Archive for Housing Market

Obamavilles

Un-[bleeping]-believable:

A federal-state program aimed at helping homeowners in states hardest hit by the mortgage crisis is falling far short of its goals, a federal watchdog said in a report released Thursday.

In the report, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) said that just 3% of $7.6 billion available in the Hardest Hit Housing Markets program — available for 18 states and the District of Columbia — had been tapped as of Dec. 31.

The money has gone to help 30,640 homeowners, or about 7% of the 458,000 homeowners officials estimated would be helped by the end of the program in 2017, according to the watchdog.

More than 75% of the program funds has gone to prop up state unemployment programs that pay mortgages of the unemployed — not efforts such as mortgage modifications or principal reductions that would force banks to take a hit, according to the report.

Christy Romero, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, said the hardest hit fund has largely served to help the unemployed.

“It was supposed to be an innovative program intended to reach the unemployed and underwater homes,” Romero said in an interview with CNNMoney. “It is important to reach the unemployed, but it’s not reaching underwater homes like it was intended.”

Signing TARP into law was one of Bush’s last acts in office. But it’s been Obama’s to run—into the ground.

Other larger TARP-funded housing programs, including the Home Affordable Modification Program, have weathered criticism, especially from the special inspector general, for falling short in its goal of easing the national foreclosure crisis.

This new watchdog report focused on a different, smaller program, the Hardest Hit Housing Markets program. The hardest hit program was targeted to states with the largest numbers of homeowners drowning in negative equity and unemployment.

The money was supposed to give state housing officials incentives to come up with new and different ways to address the housing crisis in their states. But most states just used the money for programs that pay the mortgages, insurance and property taxes of the unemployed.

Rather than try to do anything structural to put homeowners on their feet again, the money is just being used to pay their bills. It’s just another welfare program, a transfer of wealth. Give people money, with no expectations, no plan, just a blank check. Nothing gets better, the market continues to slump—it’s almost like it’s by design.

Heckuva job, Bambi.

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It Wasn’t Expected!

There is some economic good news:

New claims for unemployment benefits fell back to a four-year low last week, a government report showed on Thursday, suggesting further strengthening in the labor market.

COMMENTS:

ANDREW WILKINSON, CHIEF ECONOMIC STRATEGIST, MILLER TABAK & CO, NEW YORK
“In order to see an improvement in payrolls data from admittedly encouraging levels, we estimate that the weekly claims series must head towards the vicinity of 310,000. Last week’s dip to 351,000 was a decent start albeit from a higher base following an upwards revision to 365,000 the prior week. The four-week moving average remains unchanged at 356,000 as the headline reading remains near four-year lows. There was also some comfort from the 81,000 decline in continuing claims. Emergency and extended claimants both declined to support the view that perhaps more people are starting to return to the labor market in the hope that the hunt for work looks brighter.”

CHRISTOPHER LOW, CHIEF ECONOMIST, FTN FINANCIAL, NEW YORK
JOBLESS CLAIMS: “It’s nice to see another decline. It wasn’t expected to be down this much and it puts us right back at the February low, which is good stuff.

Interesting how the number needed to indicate economic health keeps receding the closer we get to it. Back in the dark days, anything below 400k indicated economic robustness, then 375, 350, 325—now we have to have only 310,000 new jobless claims in order to improve joblessness. Certainly 400,000 was a lie—hell, they’re all a lie. If these numbers are a four-year low, and only beginning to indicate job growth, why has unemployment been falling? (I know why—millions of people have given up looking for work.)

But if that’s the good news, what’s the bad news?

It’s hard to imagine life without smart and sleek iPods, iPhones or iPads. But take a step back and consider what corporate America would look like without Apple, and it’s even gloomier.

Apple’s extraordinary popularity and power among consumers have helped the world’s largest company deliver blowout earnings quarter after quarter. And that’s provided a sizeable boost to the S&P 500′s (SPX) overall profit growth.

Fourth-quarter corporate earnings for S&P 500 companies grew about 6%, year over year, according to FactSet Research Systems.

