Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation – 6/22/2010

Tuesday Report, June 22, 2010

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

The theory that the cost of shelter is self-regulated by supply/demand is further discredited as low-income renters and homeowners pay dearly for roofs over their heads — despite the glut of vacant units on the market. A fresh Harvard study shows a sharp increase in the number of households paying more than 50 percent of their monthly income for housing.

Meanwhile, those who can afford to buy homes have gotten picky: faced with a small population of homebuyers who are still affluent enough to purchase, realtors are to shelling-out dearly for amenities.

While the rest of the nation’s cities continue to promote unlimited growth, Detroit deals with downsizing. Their struggle, pressed by hard economic times, is similar to that of New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricanes. The BP oil spill will press the same grim specter on all Gulf Coast communities and urban areas.

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

Housing Costs Devour More Family Budgets

18.6 million American households –renters and homeowners alike – spend more than half their income on housing.

By Eileen Markey City Limits              June 21, 2010

Despite neighborhoods littered with vacant homes and sale prices that dropped dramatically in the past three years, more Americans are spending more of their money on housing expenses than ever before. A report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found 18.6 million American households –renters and homeowners alike – spend more than half their income on housing, up from 13.8 million in 2001. Dedicating more than 30 percent of income to rent or mortgage is considered unhealthy.

The study, Harvard’s annual State of the Nation’s Housing report found that as the housing market slowly recovers, it is getting harder for low-income people to afford their homes. More homeowners and renters are devoting half or more of their income to housing costs than ever before. And low-income renters are the most burdened.

It wasn’t always so dire. In 1960, only 12 percent of renters spent half their income on housing. Between 2000 and 2008, that number jumped by a third, to 16 percent. And among the poorest 20 percent of renters, half now spend 54 percent of their income on housing. The report’s authors blame falling wages.

Full story at:

New bank rule aims to stabilize neighborhoods

Reuters                       June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON — Financial regulators on Thursday proposed a rule change to encourage banks to make loans and other investments to stabilize neighborhoods hit by high levels of home foreclosures and abandoned properties.

The change would allow financial institutions’ activities under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, created by housing rescue legislation in 2008, count toward their compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA).

The agencies proposing the rule include the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Full story at:

Housing Market Slows as Buyers Get Picky

By David Streithfeld         New York Times          June 17, 2010

Before the recession, people simply looked for a house to buy. Later they got squeamish just thinking about buying. Now they are on a quest for perfection at the perfect price.

Exacting buyers are upending the battered real estate market, agents and other experts say, leading to last-minute demands for multiple concessions, bruised feelings on all sides and many more collapsed deals than usual.

It is a reversal of roles from the boom, when competing buyers were sometimes reduced to writing heartfelt letters saying how much they loved the house and how they promised to eternally worship the memory of the previous owners. These days, it is the buyers who are coldly seeking the absolute best deal while the sellers are left in emotional turmoil.

Full story at:

Dallas-Fort Worth home foreclosure filings drop 7 percent

By Steve Brown              Dallas Morning News            June 18, 2010

North Texas home foreclosure filings are down again.

The number of homes facing foreclosure in the Dallas-Fort Worth area next month is 7 percent below where it was a year ago, according to statistics released Friday from Foreclosure Listing Service.

July’s foreclosure filings include 5,654 D-FW residential properties, the Addison-based foreclosure tracking firm said.

Foreclosure filings in April and May were also lower than a year ago, giving hope that record home loan defaults in the D-FW area are easing.

“While this is certainly not an indication that the residential foreclosure crunch is over, it is welcomed news that we have seen a decline for three months in a row in same-month to same-month postings,” Foreclosure Listing Service president George Roddy said in a statement.

[End of story:]

Foreclosure postings in North Texas fall for third straight month compared with 2009

By Sandra Baker           Fort Worth Star-Telegram                   June 18, 2010

Foreclosures postings in North Texas have fallen for the third straight month compared with a year ago, but the area is not out of the woods yet.

Postings for the July 6 auction are down 7 percent in Tarrant, Dallas, Collin and Denton counties combined compared with a year ago.

In Tarrant County, lenders posted 1,792 homes for foreclosure for next month’s auction, which is an 11 percent drop from the number of postings from the July 2009 auction.

But in a reversal of two straight declines seen in postings compared with the previous month, foreclosures jumped 21 percent in North Texas compared with June. They were up 19 percent in Tarrant County.

Full story at:

Cisneros: Profiteers, Not Government, To Blame for Housing Crisis

By Kris Hudson      Wall Street Journal          June 17, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — Former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros placed the blame for the recent housing crisis on “unscrupulous interests” that fueled reckless lending and weak regulation rather than housing policies of the past two decades.

