Non-profits Turn Foreclosures Back Into Homes

This is in the news now:

Some folks were ahead of the curve decades ago, the Historic Savannah Foundation, which started out with a similar concept in restoring historic (instead of foreclosures) homes, back in 1959. I wrote about this program before, but it is worth mentioning again:

That program is awesome, including the plaques people can purchase for their homes: Continue reading Non-profits Turn Foreclosures Back Into Homes

Infrastructure Report Card

The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE), an organization committed to improving the nation’s infrastructure, has released its 2009 report card on the condition of America’s infrastructure. It graded 15 areas from Aviation to Wastewater for a national GPA of D, and estimates it will take $2.2 trillion over the next five years to bring the nation up to par.

Illinois’ report card is here.

ASCE is promoting a five-point solution to deteriorating infrastructure, beginning with a national vision. Continue reading Infrastructure Report Card

Bell to Refund Property Taxes It Overcharged

The State of California is forcing the city government of Bell, a non-prosperous suburb of Los Angeles whose administrators were among the most highly paid in the country, to refund $3 million in property taxes the municipality overcharged. About 4,000 property owners will be reimbursed under the plan.

Bell is not the only California city with such problems, only the latest. It joins its neighbors Vernon, Maywood and at least four other communities in the region that have come under investigation by county and state authorities. Continue reading Bell to Refund Property Taxes It Overcharged

Time to Look at Bell

Home to 37,000 people, Bell, California is one of the least prosperous suburbs of Los Angeles at a per capita income of about $24,000, yet its residents pay the second-highest property tax rate in Los Angeles County — even higher than that of Beverly Hills.

The taxes have gone to pay some of the highest public sector compensation in the nation, including $787,000 to its city manager and up to $100,000 each for city council members. In comparison, the salary of the CEO of Los Angeles County is $338,000. Bell officials have boasted of balanced budgets but records show compensation for its management employees has continued to rise even in the face of layoffs and other cuts to public safety and community services programs. Continue reading Time to Look at Bell

Krugman Says the “D” Word

[Update 3:30 p.m.: “Downtowner” at the Progressive Fox brings it home to Illinois.]

From the NYT‘s Paul Krugman: “The Third Depression”. Krugman’s lately been comparing the US situation with Japan’s “lost decade.”

Neither the Long Depression of the 19th century nor the Great Depression of the 20th was an era of nonstop decline — on the contrary, both included periods when the economy grew. But these episodes of improvement were never enough to undo the damage from the initial slump, and were followed by relapses.

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. Continue reading Krugman Says the “D” Word

1st Quarter Foreclosure Numbers

IRVINE, Calif. – April 15, 2010 — RealtyTrac® (, the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report™ for Q1 2010, which shows that foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 932,234 properties in the first quarter, a 7 percent increase from the previous quarter and a 16 percent increase from the first quarter of 2009. One in every 138 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during the quarter. Continue reading 1st Quarter Foreclosure Numbers

Next Crisis: Commercial Real Estate

Hat tip to Steve Berg, who talked about this weeks ago:

By the end of 2010, about half of all commercial real estate mortgages will be underwater, said Elizabeth Warren, chairperson of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, in a wide-ranging interview on Monday.

“They are [mostly] concentrated in the mid-sized banks,” Warren told CNBC. “We now have 2,988 banks—mostly midsized, that have these dangerous concentrations in commercial real estate lending.”

As a result, the economy will face another “very serious problem” that will have to be resolved over the next three years, she said, adding that things are unlikely to return to normalcy in 2010.

Have our local governments taken off the rose-colored glasses yet? Are we ready for the worst-case scenario? I fear not.