Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 5-3-2011

Tuesday Report, May 3, 2011

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

A new Harvard study shows that for every hundred extremely low-income families there are only 32 units available within their means. As foreclosures convert homeowners into renters, the demand for rental units increases along with prices but builders have been slow to accommodate the rental market. Lack of investment capital and other incentives are cited as reasons the situation will not be addressed in the near future.

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Affordable rental housing scarce in U.S., study finds

By Dina ElBoghdady       Washington Post        April 25, 2011

The share of renters who spend more than half their income on housing is at its highest level in half a century and it’s no longer just low-income tenants who are feeling the pain, according to a Harvard University study scheduled for release Tuesday.

About 26 percent of renters — or 10.1 million people — spent more than half their pre-tax household income on rent and utilities in 2009. That’s because incomes slipped dramatically from their peak at the start of the decade even as rents kept rising.

The study offers the latest in a series of grim statistics about the scarcity of rental housing, especially for the working poor. The supply has not kept up with demand in part because of a shortage of apartments, a key source of new rentals. Developers cut back on such projects when the economy deteriorated in 2009, which drove down vacancies and boosted rents. Analysts say they expect rents to keep climbing as developers try to ramp up new projects and catch up with demand.

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Builders of New Homes Seeing No Sign of Recovery

By David Streitfeld       New York Times      April 26, 2011

RICHMOND, Ill. — In this distant Chicago suburb, a builder has finally found a way to persuade people to buy a new house: he throws in a car.

Kim Meier’s spring promotion, which includes a $17,000 credit at a nearby General Motors dealer, has produced seven sales since the beginning of March, a veritable windfall of business for a builder who sold only 20 houses last year. “We needed to do something dramatic,” said Mr. Meier. “The market’s been soft.”

That is one way of putting it. The recession hurt a lot of industries, but it knocked the residential construction market to the mat and has kept it there, even as the broader economy has started to fitfully recover.

Sales of new single-family homes in February were down more than 80 percent from the 2005 peak, far exceeding the 28 percent drop in existing home sales. New single-family sales are now lower than at any point since the data was first collected in 1963, when the nation had 120 million fewer residents.

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Texas homebuyers still have upper hand

But median price of a house rises in state as sales decline

By Jennifer Hiller       San Antonio Express-News       May 2, 2011

The real estate market across Texas remains resoundingly … OK — neither boomtown nor a minefield of foreclosures.

Across the state, home prices generally rose in the first three months of the year even as the number of sales dipped, according to the Texas Quarterly Housing Report from the Texas Association of Realtors, released Monday.

The median price of a Texas house reached $143,300, up 1.3 percent from the same three months in 2010. But the number of home sales across the state dropped 7.3 percent, to 40,192.

“While Texas has not been untouched by the recent economic downturn as indicated by the decrease in sales, it is encouraging to see home prices hold their value in the first quarter,” Dwight Hale, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors, said in a prepared release.

The median home price rose in Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, but dipped in Houston and Fort Worth.

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Lawyer who advised homeowners to break into their foreclosed homes has license revoked

Los Angeles Times        April 28, 2011

The State Bar of California on Thursday revoked attorney Michael T. Pines’ license to practice law, branding him “a substantial threat of harm to the public” because of his advice to foreclosure victims to break in and retake their homes.

Pines, whose law offices in Carlsbad were closed earlier this year, argues that most of the foreclosures and evictions of homeowners are conducted illegally because the banks and investment firms who claim ownership of distressed properties don’t have clear title to them.

The decision by State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn is a temporary measure, pending a hearing on disciplinary charges against Pines, the bar said in a statement.

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The coming housing calamity

The great senior sell-off, rising household sizes, dropping homeownership, tighter lending standards, and other reasons why the next decade will be a disaster for homebuilders

By Robert Steuteville        New Urban Network       28 Apr 2011

The building industry is in deep depression, with housing starts at their lowest levels since data have been kept during the past half-century. Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest builders, reported losses of more than a billion dollars for 2010. Signs of a turnaround for the industry, one of the primary engines of growth for the US economy for two or three generations, have been sought since 2009 but are always over the horizon.

Arthur C. Nelson, one of the nation’s most prescient housing market researchers, says the worst is yet to come. The industry faces demographic and economic forces that will apply unrelenting downward pressure on the market for the next decade, Nelson told a group of journalists at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He called his presentation “The Decade of Calamity.”

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Homeless, but Finding Sanctuary at School

By Michael Winerip        New York Times       May 1, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. — The bus ride from the homeless shelter to Fern Creek Elementary School was, as usual, raucous. A hundred times, Doretha Brown, the bus driver, had to yell for everyone to sit down. “This noise is what holds us up every morning and evening!” Ms. Brown shouted, although the Collins girls — Brianna, 8; Tamara, 7; and Sydney, 6 — could barely hear her above the din.

A first grader and a second grader got into a fight on the 15-minute ride, and someone else threw up. Brianna, Tamara and Sydney paid no mind. As their father, James Collins, says, “To get by at a shelter, you have to focus yourself.”

This is the sisters’ second stay at a shelter, so they are becoming accustomed to being homeless. Roxanne Schreffler, a kindergarten teacher, was struck by Sydney’s arrival at Fern Creek in February. “She walked into kindergarten in the middle of the day and sat right down,” Ms. Schreffler said. “She’d immediately adapted to her new situation. There was no time integrating her into the class; she was ready to go.”

Twenty percent of Fern Creek’s students are homeless, and school is the best part of the day for many of them. All eight members of the Collins family — Brianna is the oldest of six children, including three who are too young for school — live in a 13-foot-by-15-foot windowless room and share three bunk beds. It is a great relief getting out in the morning and off to school.

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