Mr. Cisneros, now a 62-year-old developer based in San Antonio, served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1993 to 1997 during the Clinton Administration. He was known as a champion of boosting homeownership levels, particularly among minorities. During his term, HUD loosened some lending requirements for lenders providing HUD-backed loans. Still, in a speech to the National Association of Real Estate Editors in Austin on Thursday, Mr. Cisneros blamed the housing crisis on a mix of interests looking to profit from the housing boom of last decade. Among them: Wall Street firms that created exotic instruments like collateralized debt obligations that eventually failed, rating agencies that graded those instruments too leniently and overzealous mortgage lenders such as Ameriquest Mortgage Co.

Full story at:

Razing the City to Save the City

By Susan Saulny              New York Times           June 20, 2010

DETROIT — For generations, residents of this hollowed-out city hoped that somehow Detroit could be reborn — its population would return and its crumbling core would be rebuilt. No idea was more heretical than widespread demolition of thousands of derelict buildings.

But a new momentum has taken hold here that embraces just that: shrinking the city in order to save it.

“There’s nothing you can do with a lot of the buildings now but do away with them,” said Mae Reeder, a homeowner of 35 years on the southeast side, where her bungalow is surrounded by blocks that are being reclaimed by nature, complete with pheasants nesting in vacant spaces where people once lived.

The residential vacancy rate in Detroit is 27.8 percent. This is up from the 10.3 percent rate found in 2000 by the United States census.

“People are deciding we can’t live like this anymore,” said Steven A. Ogden, executive director of a nonprofit group, Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, which works to help stabilize communities. “It is my contention that we can’t afford to wait a single day without a strategy.”

Strategies are now coming from every corner, with community groups and nonprofit organization and trade groups producing frameworks.

Full story at:

HUD money award is a breath of fresh air

By Ian White Galveston County Daily News       June 21, 2010

TEXAS CITY — More than 30 families who rent Texas City Housing Authority homes are to receive air-conditioning and central-heating units later this year after the authority was allocated more than $200,000 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday.

Texas City was one of two county housing authorities awarded new funds as the department sent Capital Fund program checks totaling more than $96 million to Texas cities.

George Fuller, the authority’s director, said it would complete a program it began with last year’s check from the same program.

Full story at:

Developer cites need to match the right services to mixed-use project

By Ann Fowler Oak Hill      Gazette       June 16, 2010

OAK HILL – Terry Mitchell, president of Momark Development, says he’s in the service business, not the real estate business. Mitchell spoke at the June 9 meeting of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods, and said he looks for the services that can serve his developments.

Mitchell said picking the right services for a mixed-use development can be a guessing game. Mitchell took a church in San Marcos and turned the 3-acre property into the Sanctuary Lofts, just blocks from Texas State University. With 500 students living upstairs, Mitchell had hoped to put in 15,000 square feet of retail. But he spoke to other developers who cautioned him that retail doesn’t always work when you think it will.

Full story at:

Oak Cliff residents challenge city on apartment plan for homeless

By Roy Appleton and Kim Horner    Dallas Morning News      June 22, 2010

Dallas has done a good job of helping the homeless. But more supportive housing is needed. It should be spread equally across the city. And an apartment building in an Oak Cliff neighborhood is no place for such an initiative.

So went the wide-ranging sentiments Monday night when residents and public officials gathered to talk and hear about Dallas Housing Authority’s plan for the Cliff Manor apartments.

“Tonight’s meeting is about neighbors talking to neighbors,” said City Council member Dave Neumann, urging calm and respect from the crowd packing a Methodist Dallas Medical Center auditorium.

It was a sometimes-boisterous scene, with voices cutting off and drowning out speakers, one that could be played out elsewhere in the city as similar projects becomes public.

The meeting came about a month after the news broke that the housing authority intends to rent 100 units to chronically homeless people at its high-rise on Fort Worth Avenue.

Full story at:

City may consider land near airport for RV park for homeless people

Council to vote next week on pursuing idea

By Sarah Coppola Austin     American-Statesman          June 18, 2010

Some Austin City Council members are eyeing 16 acres of city land near Austin’s airport as a possible site for an RV park for homeless people.

The nonprofit Mobile Loaves and Fishes has for several years proposed creating such a park to get 150 to 175 chronically homeless people off the streets.

Council Member Mike Martinez said the 16 acres, which he said sits about a mile from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport , might be just the right parcel to lease to the nonprofit for little or no charge. The land is not close to residential neighborhoods, is near a bus route so that the residents could get to jobs or social services and is big enough to fit about 150 trailers, he said.

But because the city bought the land in the 1990s mostly using Federal Aviation Administration money as part of a noise mitigation program, the city must get the agency’s OK to use the land for housing.

Full story at:

Families in homeless shelters increased 7% in ’09

By Marisol Bello      USA Today      June 21, 2010

The recession continued to take its toll as more families with children became homeless for the second straight year, a U.S. government report shows.

The number of families in homeless shelters increased 7% to 170,129 from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2009, a report released today by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found. At the same time, the overall number of homeless people in shelters fell 2% to 1.56 million.

“As the nation’s housing and job markets show encouraging signs of recovery, there are still far too many families who are on the brink of becoming homeless or have fallen into our shelter system,” Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement.

Full story at: