Friday, August 09, 2013

U.S. warns against eminent-domain mortgage seizures -

U.S. warns against eminent-domain mortgage seizures -
"The nation's top housing finance regulator threatened to choke off mortgage lending in cities that use eminent domain to seize underwater loans from lenders. The salvo from the Federal Housing Finance Agency came Thursday, on the heels of a lawsuit directed by major Wall Street firms and U.S.-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac against the Bay Area city of Richmond. Richmond is the first to push forward with the plan, also being debated in cities across the state and nation. Richmond wants to require lenders and investors to sell underwater mortgages at a deep discount. The city would then refinance borrowers into more-affordable mortgages."
In keeping with the Obama administration's predilection for continuing the bank-friendly policies of the Bush administration, FHFA is stepping in to prevent Richmond, CA, from using eminent domain to help out underwater homeowners.  Obama's housing initiatives have done very little for homeowners--but, hey, the banks are doing great!  The HAMP/HARP programs did very little for underwater homeowners.  What it comes down to is this: homeowners can't get any meaningful relief from the feds, and now, when a city tries to do something the feds jump in to prevent it.  In the meantime, the "too big to fail" banks borrow from the Fed using the "discount window" at virtually zero interest. This follows on the heels of Obama's recent supposedly major but really underwhelming speech announcing, among other things, that mortgage securitization is to become wholly a private undertaking, with Fannie and Freddie being phased out.    I really don't see any concrete plan for how this is supposed to work, though. It seems like vaporware to me, but we shall see. There seems to be a consensus that the GSE's need to be done away with, but no agreement on how to make sure that private securitization of mortgages goes at a pace that will maintain liquidity for mortgage lenders.  Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Running your association like a successful business - Lexology

Running your association like a successful business - Lexology
"What does it mean to run an association like a successful business?  First and foremost, it means that the officers and directors must take their positions seriously and act with an eye toward what is best for the entire corporation and its members and what will enhance the corporation’s assets.  They do not act with a personal agenda or out of personal feelings toward any of the members.  Instead, they act with a view to the future and what will be best in the long-run for the association.  This includes things such as not showing preferences for certain members in connection with the enforcement of rules or the collection of assessments.  It also means that the association does not defer or take short cuts with required maintenance or other projects that are vital to the preservation of the common areas and other portions of the property for which the association is responsible.  Secondly, running the association like a business means educating yourself on legal, financial and other matters that impact your business.  This does not mean that your board must be comprised only of attorneys, CPA’s or other business owners or that they must already bring with them some kind of relevant experience or knowledge about running a business.  What it does mean is that those who volunteer to serve for the board must be willing to educate themselves as to what they need to know to make the corporation successful."
That second point--that the board members need to educate themselves--is something that needs to be emphasized. Too many people become board members without learning how to do the job.

Zimmerman Free But Gated Communities Guilty | Planetizen: The Urban Planning, Design, and Development Network

Zimmerman Free But Gated Communities Guilty | Planetizen: The Urban Planning, Design, and Development Network
Urban planner Ed Blakely, co-author of Fortress America,  sees it this way:

"Until gated community ownership organizations are held accountable for the actions of their residents and security agents, we will see the use of “stand your ground” and home security arguments as veils for deeper racial and socioeconomic profiling. When the residents of gated communities can assess who can move on their so-called property, no one who crosses into that territory is safe. The only way to change this is to extend by state laws the obligation of gated community associations to be liable for the actions of residents or hired agents who act to control the space. In essence, if the gate is the front door, the community associations have to take on the full liability for any actions taken to protect the turf. If this simple legal approach to organizational liability is taken, then gated communities can protect their property as long as they don't violate anyone’s constitutional rights."

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

WWII vet says HOA won't let him fly US flag - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

WWII vet says HOA won't let him fly US flag - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5: They said that four HOA board members came to his door and ordered him to take the flag down or face a fine of up to $25 a day.

"He was proud to serve. He just cried a bucket of tears when he found out he could not fly the flag of freedom. It is a piece of cloth, but it stands for our freedom," said Louise Helton.

Update: Courtney Lytle, a local lawyer, said that Helton can legally fly the Stars and Stripes. "The Federal Freedom to Display the Flag Act of 2005 specifically states that a homeowners association is not allowed to forbid homeowners from displaying the flag," said Lytle. "An HOA can restrict the display in how it's done."

More bad press for Privatopia. Film at 10 on Fox 5 Atlanta.

