Bo McCarver’s weekly housing news compilation, 3-6-2012

Another federal program to help beleaguered homeowners has fizzled: after two years, less than 3 percent of a $7.6 billion program to help unemployed homeowners has been spent.

In Galveston, another effort has been mounted to stall rebuilding public housing that was destroyed three years ago in Hurricane Ike. U.S. Rep. Ted Poe is calling for an investigation of allegations against the Galveston Public Housing Authority by opponents of the rebuilding effort.

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

Program to aid unemployed homeowners provides little relief

Only a fraction of the $7.6-billion federal Hardest Hit Fund has been paid out to needy borrowers. California has provided homeowners less than 2% of the federal funds it received, as of last year.

By E. Scott Reckard and Alejandro Lazo         Los Angeles Times       March 3, 2012

A $7.6-billion federal program to help unemployed homeowners stave off foreclosure has provided little relief two years after being unveiled, with less than $218 million of the money paid out to needy borrowers as of Jan. 1.

California, which was allocated nearly $2 billion from the Hardest Hit Fund, provided less than $38.6 million in assistance for 4,357 borrowers by the end of last year, according to the state’s latest report to the Treasury Department.

That amounted to less than 2% of the federal funds available to the state’s Keep Your Home California program.

“It’s about helping the homeowner, and that’s not happening,” said Bruce Marks, head of the foreclosure counseling group Neighborhood Assistance Corp of America. “As we speak, there are thousands of people losing their homes.”

Full story at:,0,2823851.story


DOJ casts wide net with mortgage subpoenas

By Aruna Viswanatha        Reuters         March 1, 2012

A U.S. Justice Department inquiry into the packaging and sale of home loans by the biggest U.S. banks casts a wide net and appears to significantly overlap with other enforcement efforts, according to people who have viewed subpoenas sent to the firms.

The civil subpoenas that were sent in January ask for documents related to every offering between 2006 and 2008, including bonds backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, three people familiar with the matter said.

An older investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission focused on the first two years, and limited its scope to private offerings, the people said.

The general nature of the subpoenas and the overlap with SEC inquiries suggest investigations related to the financial crisis could drag on for years.

Full story at:


Fannie, Freddie Won’t Write Down Mortgage Principal

By Yuki Nogucki         NPR       February 29, 2012

Despite some green shoots in the economy, the housing sector remains weak. With 11 million Americans still underwater on their mortgages, some housing experts believe it’s time for more dramatic solutions.

The idea of reducing the principal on the loans of underwater homeowners used to be a fringe concept, embraced by a few outliers. Today, many policymakers believe principal reduction is necessary to keep some troubled homeowners afloat.

But so far, the nation’s biggest mortgage holders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, haven’t embraced the idea.

Full story at:


Fort Worth-Arlington homeowners falling further underwater on mortgages

By Sandra Baker       Fort Worth Star-Telegram       March 1, 2012

Fort Worth-Arlington homeowners are falling further underwater on their mortgages.

CoreLogic said Thursday that in the fourth quarter of 2011, 12.2 percent, or 46,268, of all Fort Worth-Arlington residential properties with a mortgage, were upside down, meaning borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

The number grew from 11.3 percent, or 42,705 properties, in the third quarter.

Moreover, another 6.7 percent, or 25,469 homes, were in near negative equity. That grew from 6.6 percent, or 24,692 homes in the third quarter.

Full story at:


Residential contracts for future construction up sharply in North Texas

By Sandra Baker         Fort Worth Star-Telegram       March 4, 2012

Residential contracts for future construction rose 24 percent in January in the 12-county North Texas area, which includes Tarrant County, according to McGraw-Hill Construction.

They totaled $494 million, compared with $399.5 million in January 2011. Residential buildings include single-family houses, duplexes and apartments.

Future contracts in the nonresidential category, which includes commercial, manufacturing and school buildings, dropped 33 percent, to $172.6 million in January, from $257.9 million a year ago.

In Texas, future residential contracts totaled $1.4 billion in January, up 17 percent from January 2011. Nonresidential contracts statewide were down 14 percent, to $846.5 million from $982.6 million in January 2011.

Also statewide, future construction contracts for nonbuilding construction was down 44 percent statewide in January, to $2.8 billion from $5 billion in January 2011. Those contracts are for such projects as streets and highways, bridges, river development and airports.

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A million-dollar mortgage goes unpaid for years while couple fights foreclosure

By Annys Shin         Washington Post       March 3, 2012

The eviction from their million-dollar home could come at any moment. Keith and Janet Ritter have been bracing for it — and battling against it — almost from the moment they moved into the five-bedroom, 4,900-square-foot manse along the Potomac River in Fort Washington.

In five years, they have never made a mortgage payment, a fact that amazes even the most seasoned veterans of the foreclosure crisis.