Strip out Apple’s (AAPL, Fortune 500) 116% profit surge, and that growth falls to just 3%. And if you also exclude AIG’s (AIG, Fortune 500) 77% earnings pop, which was driven by a tax-related accounting gain, overall S&P 500 growth gets slashed to a measly 1.2%.

What was already a humble quarter — ending eight straight quarters of double-digit percentage growth — suddenly looks even worse.

Well, yeah, growth is sluggish, tepid, moribund—but it’s still growth, right?

Right?

The number of homes entering foreclosure dropped in February, but a new up-turn may soon be on its way.

The reason? The $26 billion settlement between 5 major banks and state attorneys general over past foreclosure practices.

The agreement clarifies how foreclosures must be handled, and that is expected to enable banks to speed up their processing, putting many new delinquent homeowners into the foreclosure process.

Cases could go forward after sitting in limbo for months — even years — with their delinquent owners squatting on the properties.

“The pig is starting to move through the python,” said Daren Blomquist, director of marketing for RealtyTrac, which released its foreclosure report for February on Thursday.

The pig is starting to move through the python? Seriously? That’s awesome!

How’s that for a reelection campaign slogan, Mr. President?

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So Proud To Be From Massachusetts

Obama’s campaign chair, our very own Governor, is proud of his contribution to the housing bubble

Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, President Barack Obama’s friend and campaign co-chair, told The Daily Caller that he’s proud of the work he did for Ameriquest as it pumped up the nation’s mortgage bubble.

“I served on the board of the holding company for that company, and it was work that I was asked to do with some of their fair-lending issues, and I’m proud of that work,” said Patrick, who was appointed Feb. 22 by Obama as one of his 2012 campaign’s co-chairs.

Patrick served on the five-member board of Ameriquest’s holding company, ACC Capital Holdings, from 2004 to 2006. This was when the mortgage bubble rapidly inflated under pressure from President George W. Bush, 1990s regulations, numerous Democratic-affiliated housing groups, as well as executives in Fannie Mae and Wall Street companies.

Ameriquest was a leading cause of the bubble, in part, because it began the practice of selling mortgages to people that were deemed by other mortgage companies to be a bad credit risk. For example, the company pioneered the practice of selling mortgages to people without asking for documentation of their income, greatly raising the chance that each loan would go into foreclosure.

In turn, Ameriquest sold the flawed mortgages, dubbed no-doc subprime mortgages, to Fannie Mae and Wall Street, and profited from the processing fees.

The subsequent foreclosure of many risky mortgages dragged down Wall Street and the national economy. Since then, the street unemployment rate has remained well above 10 percent, and the nation’s formal debt has risen by $5 trillion. The median wealth of African-American households fell by 53 percent, according to a 2011 Pew study.

They’re going to vote for him again, guys.

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Nice Bank Ya Got There

Shame if somethin’ happened to it:

Obama Administration officials and various state Attorneys General looked gleeful yesterday announcing a $25 billion settlement with five big tobacco—er, banks—and why not? The bankers coughed up shareholder money to settle a pseudo-foreclosure scandal, while the White House moved closer to its political goal of guaranteeing every home mortgage.

Rarely have so many politicians cashed in so blatantly on so little wrong-doing. In 2010, a group of AGs led by Iowa’s Tom Miller spotted political gold in reports that some bank employees had approved legal documents without proper review. They quickly spun this into the fairy tale that evil banks were kicking borrowers out of their homes for no good reason. Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, who parlayed his scare campaign into a job running the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said banks had “a business model based on fraud.”

The banks did have sloppy paperwork practices, but they were also dealing with a historic wave of foreclosures created in large part by government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. To date there’s no evidence that borrowers current on their mortgage payments were improperly ejected from their homes. Federal regulators have already stepped in, conducted lengthy audits, forced banks to change their internal procedures and yesterday levied $394 million in fines against four of them.

You might think $394 million is a lot of money, and it is. Don’t don’t forget the vig:

At least $10 billion will go toward principal reduction for delinquent borrowers or those on the brink of foreclosure with loans issued by private lenders. In other words, Washington is taking money from bank shareholders and investors in mortgage-backed securities, who will see the value of their holdings fall, and giving it to people who aren’t paying their bills. Welcome to the “fairness” era.

