It starts with a vanguard class of young creative types reclaiming zones of social and economic dereliction, setting up what Ehrenhalt sardonically describes as “projects through which a small coterie of local artists seek to display their sheer edginess to one another”. The hipster pioneers are followed by young couples with bourgeois-bohemian sensibilities – what the French call “bobo” – who breed and fill the pavements with space-age prams. I was that cliché once, wheeling my daughters around Hackney in the gentrificational transition between murder rates falling and Foxtons arriving on the high street. Then come the really wealthy types who like urban edge fully blunted by waves of demographic change. Before you know it a draughty three-bedroom Victorian terraced house in what was once a slum costs more than £1m. [more inside]
For years, billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett has controlled a mobile-home empire that promises low-income borrowers affordable houses. Last week, The Seattle Times released an investigative piece that alleges Berkshire-Hathaway controlled Clayton Homes traps homeowners in high-interest loans and rapidly depreciating homes. Berkshire-Hathaway has responded, and The Seattle Times has released a counter-response.
The idea is simple: Tens of thousands — possibly hundreds of thousands — of vacant, bank-owned homes are a large part of what is making the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago into semi-forsaken tracts ridden with crime and blight. So why not use them to house the homeless? [more inside]
First the Bubble. Then the Short. Now the Long.
Some neighborhoods in Oakland are as devastated as any of the worst hit regions across America — Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix. Now the morphing of the housing bust and foreclosure epidemic into a lucrative multi-billion dollar opportunity for major investors is also uncannily centered upon Oakland and the greater Bay Area, where companies flush with hedge fund cash are buying up homes by the thousands. The entire sweep of the US housing bubble, financial crisis, and foreclosure wave can therefore be told by looking at persons and companies with intimate links to Oakland and the Bay Area. What follows is one account.
His bank was threatening forclosure on his $350,000 home, so one Iowa man takes the next logical step: he bulldozes it to a pile of rubble. [embedded local news video]
The Moral Dimensions of Ditching a Mortgage: University of Arizona law professor Brent T. White has written a provocative new paper (pdf) that urges homeowners with "underwater" mortgages" to walk away by strategically defaulting on their mortgage debts. [more inside]
Raquel Rolnik is the U.N.'s new Special Rappoteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. So far, she has investigated forced evictions in Phnom Penh and housing destroyed by rising sea levels in the Maldives. This week, she's investigating whether limited access to affordable housing is a human rights violation in the U.S. [more inside]
Peter Wallison, an economist who arguably predicted the housing crash and bailout in 1999 explains his current views on the crash: "Other players...played a part" but "...government policy over many years--particularly the use of the Community Reinvestment Act and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to distort the housing credit system-- underlies the current crisis."
Will States Respond to the Foreclosure Crisis? Their headline is that 1 in 33 homeowners are projected to face foreclosure in the next two years. But I found the stat that neighboring homes will lose $356 billion in value a rather staggering number to swallow for those not facing the threat of foreclosure.