Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation, 1-17-2012

Foreclosure rates dropped by a third last year — but not because of better financial times for homeowners.  Fearing  federal  penalties for  sloppy or  fraudulent paperwork, bankers  slowed-down  their  lending processes, that  formerly included “robo signing.”

In League City, the council narrowly  faced-down NIMBY opposition to a n affordable complex for seniors.

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


Foreclosures, bankruptcies fall, but problems remain

By Tony Pugh        McClatchy Newspapers       January 12, 2012

WASHINGTON — The two major markers of financial distress — bankruptcies and foreclosures — declined in 2011 from the previous year, but the good news is a bit deceiving.

The 34 percent decline in foreclosure filings last year was due mainly to processing delays caused by legal concerns about proper documentation of paperwork, according to a new report by RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure database.

Foreclosures in the fourth quarter of 2011 had taken an average of 348 days to complete, compared with 305 days in the last quarter of 2010.

“Foreclosures were in full delay mode in 2011, resulting in a dramatic drop in foreclosure activity for the year,” said Brandon Moore, the CEO of RealtyTrac.

Moreover, the 12 percent reduction in personal bankruptcies last year reflected a continued decline in consumer spending and the lack of available credit rather than a strongly rebounding economy.

“As consumers continue to leverage their debt and access to credit remains tight, bankruptcy filings will continue to decrease,” said Samuel J. Gerdano, the executive director of the American Bankruptcy Institute, a nonpartisan insolvency research center.

Even the 19 percent decline in business bankruptcies — from 92,070 in 2010 to 74,142 in 2011 — reflects more the willingness of secured lenders to restructure finance deals than an improving business landscape.

Full story at:


Exclusive: Angelides to lead distressed mortgage firm

By Matthew Goldstein and Jennifer Ablan      Reuters      January 13, 2012

Phil Angelides, formerly the chairman of a federal commission who led investigations into why the financial markets collapsed, is heading an investment group that hopes to “do a good thing” for America while turning a profit from the wreckage of the housing market.

The startup company, of which Angelides is executive chairman, seeks to raise money from investors to purchase troubled mortgages from banks and other financial institutions in order to help keep homeowners from being foreclosed upon, according to a January 4 letter reviewed by Reuters.

The company, Mortgage Resolution Partners, claims its strategy of using “legal and political leverage” to acquire the loans could generate a 20 percent annual return for investors. The company intends to purchase mortgages at a steep discount and re-work them to enable the homeowners to continue making payments, with the firm collecting the proceeds.

“We just might do a good thing for America, and along the way get a great return on investment,” says the letter to prospective investors. “If our hopes do not pan out, the amount wagered should be a deductible loss.”

Full story at:


30-year mortgage rate hits new low of 3.89%

By Jonathan O’Connell       Washington Post       January 12, 2012

Mortgage rates hit a new historic low this week, averaging 3.89 percent for 30-year fixed-rate loans and beating the previous record — matched just the week before — of 3.91 percent, according to weekly survey data released Thursday by Freddie Mac.

Early into 2012 rates remain well below where they were last year at this time, when the average 30-year rate was 4.71 percent, according to Freddie Mac. The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has remained below 4 percent for six straight weeks.

The average interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, which some homeowners are using to refinance existing loans, also dropped. During the past week, they averaged 3.16 percent, down from 3.23 percent the previous week, according to the survey.

Full story at:


Study: Bay Area’s urban planning must address public health

By Bernice Yeung        California Watch        January 11, 2012

For nearly four years, Cassandra Martin lived in West Oakland, a few blocks from two freeways and the city’s port. This has made her an accidental expert on air pollution.

“I used to wonder what that black stuff was on the windowsill,” said Martin, who was diagnosed with asthma in 2009. “I would constantly wipe the walls and windowsills, but it would get so caked with soot. That’s a reason I was wondering about particulate matter.”

Martin now works part time collecting air-quality data for a West Oakland environmental group.

As the hub of a busy port and freeways, much of West Oakland has been designated by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District as a Community Air Risk Evaluation site, which means residents living there face some of the greatest health risks due to toxic air.

West Oakland also has been identified as a priority development area under a 2008 state law that requires regional agencies to draft urban plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Public meetings are being held in the Bay Area this year to draft its plan, which could be finalized by 2013.

But according to a recent analysis by Oakland’s Pacific Institute and a group of public health and air-quality advocates known as the Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, California’s efforts to build sustainable communities as mandated by the state law could unintentionally threaten the health of Bay Area residents.

Full story at:


League City backs senior housing development

By Christopher Smith Gonzalez       Galveston County Daily News      January 15, 2012

LEAGUE CITY — After a tight vote that required the mayor to break a tie, the city council voted to support a nonprofit group’s application for federal funding for a senior housing development.

By a vote of 4 to 3, the council approved supporting Southeast Texas Housing’s application for housing-specific federal Hurricane Ike Community Development Block Grant money.

The nonprofit works on a range of housing issues in Galveston County and is planning a 62-year-old and older housing development on Enterprise Avenue in League City.

Council members Joanna Dawson, Mick Phalen and Phyllis Sanborn voted to support the grant application, while councilmen Dan Becker, Mike Lee and Andy Mann voted against supporting the application. Councilman Dennis O’Keeffe was absent, so Mayor Tim Paulissen cast the tiebreaking vote in support of the application.

The development would be small, a maximum of 61 units, said Ron Williams, executive director of Southeast Texas Housing.

“The location is a great location,” he said. “It would be sitting next to a nursing home and an assisted living complex. The one factor they don’t have there now is independent living.”

Because the money the nonprofit is going after is disaster recovery funds and not low-income housing credits, Williams said only 51 percent of the units will be low-income housing and the other 49 percent will be market rate.

Full story at:


Proposed high-density project up for council vote in San Marcos

By Clara O’Rouke       Austin American-Statesman      January 17, 2012

SAN MARCOS — A long-simmering community debate over whether a high-density development should be built in a predominantly single-family neighborhood could come to a head tonight. The San Marcos City Council is expected to vote on a zoning ordinance that could clear the way for San Antonio developer Darren Casey to build about 420 apartment units with 20,000 square feet of retail space on West Sessom Drive north of Texas State University.

Council members initially declined to vote on the proposal on Dec. 14 after the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission did not recommend or reject the project. The proposed development split the commission’s vote last month.

When planning commissioners reconvened last week, they voted 5-2 in favor of the development.

Discussion about the proposal has been heated since the project first came before the planning commission in November. Anticipating that emotions could escalate quickly, the Police Department has stationed additional officers at commission and council meetings.

Any meeting that included the proposed development on the agenda was a packed house.

Residents who criticized the proposal did so energetically, lobbying their neighbors to join the opposition and successfully filing a petition to require a supermajority — six out of seven council votes — for the zoning change to pass.

Full story at:

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