A sluggish US economy bodes for tighter pocketbooks that preclude down payments on mortgages. As an alternative, many young Americans seek rental housing – but it’s frequently not there. The market pressures increase as incomes decrease — the poor are priced out.
Meanwhile, the government retracts from mortgage securities and fuels speculation about whether private banks can take up the slack. As part of that strategy, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reorganize.
For a pdf version of the full stories, plus contextual articles in social, environmental and legal areas, contact Bo McCarver at firstname.lastname@example.org
Easing U.S., Slowly, Out of Home Financing
By Floyd Norris New York Times March 1, 2013
Can the American mortgage market ever function again without Uncle Sam guaranteeing that lenders will be repaid?
It is amazing just how few people think it can.
“For the foreseeable future, there is simply not enough capacity on the balance sheets of U.S. banks to allow a reliance on depository institutions as the sole source of liquidity for the mortgage market,” stated a report on the American housing market this week, issued by a group that was filled with members of the housing establishment.
The panel, which included Frank Keating, the president of the American Bankers Association and a former governor of Oklahoma, does not see that as an indictment of the American banking system, which would much rather trade leveraged derivatives than keep a lot of mortgage loans on its books.
“Given the size of the market and capital constraints on lenders, the secondary market for mortgage-backed securities must continue to play a critical role in providing mortgage liquidity,” added the report, issued by a housing commission formed by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group that was begun by former Senate majority leaders from both parties. The group thinks investors will not be willing to finance enough mortgages — particularly 30-year fixed-rate loans — without a government guarantee.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to merge some functions in new company
By Jim Puzzanghera Los Angeles Times March 5, 2013
WASHINGTON — The federal regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac took the first major step toward possibly shutting down the taxpayer-rescued firms by deciding to merge some functions of the mortgage financing giants into a new company.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency plans to create a “new business entity” that would package home loans owned or guaranteed by the companies into mortgage-backed securities, Edward J. DeMarco, the agency’s acting director, said Monday.
The goal is to create a vehicle that could replace the nation’s biggest mortgage backers should Congress decide to do that as part of a still-pending overhaul of the housing finance market, DeMarco said.
“We are designing this to be flexible so that the long-term ownership structure can be adjusted to meet the goals and direction that policymakers may set forth for housing finance reform,” he said in a speech at the annual conference of the National Assn. for Business Economics in Washington.
The U.S. Simply Doesn’t Have Enough Available Rental Housing, Whether You’re Rich or Poor
By Emily Badger The Atlantic Cities February 25, 2013
The Census Bureau says there are about 41 million renter households in the United States, a group making up about 35 percent of the country. And the renter ranks are expected to swell this decade as the housing demand of Baby Boomers and their children starts to converge. Twentysomethings who’ve been living at home during the recession will finally move out to form their own households. Many Baby Boomers, meanwhile, are expected to downsize into smaller rental units where they won’t have to mow their own lawns.
Housing wonks have projected that we may need to build at least 3 million new rental apartment units in the next 10 years to satisfy all these people. And if you’re a renter just about anywhere in the country, you may already be feeling the crunch: As Cities reported last summer, it’s lately become cheaper to buy a home than to rent one in the vast majority of America’s 100 largest metros.
This is a problem for young professionals and even decently paid ones trying to live close to jobs in expensive cities like New York and San Francisco. But America’s shortage of affordable rental housing trickles down with particularly depressing effects to the extremely low-income.
Victoria in line with country for housing market prosperity
By Jessica Priest Victoria Advocate February 28, 2013
While Victoria realtors are enjoying economic prosperity after years of enduring a dismal housing market, they say there still is not that much in the way of square footage to sell.
The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that the number of Americans signing contracts to buy homes rose from 4.5 percent to 105.9 percent from December to January. That is its highest level since April 2010, according to the Associated Press.
Max Pooley, co-owner of Pooley Land & Realty Company, said that is a figure illustrated throughout the Crossroads, where more and more young people are opting to ditch their pricey apartment.
He said its smart to invest in real estate when loan interest rates, which used to be as much as 18 percent, are at an all-time low.
“Over a three-or five-year period, the appreciation in the value of your property is going to go up higher than what you would make on a savings account,” Pooley said.
He said there have been times when customers from out of the state who work in the oil industry tried to expedite their move to Victoria. In those cases, the transactions were done entirely over the Internet.
HUD announces app meant to help in fight against housing discrimination
By Hayley Tsukayama Washington Post Feb. 28, 2013
The Department of Housing and Urban Development officially launched an app in an effort to give average Americans greater access to information about fair housing practices.
