Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation – 2/23/2010

Tuesday Report, February 23, 2010

As the ranks of the unemployed rise, foreclosures closely follow. The federal program to stave-off defaults slowly takes effect while a jobs bill crawls through Congress at a snail’s pace.

Galveston conservatives have mounted a relentless campaign against rebuilding public housing on the island and now propose to spread it up and down the Texas coast.

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

U.S. Mortgage Foreclosures Rose to Record in Fourth Quarter

By Kathleen M. Howley      Bloomberg Press February 19, 2010

Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) — A record number of Americans were in danger of losing their homes in the fourth quarter, even as new delinquencies declined, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

Loans in foreclosure rose to 4.58 percent of all mortgages and the share more than 90 days overdue, the point at which lenders typically begin the process of seizing a property, rose to 5.09 percent, the Washington-based trade group said in a report today.

“We have a hard-core block of unemployed who have been out of jobs for a long time, and that’s keeping the long-term delinquencies high,” Jay Brinkmann, the Washington-based trade group’s chief economist, said in an interview. “New entrants to the ranks of the unemployed have been falling and that’s why we see the early delinquencies dropping.”

Full story at:

Obama aid package to help with home foreclosures

The $1.5 billion federal aid package will be distributed to housing agencies in California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona – the states hardest hit by the housing crisis – to help keep struggling homeowners in their houses.

By Michael B. Farrell Christian Science Monitor February 19, 2010

The five states where the housing crisis has taken the biggest toll will receive part of a $1.5 billion federal aid package intended to slow the tide of home foreclosures, the Obama administration announced Friday.

The money will be distributed to housing agencies in California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, and Arizona – states where home prices have dropped more than 20 percent since the peak of the market, in a bid to help keep struggling homeowners in their houses.

Full story at:

Report: More than one in 10 Texas homeowners behind on payments

By Steve Brown       Dallas Morning News February 19, 2010

More than one in 10 Texas homeowners with loans are behind in their payments.

But the number of homes in foreclosure in the state still fell slightly in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the latest study by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

At the end of last year, 10.3 percent of Texas home mortgage holders had missed at least one payment, the industry trade group said Friday.

Full story at

How Goldman secretly bet on the U.S. housing crash

By Greg Gordon        McClatchy Newspapers February 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting.

Goldman’s sales and its clandestine wagers, completed at the brink of the housing market meltdown, enabled the nation’s premier investment bank to pass most of its potential losses to others before a flood of mortgage defaults staggered the U.S. and global economies.

Only later did investors discover that what Goldman had promoted as triple-A rated investments were closer to junk.

Full story at:

Can living near a train station save you from foreclosure?

Mortgage defaults higher in neighborhoods dependent on driving, research show

By Mary Wisniewski        Chicago Sun-Times February 17, 2010

Can living near a train station save your house?

Researchers looked at mortgage defaults in three cities and found something curious — the chance of foreclosure is higher in neighborhoods more dependent on cars, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which included data from Chicago’s Center for Neighborhood Technology. The report examined 40,000 mortgages in Chicago, Jacksonville and San Francisco,

The link became more obvious in looking at foreclosures after July 2008, when gas spiked over $4 a gallon, said CNT President Scott Bernstein, who studied foreclosures in the Chicago area. Bernstein found that gas price spikes provide an “early warning” of a rise in foreclosures in car-dependent communities.

Full story at:,CST-NWS-ride15.article

Most (and least) affordable cities to buy a house

CNN February 18, 2010

Here are the 5 metro areas where the average American family can easily afford to purchase a median-priced home – and the 5 where they can’t.

Median home price: $106,000

Median income: $68,100

Affordability score: 95.7%

America’s most affordable housing market is the 33rd largest metro area in the United States, with 1.7 million people.

The median family income is fairly high — $68,100 — and median home prices are a very reasonable $106,000, according to the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

Full story at:

Push to weatherize can’t break red tape

By John Murawski        Raleigh News & Observer February 20, 2010

RALEIGH — A massive nationwide effort to make low-income homes more energy-efficient has fallen months behind schedule as local nonprofits that oversee the work navigate federal regulations designed to prevent fraud and abuse.

The delays are raising the stakes for North Carolina and other states to take advantage of the federal stimulus funds before the program expires in March 2012. The weatherization program pays for free insulation, duct sealing and, in some cases, new central heating and cooling systems. Any unspent money would likely have to be returned unless Congress extends the $5 billion program created last year as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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How schools can help save neighborhoods

Bringing back neighborhood schools, as Seattle is now doing after a long experiment with desegregation, is a great way to improve the city.