The settlement also has at least $3 billion to refinance homeowners who pay their bills but owe more than their home is worth—in other words, people who bought more home than they could afford. Another $7 billion will go to “other forms of relief,” including loan forbearance for the unemployed, “anti-blight programs,” “transitional assistance” and other political transfer payments.

Incredibly, the settlement doesn’t prevent states or the feds from pursuing more criminal cases, civil-rights or securitization lawsuits, or more claims against the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. So even after this round of political extortion, the banks will be asked to pay again and again. They have little ability to say no because Mr. Cordray and regulators now have life-or-death control over nearly every bank product. Ma and Pa Barker should have gone to law school and run for office.

Put another way:

Now, what this is, folks, is social justice at work, because after all, the banks were forced by the government at the point of a gun to loan to people they knew couldn’t afford the mortgages. That’s what really happened. That’s the root of the subprime mortgage crisis. It was the government forcing the banks to lend money to people that never had a chance, would never be able to repay the loans. Social justice, affordable housing, the so-called good intentions and don’t judge us on the failure of our results.

So now the banks have the pay the price for making those bad loans. This is all part of continuing the ruse that the banks were the originators of this scandal and the originators of the problem. And so now there’s a $25 billion shakedown. I’m gonna tell you, Snerdley, you can apply for it, but I’m gonna tell you — all of you mortgage people — you are not gonna see a dime. This is nothing but a slush fund. What Obama has done was gone to the bank, ’cause they’re having trouble fundraising. They’re nowhere near their billion dollars they’ve been bragging about. You ought to see what they’re gonna do at their convention. They’re gonna charge, what is it, a million dollars for a skybox. A million-dollar donation or something like that, to witness Obama’s acceptance speech. I think there’s a million-dollar charge or donation for something.

Now, this is Obama servicing his constituents. He is fulfilling that campaign promise he made to pay their mortgages. You may think, “Come on, Rush, he didn’t promise that.” We ought to dig out sound bites from one of his early town halls in 2009, the famous one that was in I think Tampa where a woman, who it turned out had a couple of houses or whatever, stood up and wanted a new kitchen. She thought that’s what the election of Obama meant. That’s what she thought it meant. I’m sure a lot of people that voted for Obama thought that’s what their lives held in store for them. Obama was gonna give them a house. Obama was gonna make sure that all the transgressions and all the discrimination and all the evil that had been perpetrated against these people in all of these years since the country was founded is gonna be fixed here.

And just for fun:

OBAMA: Millions of Americans who did the right thing and the responsible thing — shopped for a house, secured a mortgage that they could afford, made their payments on time — were nevertheless hurt badly by the irresponsible actions of others.

RUSH: Stop the tape! Stop the tape! Stop! Stop! Stop the tape! I love this. This is the setup: “Millions of Americans who did the right thing … were nevertheless hurt badly by the irresponsible actions of others.” Now, normally in the real world that would be a setup for the irresponsible citizens who took advantage of a program that they didn’t need. But, no, that’s not who he’s talking about, the irresponsible actions of others. Here’s is who he’s talking about.

OBAMA: Lenders who sold loans to people, uh, who couldn’t afford them — by buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them, by speculators who were looking to make a quick buck; by banks that took risky mortgages, packaged them up, uh, and traded them off for large profits. It was wrong, and it cost more than four million families their homes to foreclosure.

RUSH: That’s right. They were tricked! These poor schlubs, they were tricked into this, but now Obama’s getting even with the tricksters. Obama is getting even with these evil bankers, the lenders who sold loans to people that couldn’t afford them. I can’t tell you how big a lie all of this is. All of this is a lie.

This is what happens when the government intervenes in the market (beyond regulation). By rewarding, even demanding, bad behavior, the government required banks to make loans that they wouldn’t have otherwise made—for financial reasons alone. But Obama learned well from his former chief of staff: a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

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The Business of Government is Income Redistribution

You thought it was national defense and security, but you would be wrong. In so many small and not so small ways, government programs are meant to take from the undeserving rich and give to virtuous poor.

