extra money to handle the surprise costs or the home purchase or refinancing could not proceed.

Those days are still here — consumers continue to be unprotected from closing cost shocks or intentional low-balling of fees — but in about eight weeks the situation should change dramatically.


Backyard cottages OK’d in Seattle

By Chris Grygiel   Seattle Post Intelligencer November 3, 2009

Eds note: This article has been corrected. The legislation passed says backyard cottages could not exceed 800 square feet. The original article incorrectly stated that cottages could not exceed 800 square feet – or 60 percent of the primary residence — whichever is smaller.

Backyard cottages will be allowed in single-family zones throughout Seattle under an ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council Monday.

The council had considered allowing detached cottages citywide in 2006, but ended up just allowing them in Southeast Seattle. Mayor Greg Nickels has backed the proposal to allow the units elsewhere.

Opponents fear the move will effectively rezone the entire city and threaten neighborhoods of single-family homes, but supporters say it provides needed housing options in the city.

Height limits would be set at 22 feet for most cottages. If a lot is more than 50-feet wide — or 40-feet wide and adjacent to an alley — units could be 23-feet tall. Units could not exceed 800 square feet.


Anti-development candidate wins big in Miami mayor’s race

By Charles Rabin, Michael Vasquez and Luisa Yanez   Miami Herald November 4, 2009

MIAMI — Miami voters demanded a breather from eight years of fast-paced development Tuesday, ushering in Tomas Regalado as mayor on a wave of support from residents who said they were tired of uncontrolled growth and unchecked spending.

Regalado, 62, a constant basher of past administrations who first swept to a city commission seat 13 years ago, parlayed a national anti-incumbent fervor and a sour economy to become the city’s 33rd mayor.


Group to offer own housing strategy

By Leigh Jones   Galveston County Daily News November 8, 2009

GALVESTON — A group opposed to plans to rebuild public housing demolished after Hurricane Ike is forming its own redevelopment strategy.

The group, organized by Galveston Open Government Project founder David Stanowski, intends to present its plan to the Galveston Housing Authority board, in hopes the agency will pay more attention to the concerns of island residents, Stanowski said.

The group’s proposal will include density and housing configuration recommendations and ways to hold the housing authority accountable for enforcing its own rules, he said.


Council to tackle moratorium

By Mary Madewell   Paris News November 8, 2009

The Paris City Council faces a fairly brief but possibly contentious agenda on Monday.

Agenda items range from the extension of a moratorium on mobile homes within the city limits, to a zoning change request to accommodate a 84-bed convalescent home to discussion about whether to maintain the services of an outside building code firm or hire a city building inspector.


Audit says city, authority share fault for lagging East Austin redevelopment

By Sarah Coppola   Austin American-Statesman November 4, 2009

The City of Austin and the Austin Revitalization Authority are both to blame for delays in redevelopment work along East 11th and East 12th streets, a city audit has concluded.

The city formed the nonprofit authority in 1995 to help transform those streets, gateways to downtown that were plagued by crime and blight. The authority has built two retail-and-office buildings, restored two historical structures and built or renovated 11 homes. Those projects have improved the area and lessened crime, the auditors said. But the authority has not turned dirt on a major project in five years and has been dogged by criticism from nearby residents and businesses.


Tour to feature recycled homes

By Jessica Priest   Huntsville Item November 8, 2009

The Living Paradigm organization of Houston will offer tours of their salvaged material home, the Brigid’s Paradigm home, and other salvaged material homes built by the Phoenix Commotion in Huntsville today.

The tours, which will start at 1410 13th Street, will begin at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

“The tours will probably last 45 minutes to an hour,” said Living Paradigm founder Amanda Tullos. “We will start with a brief overview of our organization and the importance of this program. Then, everyone can go their separate ways.”

“[Phoenix Commotion’s] Tree house is the starting point [for the tour] … We are also going to be looking at the Bone house and briefly stop by some other houses in the area.” 

The Living Paradigm is a non-profit organization committed to building affordable housing out of salvaged and reclaimed materials. “There are a lot of good reasons why this program works and why people are so interested in it and I think it is summarized by talking about sustainability.


Homelessness in America: Finally, Glimmers of Light

By Neal Peirce   Citywire November 8, 2009

Veterans of America’s recent wars left homeless, abused women and their children seeking nightly shelter, out-of-sight medical system costs, rising tides of bankruptcies. What do they have to do with each other–and America’s current health care debate?

A lot, it turns out.

By failing to guarantee a roof over every American’s head, we’ve failed the test–as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan puts it–of “a civilized society.” On a typical night 650,000 Americans are have no place to call home.

We created this crisis ourselves, by the states emptying out their mental hospitals and cities demolishing thousands of low-income rental units. The result was a huge gap in affordable shelter.


Prayer vigil sheds light on Lubbock’s homeless

By Adam D. Young   Lubbock Avalance-Journal November 8, 2009

Walter Paschal, who spends every night at Mahon Library, prayed there Saturday night.

“Some day I hope to leave this place, whether I get a house or if I get to go home with you,” the homeless man told God in front of a crowd of nearly 200 people gathered for a prayer vigil for those with no home.

Many sat on blankets in the grass while others stood with their heads bowed in prayer.

The vigil, which was organized by ministers of Carpenter’s Church, the Salvation Army and other community organizations, was planned to bring attention to the city’s homeless population, said Chad Wheeler, a minister at Carpenter’s Church. A similar prayer vigil was held last November.