John Trasviña, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said that he hopes the app will help to “bring us into the 21st century” and not require people to call the department’s hotline or deal with a paper complaint.
“It’s using the latest technology to make sure we’re accessible to people around the country,” he said.
Users will be able to look up information on fair housing practices and even file complaints straight from the app, which Trasviña said could help arm people with valuable information as they look for housing.
The app has been available for a couple of months on Apple’s App Store, but the department announced its official release Thursday at the MobileGov Summit.
By Jennifer Hiller Houston Chronicle March 3, 2013
Creating housing from old shipping containers is generally the stuff of high-end design magazines and the territory of the urban and hip.
But one San Antonio developer is taking shipping containers to the Eagle Ford Shale region, with a project that brings modern design to the oil patch.
David Monnich has started construction in Encinal, between Laredo and Cotulla off of Interstate 35, on what will eventually be a 70-unit apartment complex made from recycled shipping containers.
The apartments are mostly two-bedroom units with 840 square feet of space and patios, created by putting together two shipping containers plus an additional space that holds the plumbing, bathrooms and kitchens. The first seven units are in place now and getting interior finishes, but the first 35 should be in place by the end of the summer.
The project’s conceptual design is by Mike McGlone and Helen Pierce of Alamo Architects — the firm that designed The Shops at La Cantera and other landmarks — and won a studio award last year from the Texas Society of Architects.
Texas bill aims to keep squatters out of homes
Associated Press March 4, 2013
A bill has been filed in the Texas Senate aiming to stop squatters from using an obscure law to move into vacant or foreclosed homes.
The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/XDonC0 ) reports the bill filed last week would require prospective squatters to provide written notice to anyone who has a claim on a property they’re targeting under the “adverse possession” law.
Without proof of notification, county clerks would reject paperwork filed by squatters trying to lay claim to vacated property.
While the proposed legislation wouldn’t outlaw adverse possession, it stipulates that an affidavit of adverse possession is not a property title.
Tarrant County Constable Clint Burgess asked Sen. Jane Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound, to sponsor the legislation. He says it will help prevent misuse of the law.
Disabled housing is left to House
Government controls funds for facilities
By Judith McGinnis Wichita Falls Times Record News February 28, 2013
Legislative support is all that is keeping a Center for Independent Living, a state-funded resource center for disabled North Texans, a reality.
There are 27 CILs across Texas that provide support for the disabled, ranging from advocacy to teaching how to live independently, job readiness and job search assistance, services for children and teens as they grow up with challenges, plus peer and family support.
CILs come under the state’s Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.
Having identified the need for three new centers and with funding available, Wichita Falls is on the top of a DARS list of six prospects.
Mark Schroeder, Dennis Dohrer and Bobbie Vash, local members of interagency alliance PROMOTE, have strongly advocated for a Wichita Falls CIL.
After Abbott ruling, Austin poised to loosen environmental rules for some development
By Marty Toohey Austin American-Statesman February 27, 2013
Earlier this year, after hearing city staff’s conclusion that a proposed Southwest Austin condominium development would violate city environmental rules, the City Council was poised to reject the project. Then the council delayed the vote at the last minute and, two weeks later, the city staff dropped its objection and the council gave the go-ahead.
The council learned of a recent legal opinion issued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. He determined that for roughly 15 years Austin has been enforcing some of its environmental rules — particularly those limiting development over the environmentally sensitive Edward Aquifer — illegally.
Now the city staff is asking the council to change the city code to make it more closely reflect Abbott’s reading of state law. In an unusual step, the staff has asked the council for “emergency passage” on Thursday, which would make the change take effect immediately instead of the typical 10-day wait.
“We’re doing that out of an abundance of caution,” said Greg Guernsey, head of the city’s planning department. “We believe maybe we’re not following state law, and we need to address the situation as soon as possible.”
Apartment project with affordable rents planned for South Austin Goodwill site
By Shonda Novak Austin American-Statesman February 27, 2013
Amid a sea of luxury apartments under construction on South Lamar Boulevard, Foundation Communities is planning an oasis of affordability — 109 inexpensive rentals in a pioneering project with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas.
Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit provider of affordable housing and support services, hopes to receive $10 million in federal tax credits to build the $15 million Skyview Studios at 2800 S. Lamar Blvd.
The project would be built on a site that houses a Goodwill retail store that is among Austin’s oldest and most popular. On the ground floor of its four-story building, Foundation Communities would build a new 14,000-square-foot Goodwill store that would include more parking — a total of 60 spaces — than the current location has. There would also be 30 spaces for apartment residents, most of whom are expected to not own cars.