Care to dispute that? Half the populace pays no federal income tax; top earners pay way beyond their “fair share”—the higher the earners, the greater burden they bear. How about health insurance? Half the populace doesn’t use it in a given year, and if you don’t use it in one year, you’re not likely to use it the next (this trend eventually ends, obviously). Yet we’re about to require everyone to carry health insurance, and we’re about to tell them how much.

Unemployment insurance! It goes forever now, right? Think it’s just paid for by the goose that lays the golden egg? Nope, businesses do, via their taxes, and small businesses bear the biggest burden.

Now, how about that payroll tax cut we have been blessed with? Where does that money come from?

The new fee is a minimum of one-tenth of 1 percent on Fannie Mae- and Freddie Mac-backed loans, and is likely to go much higher.

It will be imposed for the next 10 years on most mortgages and refinancings and it lasts for the life of the loan.

For every $200,000, it amounts to an extra $15 dollars a month.

It’s bad news for Patty Anderson, who’s buying a home in Virginia.

Anderson will save a couple hundred dollars from having her payroll tax cut extended but her mortgage broker told her the new fee would cost her almost $9,500.

“I was absolutely startled that it would add up to that much,” she said.

Hey, thanks Patty! What a swell broad! And she’s not even rich (from the sound of it).

When Bill Clinton gave Juanita Broderick a fat lip, he at least suggested she get an ice pack. What’s Patty Anderson get?

The $35.7 billion collected in fees won’t go into the Social Security fund to replace the lost payroll tax. It goes to the general treasury where Congress can spend it however they please.

When Patty retires (if Patty retires), she won’t be burdened by any bothersome Social Security checks. (Who can keep track of those worthless things?) There won’t be any Social Security!

Thanks for playing “Who Wants to be an American in the 21st Century?”, Patty! Better luck next time.

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Living Off the Labor of Others

Some call it slavery, others rent control: what’s the difference?

People who don’t live in New York City probably haven’t confronted the market-distorting injustices of rent control and similar rent-stabilization laws. But they may recall their outrage in 2008 upon reading that New York Rep. Charles Rangel worked the system by paying a total of $3,894 a month for four rent-stabilized luxury apartments in Harlem, about half the market price.

Remarkably, a serious constitutional challenge to rent-control and stabilization laws may finally be in the works. The challenge arises from James and Jeanne Harmon, who own a town house on West 76th Street in New York City. The upper floors are occupied by tenants who are entrenched under New York’s rent-stabilization law, paying rents at only a fraction of the value of their units. Mr. Harmon, a most persistent man whom I have from time to time advised, is attempting to strike down this law.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals blew off his suit in March, but Mr. Harmon has filed petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, and, miracles of miracles, the high court has asked New York City and the tenants to respond. His story has been sympathetically featured in the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post. Perhaps there is still some life in the challenge to rent controls. There darn well ought to be.

Our local burg, Cambridge, dealt with this a few years ago. Similarly, it was a small-time landlord who pursued the repeal of rent control, ticked off by rules unfair to owners, tilted for the benefit of tenants, most of whom could afford more.

All versions of rent-control laws share a single dominant characteristic: They allow a tenant to remain in possession of property after the expiration of a lease at below-market rents. New York even gives the tenant a statutory right to pass on the right to occupy the premises at a controlled rent to family members who have lived with them for two or more years. The tenants in Mr. Harmon’s complaint pay rent equal to about 60% of market value.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia exposed the deeply antidemocratic nature of rent control in Pennell v. City of San Jose (1988). If the government thinks some high social end is served by allowing tenants to sit on someone else’s property in perpetuity, then it should use public funds, after democratic deliberation, to buy or lease the premises for market value which it can then lease out to particular tenants. The correct way to handle this issue, he wrote, is by “the distribution to such persons of funds raised from the public at large through taxes,” and not to use “the occasion of rent regulation to establish a welfare program privately funded by” landlords.

