Bo McCarver’s weekly news compilation, 5-10-2011

Tuesday Report, May 10, 2011

Special to the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service

Fannie Mae, already in the Congressional crosshairs and possible sunsetting, posts a huge first quarter loss and asks for more billions more in federal aid.

A new study says mortgage fraud is down – but so are new mortgages. The rate of fraud remains constant despite scandals and promise of reform.

In Texas, sagging property values are reflected in tax appraisals and shrinking state coffers. The Legislature has yet to find consensus on balancing the budget but conservatives have taken the opportunity to cut state social and housing programs.

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

Fannie Mae Has Loss, Seeks $8.5 Billion In U.S. Aid

Associated Press        May 6, 2011

Mortgage buyer Fannie Mae is reporting a loss of $8.7 billion for the January-March quarter, and asking for an additional $8.5 billion in federal aid.

The new request is more than three times the $2.6 billion in government aid it sought in the final three months of last year.

The government rescued Fannie Mae and sibling company Freddie Mac in September 2008 to cover their losses on soured mortgage loans. It estimates the bailouts will cost taxpayers about $259 billion.

Fannie Mae’s January-March loss attributable to common shareholders works out to $1.52 per share. It takes into account $2.2 billion in dividend payments to the government. That compares with a loss of $13.1 billion, or $2.29 per share, in the same period last year.

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Mortgage fraud is highest in New York, Florida and California

By Robert Lewis        Sacramento Bee        May 10, 2011

While overall mortgage fraud reports are down, California continues to be among the worst states in terms of such crime – trailing only New York and Florida for fraud on loans originated in 2010, according to a report released Monday.

The annual report from the Lexis-Nexis Mortgage Asset Research Institute highlighted the challenges facing states like California as they grapple with the ongoing aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis.

“Fraud is and will always be a crime of opportunity, especially in times of desperation,” the report said.

The annual report is based on verifiable cases of fraud reported to the institute’s Mortgage Industry Data Exchange, or MIDEX. The exchange is a private data-sharing tool for mortgage companies, banks and other real estate industry players. These players report cases of fraud to the exchange and in turn use the database to do background checks on potential business partners.

Full story at:

Tarrant property values up slightly even as half the homes decline

By Steve Campbell        Fort Worth Star-Telegram      May 5, 2011

About 49 percent of homeowners in Tarrant County will see a drop in their property appraisal values for 2011, according to preliminary data from the Tarrant Appraisal District.

About 15 percent of the county’s 630,000 single-family homeowners will see an increase ranging from $1 to $7,000, Chief Appraiser Jeff Law said today. About 5 percent will see an increase above $7,000.

Last year, about 80 percent of single-family homeowners saw their property values decline. It was the first overall decline in valuations in Tarrant County since 1993.

Overall, Tarrant’s taxable value is estimated at $123.2 billion, a 0.99 percent increase over last year.

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Is John Joseph’s Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association doing the dirty work for local developers?

By Tony Cantu       San Antonio Current       May 5, 2011

Bookended with tall buildings and high-rises just outside each of its Broadway Avenue boundaries, affluent Alamo Heights has become a pre-election battleground pitting residents intent on preserving their sleepy town’s character against outside development interests working to block a building height-restriction ordinance that more than 620 petition-signing registered voters put on this month’s ballot as Proposition 3. Among the well-heeled ’09ers, there is fear that flood-plain improvements now underway will soon lead to towering redevelopment projects through town.

As it stands today, the best land parcels are held by a couple of Terrell Hills residents. Trebes Sasser, owner of Ridgemont Properties, controls 14 parcels of downtown property valued at $11.8 million. George Geis, of Geis Properties, controls nine parcels encompassing nearly 4 acres, appraised at $4.2 million — including the property housing the popular Cappy’s Restaurant owned by restaurateur Cappy Lawton. For the most part the developers have kept a low profile during the increasingly hot election fight on heights. They’ve had the benefit of Alamo Heights Neighborhood Association founder John Joseph and AHNA-endorsed candidates to do the heavy lifting in that skirmish.

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Fort Worth Housing Authority plans to buy Knights of Phythias Hall for apartments

By Sandra Baker       Fort Worth Star-Telegram       May 9, 2011

FORT WORTH — The Fort Worth Housing Authority wants to buy the former Knights of Pythias Hall in the Hillside neighborhood east of downtown and redevelop the property into apartments to help meet affordable-housing needs of workers in the central business district.

The city plans to issue a $700,000 community development block grant administered by the Housing and Urban Development Department toward the project. The city is in the 30-day public comment period of the grant. It is scheduled go before the City Council in June for approval.

“We had been looking at it for probably over a year now,” Brian Dennison, vice president of development and asset management for the housing authority, said of the 86-year-old, two-story building at Second and Crump streets.

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Developers eyeing boutique hotel, apartments just south of downtown

By Shonda Novak       Austin American-Statesman      May 7, 2011

A failed downtown-area condominium project could be revived as apartments, and a fast-food restaurant could give way to a boutique hotel-condominium project, as developers move to take advantage of Austin’s strengthening economy and an improved climate for construction financing.

Crescent Resources is evaluating whether to revive its former Aquaterra condominium project at 210 Barton Springs Road, as apartments, albeit under a different name, said Scott Makee, regional director for Texas and Tennessee for Crescent.

Makee said Friday that it was too early to speculate about the future of the site but noted, “Crescent is excited about the Austin multifamily market, which is experiencing rising rents, limited supply and shrinking vacancies.”

At Lamar Boulevard and Riverside Drive, California-based Post Investment Group is looking at the possibility of building a six-story boutique hotel with about 150 rooms. The 1.15-acre site is now occupied by a Taco Cabana, whose lease expires in February 2012, Post said.

Preliminary plans for the $40 million project also call for 12 condominiums on the hotel’s top floors, with units priced in the $600,000 to $700,000 range, said Jason Post, president of Post, which acquires and develops multifamily properties around the country.

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