Bo’s Clips: Continuing mortgage servicing abuses

While the housing industry slowly recovers, New York’ attorney general is suing big banks for continuing to scam borrowers. The action alleges that the banks still practice abusive mortgage lending in the wake of a $25 billion settlement last year.

Meanwhile, the energy boom in Texas’ Permian Basin has increased the demand for housing that officials now say will take at least three years to address.

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Housing Recovery Lifts Other Sectors, Too

By John Ydstie        NPR       May 2, 2013

The government’s employment report for April comes out Friday. It’s an important measure of the economy’s health and the advance signals have been mixed. One report this week showed layoffs falling to a five-year low, but another suggests disappointing jobs creation.

At least one sector is providing some positive news for the job market: housing.

It was only a year or so ago that housing was a big drag on the economy, and the main reason for the disappointing recovery. But that’s changed. Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, says right now housing is a big positive.

“There are pluses and minuses out there, and it’s definitely a plus right now,” he says. “I think within the economy, it’s probably the strongest part of the economy in terms of growth right now.”

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, says the housing recovery is now responsible for about one-third of the economy’s growth and lots of jobs.

“Over the past year, I would say it’s probably added about 300,000 jobs from the housing sector improvement,” Yun says.

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March home prices see biggest yearly gain in 7 years: CoreLogic

Reuters       May 7, 2013

Home prices rose in March, marking the biggest annual increase in seven years, in the latest sign of strength for the recovering housing market, a report from CoreLogic showed on Tuesday.

CoreLogic’s (CLGX.N) home price index jumped 1.9 percent from the previous month and accelerated by 10.5 percent compared to March last year.

That was the biggest year-over-year increase since March 2006, CoreLogic said.

Prices were even stronger excluding distressed sales, rising 2.4 percent from February and 10.7 percent from the year before. Distressed sales include homes that are in danger of foreclosure and properties that have already been seized by lenders.

Home prices have been rising since last year, helped by investor demand and tighter inventory. The top five states with the biggest gains in prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon.

Prices likely continued to rise in April, CoreLogic said, though at a slower pace. Prices are seen rising 1.3 percent for the month and 9.6 percent on an annual basis.

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Loan Qualifications for Retirees

By Lisa Prevost       New York Times      May 5, 2013

Retirees trying to obtain a mortgage may find that a pristine credit history and healthy retirement accounts are not enough. Lenders are also looking for a consistent monthly income in line with their usual debt-to-income standards.

Sanford Evans, 75, ran up against this requirement recently when he applied for a $174,000 loan to finance the purchase of an apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. With brokerage accounts exceeding $1 million, a TransUnion credit score of 822, and the ability to make a 40 percent down payment, Mr. Evans didn’t anticipate any problem with qualifying.

“I would have paid cash,” he said, “but the interest rates are so low it didn’t make financial sense to do it. I figured this was going to be as easy as it’s been in the past.”

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New York to sue BofA, Wells Fargo over mortgage practices

By Karen Freifeld and Aruna Viswanatha        Reuters       May 6, 2013

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said on Monday he plans to sue Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Wells Fargo and Co (WFC.N) for violating the terms of a settlement designed to end mortgage servicing abuses.

Schneiderman issued the announcement, which suggests lawsuits could be filed against the banks within two months, ahead of a widely anticipated report from the monitor for the multi-state settlement, which is expected to be critical of banks.

The planned action is the first involving allegations that top banks, which agreed last year to provide $25 billion in relief to homeowners and comply with a set of servicing standards to atone for foreclosure misconduct, are not living up to their obligations under the deal.

Schneiderman said that, since last October, his office had documented 339 violations of standards – 210 by Wells Fargo and 129 by Bank of America – dictating the timeline for banks to process mortgage modification applications.

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Let’s go from ‘public housing’ to ‘social housing’

By Roger K. Lewis        Washington Post      May 6, 2013

Let’s rethink how to create new affordable housing, for which demand is growing while supply is shrinking. It’s time once again to consider building workforce housing sponsored and funded directly by the public sector.

We should take a cue from Europe, where countries such as Denmark and Austria build “social housing.” Social housing is public housing, but only in the sense that it is government-financed. European social housing is subsidized yet serves middle-class as well as low-income households, thereby avoiding many of the socioeconomic issues associated with America’s public housing.

In the United States today, a multitude of government policies and programs require or incentivize production of below-market housing units within market-rate developments. Yet such units will always represent a small percentage of new housing and will satisfy little current and future affordable housing demand.

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Developers expect housing shortage to last up to three years

By Joseph Basco        Midland Reporter       May 5, 2013

Some members of Midland’s housing community said it will be from 18 months to about three years before the housing supply will catch up with the demand from a workforce that continues to arrive in Midland.

They feel confident in the date range due to the flood of combined housing units in the works — hotel rooms, apartment units and housing lots – reaching into the 5,000 range, according to the city of Midland’s map of upcoming housing. And Steve Thorpe, the city’s building official, said there are 2,000 additional units planned that have not officially gone through the application process.

In September 2012, City Manager Courtney Sharp said Midland is about 5,000 units short. Thorpe said he couldn’t obtain an updated estimate but believed the population growth has not slowed down.

From the unofficial hotel district near the Scharbauer Sports Complex to the mixture of housing lots and apartments to the east, developers are working with the city to catch up with the deluge of oil industry workers that have resorted to living in hotel rooms and man camps, facilitates created by oil companies for workers to eat and sleep at.

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Aging apartment complex near downtown to be replaced with luxury building

Houston Chronicle       May 2, 2013

The old Skylane Central apartments just off the Taylor Street bridge leading into the Woodland Heights is expected to meet the wrecking ball soon.

Apartment developer Greystar is under contract to purchase the property and plans to replace it with what could be an eight-story multifamily complex. Closing on the nearly two-acre site is scheduled for September.

The new project will be a significant upgrade for the area, which has been one of the strongest housing markets in town.

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The Dynamic Potential of Urbanism Without Effort

By Charles Wolfe       The Atlantic Cities      May 2, 2013

Urban stakeholders like to discuss and debate how cities should change to meet new challenges. But when we talk about urbanism, I think we often forget the underlying dynamics that are as old as cities themselves. As a result, we favor fads over the indigenous underpinnings of urban settlement and personal observation of urban change. We focus too literally on plans, model codes, transportation modes, building appearance, economic and population specifics, and summary indicators of how land is currently used. While we might champion the programmed successes of certain iconic examples, we risk ignoring the back story of urban forms and functions, and failing to truly understand the traditional relationships between people and place.

I believe it is critical to first isolate spontaneous and latent examples of successful urban land use, before applying any prescription of typologies, desired ends, or governmental initiative. “Urbanism without effort” is the basis for a clean, multidisciplinary slate for reinvigorating the way we think about urban development today.

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Then There’s This: Housing Bond Back on Ballot?

After voters’ rejection in 2012, November may bring another try

By Amy Smith        Austin Chronicle       May 2, 20-13

Last year’s tactical errors leading to a failed housing bond election have become this year’s lesson plan for winning community support before an affordable housing measure appears on the ballot.

For that to happen, advocates must convince the City Council to place a bond proposition before the voters in November. A newly launched campaign called Keep Austin Affordable ( has organized to do just that, and its backers include a who’s who list of influential civic and business leaders enlisted to help sway Council members, who have until Aug. 26 to call a November election. With last year’s defeat still fresh, some city officials are understandably skittish about putting housing on a fall ballot, six months after the May 11 AISD bond election.

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