Mr. Harmon’s grievance should resonate on social as well as personal grounds. Rent control and rent stabilization are inimical to the long-term health of New York City. Ordinary tenants paying market rents contribute their fair share to the public treasury. By contrast, rent-controlled tenants on lifetime leases who have a specially privileged legal status are a constant drain on the community, discouraging investment in residential rental real estate by posing a persistent if inchoate threat of subjecting future properties to rent control.

Bingo.

If you think it’s so all-fired important to hold some apartments at below-market rents, you pay for it. Build ‘em, buy ‘em, whatever. I would prefer the market decide—if you can’t afford Cambridge, Somerville is lovely…well, Somerville is affordable, comparatively—but if a community chooses to subsidize housing for some of its citizens, let ‘em pay for it. Sticking private investors with the bill is so bloody typical of left-wing “generous” thought, and I’m sick and tired of it.

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Surprise, Surprise..

Housing sales numbers have been inflated for years.

Double counting, ignoring sales by owners rather than realtors… lots of ways to inflate the numbers.

If you thought the U.S. housing market couldn’t get much worse, think again.

Far fewer homes have been sold over the past five years than previously estimated, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

NAR said it plans to downwardly revise sales of previously-owned homes going back to 2007 during the release of its next existing home sales report on Dec. 21.

NAR’s existing home sales numbers, released monthly, are a closely followed gauge of the health of the housing market.

While NAR hasn’t revealed exactly how big the revision to home sales will be, the agency’s chief economist Lawrence Yun said the decrease will be “meaningful.”

Lame and incompetent.

- Aggie

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Obama Gives Another (Hate) Speech

Before we get to Obama’s speech. let’s take a walk down Memory Lane:

In other words, the Democrats had more than a little to do with the housing bubble and its subsequent pop.

You would never know that if you listened to Obama or his Cheering Squad in academia:

The writer has used one of my favorite techniques; he has chopped it up for comment. I’ll quote a bit of his nonsense, then allow you to go to the link and disgust yourself on your own time.

The president’s speech Tuesday in Osawatomie, Kansas — where Teddy Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech in 1910 — is the most important economic speech of his presidency in terms of connecting the dots, laying out the reasons behind our economic and political crises, and asserting a willingness to take on the powerful and the privileged that have gamed the system to their advantage.

Here are the highlights (and, if you’ll pardon me, my annotations):

For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

He’s absolutely right — and it’s the first time he or any other president has clearly stated the long-term structural problem that’s been widening the gap between the very top and everyone else for thirty years — the breaking of the basic bargain linking pay to productivity gains.

For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed.

Exactly. But the first papering over was when large numbers of women went into paid work, starting in the late 1970s and 1980s, in order to prop up family incomes that were stagnating or dropping because male wages were under siege — from globalization, technological change, and the decline of unions. Only when this coping mechanism was exhausted, and when housing prices started to climb, did Americans shift to credit cards and home equity loans as a means of papering over the new harsh reality of an economy that was working for a minority at the top but not for most of the middle class.

I stopped there, because, he’s right. Almost. What happened in the 70′s was that women piled into the work force, in part to acquire nicer homes, two cars rather than one, better clothes, vacations, etc. Some of it was a response to feminism and the desire that some women had to become professionals and have families. But most of it was just the sigh of relief that came from the realization that they could have a job and put the kids in daycare without a lot of social condemnation. The Mommy Wars were born. But what is true is that as more and more women entered the work force, individuals and families were able to pay more for their homes, and housing prices climbed. There was a mini-bubble in housing prices in the 70s, and a lot of books were written about how you could make your fortune as a landlord. And that reality forced women into the workplace, whether they preferred to stay home with the kids or not. I’ve never heard a liberal spin on this basic piece of history before and I salute the writer for coming up with it.

So if you are interested in what will become the theme for Obama’s reelection campaign – because he simply cannot point to his successes as a reason to reelect – then go to the link.

- Aggie

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Nothing Like The Smell Of Foreclosures For Breakfast

Foreclosures on the rise

The number of foreclosures climbed in October, as mortgage lenders started to work through the paperwork problems that had delayed new filings for much of the last year.

Foreclosure filings were reported on 230,678 properties nationwide in October, a 7% increase from September, reported RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosed properties. Despite the increase, filings were still 31% below year-earlier levels, though.

