Bo’s Clips: Houston Looks for Work Force Housing

Houston planners are proposing to develop more work force housing for middle income households inside the inner loop. The mayor is quoted as saying the city has enough housing for its rich and poor but needs more homes for middle-income workers to live closer to their jobs.

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Housing Starts Surged In March, Pace Is Fastest In 5 Years

By Mark Memmott      NPR      April 16, 2013

There was a 7 percent surge in housing starts last month, the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development report.

As The Associated Press notes, the pace of construction — 1.04 million starts, at an annual rate — is the fastest in nearly five years and is another sign that the housing sector continues to recover from its 2007-08 crash.

Also Tuesday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said consumer prices fell 0.2 percent in March. The driving factor was a 4.4 percent plunge in gas prices.

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JP Morgan makes record quarterly profit

BBC       April 12, 2013

JP Morgan has reported record first quarter profits of $6.5bn (£4.2bn) and says there are signs the US economy is “healthy and getting stronger”.

The bank said it had reported a strong performance across all businesses.

Retail banking deposits rose 10%, new mortgage orders rose 37% and the company said it had kept the top spot for earnings from investment banking.

Mortgage lender Wells Fargo also released results, and it also reported record first quarter profits.

Wells, the fourth biggest bank in the US, saw net income rise by 22% to $5.2bn helped by cost cutting.

Wells Fargo chairman and chief executive, John Stumpf, said: “Loans and deposits demonstrated continued growth in a challenging economic environment.”

‘Positive signs’

JP Morgan said it had cut mortgage loan loss reserves by $650m and property asset reserves by $500m.

The bank was also boosted by a big drop in spending on litigation, which was $0.3bn in the first quarter of 2013 compared with $2.7bn a year earlier.

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I Left My Home in San Francisco

The rise of the white, middle-class anti-gentrifiers

By Ilan Greenberg        New Republic      April 16, 2013

Over the past decade or so, an influx of young professionals has transformed the character of faltering urban neighborhoods like Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and Bushwick and working-class preserves in Chicago and Atlanta. This wave of gentrification received a lot of attention last year when D.C.’s black population slipped below 50 percent, prompting a lament in The New York Times bidding “Farewell to the Chocolate City,” while Atlantic Cities, in a historical corrective, opened with the question, “Is bemoaning the gentrification of Washington, D.C., a genre past its prime?” (Short answer: yes.)

This is the gentrification debate as most of us know it: whether poor, largely minority families are being uprooted from their communities by developers and government policies, or whether they are seizing opportunities—like selling their homes for a profit—and leaving by choice; and whether the largely white middle-class residents who are taking their place are complicit in this transformation, if not downright guilty of cultural appropriation.

But not in San Francisco. Here, the debate is dominated by fierce new champions of the anti-gentrification cause who aren’t concerned so much about the truly poor being forced from—or tempted out of—their neighborhoods. In their view, the victims of gentrification are also affluent, just less so than the people moving in. And the consequences are supposedly catastrophic not only to these relatively well-off people who are living amidst people even more well-off, but a mortal threat to nothing less than the rebel soul of San Francisco.

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Development rules change targets housing

By Mike Morris and Nancy Sarnoff       Houston Chronicle      April 10, 2013

In seeking the first fundamental changes to Houston’s development rules in 14 years, city officials stress that the revisions will produce more workforce housing, giving middle-class families an affordable alternative to the suburbs.

How much middle-class housing will be built is an open question. Industry experts say the only certainty is that the change would make it possible for more workforce housing to be produced.

The proposed changes would allow greater housing density outside Loop 610, enabling builders to fit more houses on the same piece of land, bringing down the price of each home. However, the cost of land is key, experts say, and getting land cheap enough to produce middle-income housing in areas where people want to live will be difficult.

The proposed ordinance will be discussed at City Council Wednesday.

“We have housing for the working poor, we have a lot of high-end housing, and we’re rapidly redeveloping the inner core of the city of Houston for high-end, high-density housing. But the kind of house that I grew up in, the kind of house that many of the working men and women in this city want to own close to their jobs, is disappearing,” Mayor Annise Parker said. “If we can create more density, there is more opportunity for people to have the opportunity to buy a home – maybe a patio home, maybe a townhome, maybe a single-family home on a small tract – and live closer to their jobs.”

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Energy Boom Sparks Building Spree in West Texas

As Many Companies Prosper, Opinions Diverge on a Proposed Office Tower That Would Dominate Midland’s Skyline

By Russell Gold       Wall Street Journal      April 11, 2013

MIDLAND, Texas—In 1927, when T.S. Hogan announced plans for a 12-story office building called the Petroleum Tower, many here were incredulous. A skyscraper? On the plains of West Texas?

But city leaders embraced the building and the status it conferred on the city as the heart of the new Permian Basin oil field, historians say. At least until 1929, when the price of a barrel of crude dropped to 15 cents and the just-opened building sat empty.

Eighty-six years later, the Petroleum Tower still stands—and history may be starting to repeat itself. Midland officials are welcoming plans to erect a 53-story skyscraper that would be more than twice the height of the tallest building in this city and rank as the sixth tallest in all of Texas.

Midland, a city 300 miles west of Dallas with a population of 111,000 people, is growing quickly as companies bring in employees to drill new oil wells in the Permian, where technological advances including fracking are freeing up huge amounts of oil. Office space and housing are hard to come by.

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SAHA freezes housing assistance, lays off 16

By Scott Huddleston       San Antonio Express-News       April 12, 2013

The San Antonio Housing Authority laid off 16 employees Friday and announced a freeze on new Section 8 households in response to a $5.5 million cut annually from sequestration.

The agency is confident it will not have to eliminate more jobs in response to the federal budget sequester, and can resume service in January to new families and individuals on a Section 8 waiting list.

“This impacts people’s lives. There are families on the waiting list who are struggling every day to make ends meet. We try to do the best we can to serve them,” said Melanie Villalobos, spokeswoman with the housing authority.

SAHA, with 13,000 households on its Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and about 25,000 on a waiting list, had funds for the program cut by $3.2 million. SAHA will be able to resume Section 8 assistance to new applicants once the number of household served has fallen by 500 through regular attrition — typically families moving or becoming financially self-sufficient. The program is the agency’s largest.

For people on the waiting list, “this prolongs their struggle to meet daily needs, especially for those on fixed incomes,” Villalobos said.

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Kerrville closer to regulating group homes

By Zeke MacCormack        San Antonio Express-News      April 16, 2013

KERRVILLE — City officials are poised to begin regulating group homes in June, an initiative they say is aimed at protecting both neighborhoods and tenants.

It’s unknown how many residences will fall under the new ordinance, backed unanimously by the City Council on first reading Tuesday. It provides permitting and inspection procedures, occupancy limits and distance requirements.

Dozens of group homes or “half-way houses” for former clients of area substance abuse clinics reportedly operate in otherwise single-family neighborhoods here, raising concerns about property values, traffic, noise and crime.

“Until we get the permit applications in, we won’t really know how many group homes we have,” Mayor Jack Pratt said last week.

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