Bo’s housing news clips: Stunning fall in family net worth

The Census Bureau shakes out sad numbers from the Great Recession and finds that the housing bust accounts for most of the 35 percent drop in net family worth. The chain reaction worked its way through the economy with millions of lost jobs and foreclosures.

Meanwhile, market analysts follow the housing industry like bloodhounds, marking the slightest undulation in construction or sales — but no positive trend has developed to bring forth a declaration of “recovery.”

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Toll of US recession: Family net worth plunged 35 percent in five years

The typical US household saw its net worth fall from $102,844 in 2005 to $66,740 five years later. Although the data are about 1-1/2 years old, they highlight challenges still facing consumers.

By Mark Trumbull        Christian Science Monitor       June 18, 2012

The toll of the great housing bust and financial crisis came into clearer focus Monday, as the Census Bureau released numbers showing a 35 percent drop in net worth for the median US household between 2005 and 2010.

The numbers give a report card on the financial health of US families before and after the recession. The typical household saw its net worth – financial assets minus debts – fall from $102,844 in 2005 to $66,740 five years later, with the census giving those numbers in inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars.

What went wrong is no secret: A housing boom went too far, setting the nation up for a big decline in home values and a banking crisis that resulted in the loss of millions of jobs. The value of homes fell faster than the debt loads associated with mortgages, and major financial assets such as stocks also fell in value.

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Housing starts fall in May, permits up sharply

Reuters         June 19, 2012

Housing starts fell in May although permits to build new homes rose to the highest in well over three years, sending mixed signals about the health of the housing market.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday that groundbreaking on new homes dropped 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 708,000 units.

The reading, which is prone to significant revisions, was below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of a 720,000-unit rate.

Revisions to data from prior months were more upbeat. April’s starts were revised up to a 744,000-unit pace from a previously reported 717,000 unit rate. That was the highest reading since October 2008.

New permits for building homes jumped 7.9 percent to a 780,000-unit pace. That was the highest since September 2008 and well above analysts’ forecasts.


What’s Next For Housing? More Sprawl

By Robbie Wheelan       Wall Street Journal         June 16, 2012

As legend has it, Mark Twain once gave this famous investment advice: “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.”

During the housing boom, home builders heeded the author’s famous witticism, snapping up hundreds of thousands of acres in and around U.S. cities. They went to the suburbs when land supply ran short, and then to the distant – and cheaper – tracts known to planners as the exurbs.

The housing bust, and the phenomenal collapse of the home-building industry that began in 2007, helped cool the sprawl frenzy.

But according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ annual State of the Nation’s Housing report, released Thursday, sprawl is poised to make a comeback.

According to Census data examined by JCHS, the household growth in the 2000s was mostly concentrated outside of cities – city cores only accounted for 21% of growth, compared with 38% in the suburbs and 41% in the exurbs. This was largely driven by prices, a trend that is likely to continue. The current pause in exurban housing development has more to do with cooling demand caused by the downturn than with a major change in lifestyle choices, the Harvard center says.

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Isle council to discuss GHA at special meeting

By Michael A. Smith        Galveston County Daily News        June 19, 2012

GALVESTON — City Councilwoman Terrilyn Tarlton said she hopes at a special meeting this week to add names, faces and other substantiation to a litany of vague allegations afloat for weeks about the Galveston Housing Authority.

But others said they were concerned the meeting was designed to achieve a splashy headline the day before a mayoral runoff election, the focal point of which has been disagreement over the authority’s plan to build affordable mixed-income housing.

Whether the timing was by political design or not, the Thursday morning event will be the second is as many weeks on the same topic. Tarlton and newly elected Councilwoman Marie Robb sponsored an identically benign item — “Discuss Galveston Housing Authority” — on last week’s council agenda.

At that meeting, Tarlton said housing authority residents, employees and former employees told her about illegal electioneering, misappropriation of money and illegal staff terminations, among other things. She said she thought some of the allegations were about things that could be criminal violations.