Is America seeing 'The End of The Suburbs'? -

Is America seeing 'The End of The Suburbs'? - The reasons are varied, but several disparate factors all point to a decrease in demand for traditional suburban living: many Americans are tiring of the physical aspect of the suburbs, the design of which has changed dramatically over the years to gradually spread people farther and farther apart from one another and the things they like to do, making them increasingly reliant on their cars and, increasingly, on Thelma and Louise –length commutes. Big demographic shifts are seeing our population grow older, younger, and more diverse seemingly all at once, while powerful social trends are shrinking and transforming the American nuclear family, long the dominant driver of suburbia. An epic financial crisis coupled with the rising cost of energy has made punishing commutes also unaffordable, while a new- found hyperawareness of environmental issues has shaken up and re-ordered our priorities in ways that stand in direct conflict to the suburban way of life.
As go the 'burbs, so goes Privatopia. But only part of it. While a suburban decline might not bode well for big planned unit common interest developments and gated communities, the author's premise of a concurrent rise in urban living could boost attached common interest developments such as condo and coop projects.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Pennsylvanians ask feds to help disarm intimidating small-town militia — RT USA

Pennsylvanians ask feds to help disarm intimidating small-town militia — RT USA
You may have read about Mark Kessler, the police chief of Gilberton, PA, who made international news when he was suspended by the city council for right-wing, gun-nut, anti-government ranting on YouTube [follow the link to the story and you will find one of his crazy videos--I'm not linking to it]. Well, here's chapter two:  He has his own militia, called the Constitution Security Force, and they are making life...interesting for the good people of Gilberton:  "Although Gilberton only holds around 700 citizens, nearly 900 people have already signed their names to a petition asking the Pennsylvania National Guard to come and disarm Kessler 'and his thugs.'”

This is from RT:

Tensions between Kessler and his critics have been high since before the videos began surfacing, but matters were only made worse last Wednesday when the chief asked his Constitution Security Force to surround the town meeting where his suspension was to be discussed. “When it came time to open the small borough building for the public meeting, these armed men blocked the doors and prevented people from going inside,” local reporter John Luciew wrote from the hearing“I have been organizing for four decades. I have faced Klansmen in Kentucky, Ustase in Bosnia and police indiscriminately beating demonstrators in Italy. [Wednesday] night in Gilberton was more frightening than any of those situations,” Michael Morril of Keystone Progress told Huffington Post. In all, around 100 members of the CSF — outfitted with AR-15 assault rifles — are said to have descended on the scene last Wednesday. Inside the borough hall, the handful of residents lucky enough to bypass Kessler’s security detail spoke of the chief’s intimidation tactics — and a petition signed by 20,000 people demanding Kessler’s termination was delivered to the council.

U.S. accuses Bank of America of mortgage-backed securities fraud | Reuters

U.S. accuses Bank of America of mortgage-backed securities fraud | Reuters
The two suits accuse Bank of America of making misleading statements and failing to disclose important facts about the mortgages underlying a securitization named BOAMS 2008-A. "These misstatements and omissions concerned the quality and safety of the mortgages collateralizing the BOAMS 2008-A securitization, how it originated those mortgages and the likelihood that the 'prime' loans would perform as expected," the Justice Department said in its statement. A "material number" of mortgages in the pool "failed to materially adhere to Bank of America's underwriting standards," the statement said. Bank of America has announced a series of settlements with investors and the U.S. government, including an $8.5 billion settlement with investors in mortgage-backed securities and a $1.6 billion deal with bond insurer MBIA Inc.
These securitizations go back to 2008, just when the whole house of cards was collapsing.

Gunman kills three at Ross Township meeting |

Gunman kills three at Ross Township meeting | PoconoRecord.

"Three people died Monday night when a gunman opened fire on a Ross Township municipal meeting, indiscriminately shooting into the building, authorities said. Eyewitnesses at the scene and state police identified the gunman as Rockne Newell, a self-proclaimed junk collector who has had a long-simmering feud with the township for keeping a junkyard on his property."
The background to this horrible incident is in an article from the Pocono Record in June. There are several issues with his property--junk, emergency vehicle access, no building permits, etc.. It appears that he is one of these folks who thinks he can do whatever he wants on his property.  Now he has killed three people.

"Ross Township hopes to buy a Flyte Road property, deemed an eyesore and up for sheriff's sale next month, to clean it up and remove what it calls a stream obstruction. Ruling in the township's favor, Monroe County Court last August ordered Rockne Newell, 59, to vacate and never again occupy or use the property, unless he has the proper permits to do so. The township's efforts to take over the land he's owned since 1990 are the latest development in an 18-year battle against Newell. "This is total (horse excrement)," said Newell, who has been living out of his 1984 Fiero and in abandoned buildings since being ordered to vacate. "They have no right to kick me off my property. They call my property an 'eyesore.' When I bought it, it was one of only three properties on the entire road that didn't have what they call 'junk.'"