RealtyTrac said one in every 563 U.S. homes had either a default notice, a scheduled auction or a bank repossession filing during the month.

“The October foreclosure numbers continue to show strong signs that foreclosure activity is coming out of the rain delay we’ve been in for the past year as lenders corrected foreclosure paperwork and processing problems,” said James Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s CEO.

A year ago, several major banks — including Ally, Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), and JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) — acknowledged problems with paperwork they were using to file foreclosure actions against delinquent homeowners. They announced various changes in practices and temporary moratoriums in new filings while they worked through the problems.

.2% of US homes received notice or went on the block last month. I wonder what the total will be for the year moving forward, now that the paperwork issues have apparently been resolved? Can the economy really recover before we work this mess out?

- Aggie

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Bringing Truth to Light

Sir Francis Bacon once wrote “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.”

But what if that daughter has been aborted, abandoned, orphaned, married under age, or honor-killed? What if authority enslaves that daughter and subjects her to all manner of depravity and dehumanization?

In today’s media, that’s routine:

There is no doubt that reductions in mortgage-underwriting standards were at the heart of the subprime crisis, and Fannie and Freddie’s losses reflect those declining standards. Yet the decline in underwriting standards was largely a response to mandates, beginning in the Clinton administration, that required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to steadily increase their mortgages or mortgage-backed securities that targeted low-income or minority borrowers and “underserved” locations.

The turning point was the spring and summer of 2004. Fannie and Freddie had kept their exposures low to loans made with little or no documentation (no-doc and low-doc loans), owing to their internal risk-management guidelines that limited such lending. In early 2004, however, senior management realized that the only way to meet the political mandates was to massively cut underwriting standards.

The risk managers complained, especially at Freddie Mac, as their emails to senior management show. They refused to endorse the move to no-docs and battled unsuccessfully against the reduced underwriting standards from April to September 2004.

Many examples follow. And if you haven’t seen my lips utter the name “Obama”, it’s only because you can’t see my lips at all:

Taxpayer losses at Fannie and Freddie alone may exceed $300 billion. The costs of the financial collapse and recession brought on by the mortgage bust are immeasurably higher. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has perpetuated the low underwriting standards that gave us the crisis and encouraged the postponement of foreclosures by lending support to various states’ efforts to sue originators for robo-signing violations.

Now they are trying to deflect blame from Fannie and Freddie by suing the originators who fulfilled the politically motivated demands of the government-sponsored agencies that drove the mortgage crisis. If successful, all of those efforts will further postpone the ability of banks to grow the supply of credit, and they will sow the seeds of the next mortgage bust.

These truths have been known for some time, and repeated often. The daughter in question is out of pigtails, old enough to look at us with that pre-teen scowl of contempt. Yet she remains anonymous, elusive, and homeless, like a runaway down by the river.

PS: And we reelected that moral reprobate, Barney Frank, Fannie’s guardian (no jokes, please), in a landslide over a clean, articulate ex-Marine.

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Hope And Change And Demolition…

Did Obama promise to tear houses down all across the country? I don’t remember that part of his stump speeches. I remember the stuff about the oceans receding, but did he promise us this?

The link above is a slide show of images of homes being bulldozed because city officials in Cleveland have convinced bankers that the best thing they can do is destroy the property (and pay for the destruction). Now, someday the Left will use this as a way to pile hatred onto bankers: They destroyed homes rather than give them to the poor!! Of course, I suppose you could make the case that at least people were hired to do the demolitions? In any case, this is what Hope and Change really means for the poor that voted for this dope.

And here’s a link to the story:

Cleveland — The sight of excavators tearing down vacant buildings has become common in this foreclosure-ravaged city, where the housing crisis hit early and hard. But the story behind the recent wave of demolitions is novel — and cities around the country are taking notice.

A handful of the nation’s largest banks have begun giving away scores of properties that are abandoned or otherwise at risk of languishing indefinitely and further dragging down already depressed neighborhoods.