The Ritters have kept the sheriff at bay by repeatedly filing for bankruptcy and by exploiting changes in Maryland’s laws designed to help delinquent homeowners avoid foreclosure.

Those efforts to protect homeowners have transformed Maryland’s foreclosure process from one of the country’s shortest to one of the longest. It now takes on average 634 days to complete a foreclosure in Maryland, compared with 132 days in Virginia.

Champions of Maryland’s system, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, credit it with driving down the state’s foreclosure rate and helping thousands of victims of predatory lending, fraud and other abuses hang onto their homes.

Full story at:


Number of available houses in Midland reaches new low

Midland Reporter        March 1, 2012

Midland’s housing shortage reached a new low this week.

According to the Multiple Listing Services, the number of available houses fell from 245 at the close of 2011 to its current total of 187 — the lowest in the seven years of statistics available, said MLS Director Carroll Nall.

The recent economic boom has created a demand for housing. This time last year, there were 361 available houses, according to MLS. That number was 503 in 2010. In February 2007 — another period of strong economic activity in the Permian Basin — there were 249 houses available. Before this year, Nall said the lowest reported number for any one month was 235 in April 2007.

Full story at:


Quite the Price Drop As $46-Mil Denton County Manse Hits Auction Block at $10.3 Mil Reserved

By Robert Wilonsky        Dallas Observer       February 29, 2012

We virtually toured the splendor that is the 48,000-square-foot Champ d’Or up in Denton County in August 2010, when the asking price was, oh, $70 million, give or take — not quite The Nice Price. But it didn’t sell — shocking — not even when the price tag dropped to half that, which is why Concierge Auctions announced today it’s putting the 39-acre spread and an adjacent 37-acre commercial parcel on the auction block on March 30, with the reserve set for this $46-million build-out at the low, low, low, low, low price of … $10.3 million.

Says Joan Eleazer of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty in the just-dispatched press release, “Champ d’Or is a perfect fit for the auction platform, as it is truly one-of-a-kind, with nary a detail missed. The estate could be used as a residence or for a business venture. The possibilities are endless, including development potential as an exclusive executive retreat, medical or spa facility, or recovery center.”

Details here. Me, I’ve always have wanted a house with a two-lane bowling alley and movie theater with opera seating. Split it with you .. and you … and you … and you … and you … and you …

End of story:


Congressman calls for HUD, isle housing probe

By Amanda Casanova        Galveston County Daily News       March 3, 2012

GALVESTON — A congressman representing parts of Harris, Liberty and Jefferson counties has asked the U.S. Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s involvement in public housing on the island.

In a letter sent in February, Rep. Ted Poe, a Republican, said “concerned citizens in Galveston” were worried about the department’s direction to rebuild the 569 public housing units destroyed in Hurricane Ike.

“I would greatly appreciate an investigation of the above allegation, and a response from your committee.”

Poe spelled out in his letter a list of allegations against the department, including that the department has ignored housing studies that show a lack of demand for housing units on the island, has required the city to follow directives that have not been provided in writing, has threatened to withhold federal funding until the public housing units are rebuilt and has been unresponsive or slow in responding to requests for information.

Full story at:


GHA wants to raise standards for housing

By Amanda Casanova         Galveston County Daily News         February 29, 2012

GALVESTON — The Galveston Housing Authority is looking to raise the standards for landlords renting out housing choice voucher units.

The changes could come as the housing authority works on its agency plan, which spells out the housing authority’s mission and strategy to address housing needs. 

Formerly known as Section 8, the housing choice voucher program uses federal tax dollars to subsidize rent payments for low-income residents. Under the program, families pay about 30 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities.

This week, the board of commissioners for the housing authority discussed possibly amending the requirements for landlords to partner with the housing authority and lease housing choice voucher units.

“How do we bring this set of standards up to at least what we expect for public housing?” asked Betty Massey, chairwoman for the housing authority board.

Full story at:


Homeowners seeking vote on builders rules

By Jennifer Hiller          San Antonio Express-News       March 6, 2012

The fight over cracked foundations and structural problems in a Schertz neighborhood has led to a call for builders to post surety bonds — a proposal the industry says could squelch new home construction in the suburb.

“I think it would be a deal killer,” home builder David Anderson said. “There wouldn’t be a new house built in Schertz after that.”

Some homeowners are calling for a ballot measure that would require builders to post surety bonds on every new home.

“This would be for future homebuyers,” said Fairhaven homeowner Faye Touve, acknowledging that builders would likely “have a fit” over the proposed charter amendment.

Members of the building and insurance industry said the measure could make homes more costly, push home construction outside of the Schertz city limits or knock local home builders out of the market in the popular bedroom community.

Full story at:


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