By Knute Berger February 22, 2010

It was an entertainment center, a concert venue, a theater and a lecture hall. Sometimes it hosted fundraisers and pancake breakfasts. It was a sports venue, too, and served as our local town hall. It put on fairs and exhibits. It had day care. It was also a recycling center. It was valuable to the entire neighborhood, yet none of these roles was its main function.

What was it? A neighborhood school.

Full story at:

Downs Gets Up

Infamous LA housing project to be remade as mixed-income neighborhood

By Sam Lubell         Architect’s Newspaper February 21, 2010

Opened in the mid-1950s, the 700-unit Jordan Downs public housing complex in Watts is a cold collection of repetitive and faceless brick buildings that has, like its cousins in places like Chicago, New York, and St. Louis, become a grim emblem of urban poverty, gang violence, social isolation, and the ability of architecture to hurt, not help, lives.

But the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) is hoping to turn that around. A new master plan for the complex would tear down and replace the current facilities, create civic activity and economic opportunity, and connect the complex to the surrounding area. The scheme, which is being overseen by the authority and by planning and architecture firm WRT Solomon E.T.C., was proposed in the fall, and the agency is set to kick off the EIR process with a scoping meeting tomorrow. The agency hopes to finalize the EIR by this September.

Full story at:

Push for public housing getting cool reception

By Rhiannon Meyers        Galveston County Daily News February 22, 2010

A push by Galveston Housing Authority critics to rebuild public housing in the northern reaches of Galveston County instead of on the island is getting a cool reception from the mayors of those cities.

The Galveston Open Government Project, frustrated by the lack of response to its suggestion to implement a countywide housing authority, has suggested what it calls a less ideal solution. The group now is urging the housing authority to expand into mainland cities by purchasing existing apartment complexes in Dickinson and League City and transforming them into public housing developments. Dispersing public housing throughout the mainland would “remove the burden that the current concentration” of public housing places on Galveston, the group wrote in a letter to Arthur Mabasa, chairman of the Galveston Housing Authority commission.

Full story at:

GHA supporters accused of profiting from authority

By Rhiannon Meyers       Galveston County Daily News February 21, 2010

GALVESTON— In the latest twist in the Galveston Housing Authority saga, critics of the authority lashed out at agency proponents, accusing them of supporting the agency because they earn money from it and its clients.

Meanwhile, agency proponents who received checks from the housing authority said they support the agency’s redevelopment plan because they want to see displaced islanders come home as soon as possible. They accused the Galveston Open Government Project of trying to divert attention away from attempts to deny housing on the island to an overwhelmingly African-American population.

Full story at:

Planning commission OKs GHA rebuilding plan

By Rhiannon Meyers       Galveston County Daily News February 17, 2010

GALVESTON — Planning commission members Tuesday approved Galveston Housing Authority’s public housing redevelopment plans, opening the door for city council to allocate $25 million in federal dollars to jump-start the rebuilding of public housing in Galveston.

Commissioners tweaked the agency’s plans to increase density at Oleander Homes, 5228 Broadway, and decrease density at Cedar Terrace, 724 33rd St., and Magnolia Homes, 106 Strand. The commission recommended that city council members increase the density from 120 units to 150 units of public housing at Oleander Homes, and lower the density from 110 units to 100 units at Cedar Terrace and from 120 units to 100 units at Magnolia Homes.

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City program helps spur housing development

By Mike Elswick        Longview News-Journal February 20, 2010

Longview developers Buster Castleberry and Tommy Finklea said they needed a little extra assurance to encourage them to move forward with a new 65-lot subdivision.

They found it in a city program normally used for individual redevelopment and investment in older sections of Longview.

The South Longview Incentive Program allows the city to forgive all fees associated with development and upgrading property in an area generally referred to as South Longview, according to Kevin Cummings, director of developmental services for the city.

Full story at:

Green House

A small home at Eagle Mountain Lake could have a big impact on construction practices.

Fort Worth Weekly February 10, 2010

On a bluff above Eagle Mountain Lake sits a rustic-looking house in the final stages of construction. The frame “casita” (Spanish for small house) looks like a simple Old- West cabin. In fact it’s an ambitious project that could be the archetype for the future of “green” home building.

This is the Net Zero Energy Casita  – meaning that it will produce as much energy as it uses, and it’s being built by Ferrier Custom Homes, which specializes in environmentally sensitive construction. The 1,500-square-foot house, powered in part by a 45-foot-tall wind turbine, will function as a second home for a Fort Worth family.

Full story at:

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