The banks have even been footing the bill for the demolitions — as much as $7,500 a pop. Four years into the housing crisis, the ongoing expense of upkeep and taxes, along with costly code violations and the price of marketing the properties, has saddled banks with a heavy burden. It often has become cheaper to knock down decaying homes no one wants.

The demolitions in some cases have paved the way for community gardens, church additions and parking lots. Even when the result is an empty lot, it can be one less pockmark. While some widespread demolitions could risk hollowing out the urban core of struggling cities such as Cleveland, advocates say that the homes being targeted are already unsalvageable and that the bulldozers are merely “burying the dead.”

T he task of plowing under the homes rests with the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which grew out of a 2009 state law aimed at creating “land banks” with the power and money to acquire unwanted properties and put them to better use — or at least put them out of their misery.

The efforts have led other states to pursue similar laws to deal with their own foreclosure epidemics. New York passed a comparable measure this summer. Similar legislation is in the works in Georgia, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

Remember?

- Aggie

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What’s the Difference Between Ignorance and Apathy?

I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Incompetence, on the other hand, thy name is Obama:

Fewer than half the number of unemployed homeowners scheduled to be helped through a $1 billion no-interest federal loan program will eventually get financial aid, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said this week that only 11,824 families in the United States – including 568 in Massachusetts – have been tentatively approved for the program, which was originally aimed at helping 30,000 homeowners facing foreclosure with up to $50,000 in zero-interest loans during a two-year period.

But the number of people who pass final eligibility hurdles will likely be even fewer than the preliminary numbers, leaving at least $568 million unused, Sullivan said. The unused funds will be returned to the Treasury Department, he said.

The program, created by Congress in the summer of 2010, was intended to help families in 32 states and Puerto Rico with funding to be allocated by Sept. 30.

In general, I believe in less welfare rather than more—but if a one-time loan to help unemployed home owners stay in there homes is effective (and is truly a loan, even an interest free loan, and not a gift), then I suppose that’s worthwhile welfare.

And anything worth doing is worth doing well:

“It’s a terrible administrative performance by HUD when there are so many unemployed homeowners facing foreclosure’’ said Lewis Finfer, executive director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, a Boston nonprofit that has long pushed for help for jobless homeowners. “It’s sad and shameful.’’

But HUD demurs:

“We concede that the program took longer than we thought it would to get off the ground,’’ Sullivan said. “The law was clear that only certain homeowners would benefit.’’

To have been be eligible for a loan, homeowners must have lost at least 15 percent of their income because of unemployment or a cut in pay directly related to the economy or have suffered a serious medical problem. In addition, they needed to have been at least three months behind on mortgage payments and have received a foreclosure notice from a lender. Among added restrictions, HUD required that homeowners be 90 days late by June 1 to make sure the program did not motivate people to stop paying their mortgages.

Sullivan said some people did not qualify because their incomes did not drop enough, they had not fallen three months behind on their mortgages by June, or they found another job that left them only with past debts.

Ultimately, you have to ask whether everyone can be helped by government programs:

Meanwhile, homeowners such as Estella Mabrey of Dorchester said they remain perplexed about why they were denied help.

Mabrey, 59, has been struggling to save her home from foreclosure after she was laid off five years ago from a customer service job. She said she earns about $25,000 to $30,000 annually between two part-time jobs. Mabrey said she was told that was too much to qualify for a loan. Her monthly mortgage is $820. To her, it seems as though some of the country’s biggest banks had an easier time qualifying for billions of dollars in bailout money during the financial crisis.

Someone five years removed from a full-time job who can’t afford her mortgage payments shouldn’t own a home. It’s not heartless or cruel, it’s math. She should have sold out and downsized when she lost her job, as thousands of other people have had to do across the country. Heck, if Auntie Zeituni weren’t living in public housing as a former illegal immigrant, Ms. Mabrey could have lived there.

But it sounds like there’s more than enough failure to go around. Good enough for government work.

PS: I don’t hammer this point enough, so allow me. It’s not just a question of competence (or incompetence) with Obama’s policies; it’s a matter of morality (or immorality). People are hurting, that we know. That they are hurting still because of Obama’s anti-business agenda is offensive, even criminal.

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