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Neighbors seem resigned to proposed Jackson neighborhood hotel

Residents felt powerless as city construction and commercial developments projects changed their neighborhood.

By Adam D. Young        Lubbock Avalanche-Journal        June 17, 2012

Santiago Nerios said he’s seen few changes on his block in 45 years on Vernon Avenue.

Like several of his neighbors, Nerios said he’s felt powerless as city construction and commercial developments projects changed his neighborhood.

And a proposed four-story Courtyard by Marriott Hotel is no different. The hotel is just a City Council vote away from reality. The structure’s site is across Vernon Avenue from Nerio’s house.

Like most of his neighbors who talked with The Avalanche-Journal during door-to-door visits this week, Nerios said he’s not opposed to a hotel moving in to what is now mostly vacant property already owned by the hotel through Insignia Hospitality.

“There’s nothing we can do about it anyway,” he said.

Across the 2.8-acre proposed hotel site between the Marsha Sharp Freeway and Third Street, Susan Rangel echoed Nerios’ sentiment. Her house faces the project from Avenue V.

“If we really had a choice we would have been opposed to it,” she said. “Otherwise, I’m OK. I know progress has to happen.”

Earlier this month, the Lubbock Planning and Zoning Commission granted Marriott’s request to change zoning from residential to specific use, allowing construction of the hotel.

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Federal initiative to target poverty in colonias

By Jared Jones       McAllen Monitor        June 17, 2012

A federal initiative will combat chronic poverty in U.S.-Mexico border colonias by providing access to badly needed capital for the organizations that work with the underserved residents.

The Border Community Capital Initiative was formed this month to assist the community development organizations that provide affordable housing, support small businesses and build financing capacity in low-income colonias. Formed through a partnership of three federal agencies, the border initiative will help address the lack of stable funding among community development lenders and investors that limits their effectiveness in serving colonias.

The difficulty obtaining capital regularly enters discussions when federal officials talk with community development organizations about their work along the border, said Valerie Piper, an assistant secretary for economic development at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The new initiative will help fill that financing gap while complementing the federal government’s traditional work in addressing infrastructure problems in the colonias.

“When we started to look at the range of programs that we have to address needs in the colonias, we felt like this was something we could do,” she said. “Much of the historic focus has been on infrastructure needs but there’s this emerging capacity to use capital so we can assist folks in building up their own assets.”

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In Texas, working poor families struggle to get ahead

By Brenda Bell       Austin American-Statesman       June 17, 2012

Back in 2005, a lifetime ago, Alona Smith was working random jobs as a security guard and taking classes at Austin Community College when she became pregnant. As the dutiful daughter of a single mom, a latchkey kid who had basically raised her own baby sister, she knew too well what lay ahead.

Her boyfriend was a college student in Houston. She had no health insurance, no safety net and, now, no chance of getting that nursing degree.

Too embarrassed to explain her situation to her counselor at Capital IDEA, the nonprofit program that was sponsoring her education, she quit school — the offramp that many struggling students don’t find their way back from. “I dropped off the radar,” Smith said.

But eventually Capital IDEA picked her up again, paying her tuition, helping her juggle course work with a new baby and night jobs as a nurse’s aide.

Now 27, Smith is a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center — the “best job I ever had.” She and Marlon, now her husband, and their two children live in a new house they bought in Pflugerville. He works at Dell, and together they earn a six-figure income, placing their family comfortably in the middle class.

Smith’s story of personal triumph also illustrates a daunting reality. Gov. Rick Perry and other politicians boast about the vigor of the “Texas jobs machine,” but many of the jobs it has churned out are low-wage and dead-end. And while Texas typically enjoys an unemployment rate below the national average — currently 6.9 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 8.2 percent — it has reduced its investment in efforts aimed at lifting poor, working adults into sustainable careers with living wages and benefits. The kind of program that gave Smith another chance.

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