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Banks Find S.&P. More Favorable in Bond Ratings -

Banks Find S.& P. More Favorable in Bond Ratings -

Actually, it's a bit more dramatic than that. The rating agencies gave AAA ratings to mortgage backed bonds (Residential Mortgage Backed Securities, or RMBS) that were in fact about as far from AAA as any investment could get. They were worse than junk bonds and turned out in many cases to have been completely worthless because the mortgages that the bonds represented were issued to people with  no money, no job, no assets, no down payment, and no chance that they would make mortgage payments. And now, here we go again:

"S.& P. has been giving higher grades than its big rivals to certain mortgage-backed securities just as Wall Street is eagerly trying to revive the market for these investments, according to an analysis conducted for The New York Times by Commercial Mortgage Alert, which collects data on the industry. S.& P.’s chase for business is notable because it is fighting a government lawsuit accusing it of similar action before the financial crisis."

Palm Desert HOA to use settlement for a new drainage system | The Desert Sun |

Palm Desert HOA to use settlement for a new drainage system | The Desert Sun |
"The $2.7 million awarded to a Palm Desert homeowners association in a lawsuit against its engineering firm will be used to install a new drainage system and reimburse the HOA for money spent on clearing the neighborhood of flood waters several times over three years, the HOA’s attorney said Saturday.

I'd say they need one:

Libertarian populism: The economic prescription for the right |

Libertarian populism: The economic prescription for the right |
Libertarianism is one of the cornerstones of common interest housing, although hardly anybody who lives in a CID knows that. And here is a writer from the American Enterprise Institute (right wing think tank) laying out a prescription for a form of libertarianism that could potentially make the Republican Party a majority party.  After all, despite all that Fox News/AM radio nonsense about Obama being a socialist, the truth is that the Democratic Party isn't really doing much to make life better for the declining middle class or what used to be called the working class. The Democrats are almost as committed to propping up too-big-to-fail banks, handing out subsidies and tax breaks to corporations, and waging endless unwinnable wars as the Republicans are.  Both parties are out of favor with the public. That creates a huge window of opportunity for a populist movement.  The Tea Party is not that movement.  It has fizzled as a popular movement and is now mainly a corporate-funded astroturf proxy for the religious right, fanatical tax protesters, and racists. Neither is the Occupy movement, which was suppressed by city police departments and appears to have no real future. And third parties face tremendous obstacles in the American political system. But if a true populist movement took hold in either major party, it would be a powerful electoral force. But the elites who control the two major parties should be expected to resist with all their might.

Bombshell: Plutocrats Brazenly Collude to Hurt State Economies and Screw Working People | Alternet

Bombshell: Plutocrats Brazenly Collude to Hurt State Economies and Screw Working People | Alternet

The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago has been leading the campaign (heavily promoted by the Chicago Tribune) to destroy the public employee pension systems in the state of Illinois. The state faces a huge funding deficit with these pensions, because for about 40 years the state legislature has consistently refused to fund their share of these pension funds, while the employees have of course paid their 8 or 9% of their gross pay with every single paycheck. Now it is a matter of increasing taxes to fund the pensions or cut the pensions. But cutting the pensions is espressly forbidden by the Illinois State Constitution ("ARTICLE XIII, SECTION 5. PENSION AND RETIREMENT RIGHTS
    Membership in any pension or retirement system of the
State, any unit of local government or school district, or
any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an
enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which
shall not be diminished or impaired."

Because of the immorality and illegality of screwing the state employees, drastic means are needed to get the state legislature to do it. Only by creating a crisis can this be done. How to create a crisis?  Let's go to the tape:
Audience member: “Maybe sometimes you gotta be irresponsible to be responsible. If a political solution really doesn’t produce a favorable outcome, maybe you really need a market solution. And a market solution, I don’t mean bankruptcy, I mean actually talking down the state rating even further so the state’s bonds essentially become below investment grade. And it drives up the borrowing cost to the state and all of us to a significant level enough that you really feel the public pressure…”
Ty Fahner (former IL Attorney General, now head of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club): “The Civic Committee, not me, but me and some of the people that make up the Civic Committee… did meet with and call – in one case in person – and a couple of calls to Moody’s and Fitch and Standard & Poors, and say, How in the hell can you guys do this?"
Fahner went on to take credit for downgrades to Illinois credit ratings, saying, "If you watch what happened in the last few years, it's been steadily down.”