By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

In case you’ve been out of touch lately, we’re experiencing a federal government shutdown.

The U.S. government doesn’t shut down too often. But when it does, there is a ripple effect. Some areas feel the effects more than others. We shouldn’t feel it too much in the title business unless it continues. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely it is we will feel a negative impact on DFW real estate market.

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HUD

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Being poor is no picnic in a thousand little ways. People give the poor grief for using food stamps to buy junk food and sugary drinks. And now, a study using data from the New York State Department of Health hints at a partial reason: Food manufacturers know food stamps are issued monthly and typically spent within a week. So poorer shoppers are targeted with soda sales in the first week of the month.

In neighborhoods with few food stamp users, there’s no correlation of soda sales and date, but in poor neighborhoods, it’s 4.35 times more likely there will be a soda sale in the week food stamps are issued.  Interestingly, low-calorie soda ads didn’t increase, just the sugary ones. Pretty sleazy to target the poor (grocery stores and drinks makers all denied it) and then listen to politicians legislate what they buy.

But we’re on CandysDirt.com to talk about housing and real estate where the poor are targeted with similar empathy. (more…)

One would think that growing up in a poor and broken home would inform your worldview towards empathy later in life. But no, apparently it’s just like parents’ age-old freak-out on sex education that forgets their own terrible first experiences on the topic. It’s almost like hazing theory: “If I had to go through it, so should you.”

Last week, former poor kid and current Housing and Urban Development director Ben Carson outlined how his office wanted to make poverty even more like a prison sentence. Currently there are 4.7 million families utilizing federal housing assistance (a ghastly number). More than half of those are senior citizens and the disabled. Think about that. If at 65 years old you need federal money for housing, your first 65 years haven’t been peachy. You’ve likely been miserably poor your whole life.

New recommendations from Carson’s HUD would triple the minimum rent they’d have to pay to be in the program that’s currently set at $50 per month. Think about that. Current federal guidelines require 30 percent of adjusted income come from the tenant. If your income is so low that $50 per month is less than 30 percent of your monthly income, “poor” is an aspirational state.

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One of two new model homes at The Crossings in Wilmer, Texas

One of two new model homes at The Crossings in Wilmer, Texas (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about affordable and low-income housing in Dallas, and we are happy to share that’s it’s still a possible dream to own a new home in Dallas County for under $100,000.  You just have to be open to a housing resource that has been around for years, but is having a resurgence as a viable form of affordable homeownership. As a Lifestylist®, I’ve been visiting some of these communities to do some mythbusting about how the “American Dream” can still be affordable. (more…)

mortgage

On Friday afternoon, just hours after swearing in, President Donald Trump suspended a Federal Housing Authority (FHA) mortgage premium rate cut issued by former President Barack Obama earlier in the month. The quarter-point cut would have taken effect on January 27.

An FHA loan, with its low down payment and less stringent credit score requirements, offers first-time and low-income homebuyers the opportunity to get a foot in the proverbial door. Aimed at countering rising interest rates following the November elections, the Obama administration’s mortgage insurance premium (MIP) cut would have made it possible for a greater number of buyers to be eligible for credit based on their debt-to-income ratios. For even more buyers, it may have made a monthly mortgage payment more affordable.

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After someone sent me a story about the mindset behind a certain email circulating regarding Highland Park ISD’s bond election, you know what stuck out to me?

Besides the fact that it felt like a prop from recent HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which unspooled the whole mess Yonkers, N.Y., found itself in regarding affordable housing, the other thing was this: There was absolutely no attempt to show any work regarding assertions. No aspersions cast on the writer of the story — he’s just quoting a guy. My beef is with the lack of solid bonafides behind the claims.  I used to have this editor that got all kinds of twitchy and irritable when (even in an op-ed) you didn’t at least attempt to give some sourcing for your assertions. “SHOW YOUR WORK,” he’d bellow.

So instead of picking apart the arguments in that email (and the quotes in that story) based on my ideological differences with the claims, I decided to approach things with an open mind and actually look at real studies done on affordable housing and crime. I mean, what if the guy was right? Or, what if he was quite wrong? Don’t you think it deserves a little look-see, at least, to see what we can find from reputable sources?

The area highlighted in red roughly shows where Highland Park ISD serves Dallas addresses.

The area highlighted in red roughly shows where Highland Park ISD serves Dallas addresses.

First off, let’s unpack where this particular brand of NIMBY likely came from. If I had to guess, it probably dates as far back as the 1930s, when the presence of low-income families meant the difference between no ability to get a home loan (areas that had predominantly black families and low-income families were redlined), or even as much of a difference as 80 percent financed/20 percent down (for an area with no low-income families and solely white) or 15 percent financed and 85 percent down (in an area where there was a racial mix and a lot of low-income families). The appearance of low-income or non-white ethnicities in your neighborhood during this time was a harbinger of plummeting property values and hardship.

But what about now? Is that true?

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I bet big builders like Lennar Corp., Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton, and Pulte Homes are breathing a collective sigh of relief. According to a report from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, housing starts are up — way up, as a matter of fact — from November 2011.

According to the report, privately owned housing starts are up 21.6 percent year-over-year for November 2012. Housing completions for November are up 16.1 percent over last year, too.

Pair that with a very optimistic column from Dallas Morning News business writer Will Deener. Housing stocks for some of the nation’s largest builders have grown by leaps and bounds over 2012.

“Shares of D.R. Horton, Toll Brothers Inc., Lennar Corp. and other housing stocks are now up more than 50 percent since the year began,” Deener writes in his Dec. 16 column. “These stocks rallied in anticipation of better times in the sector, and that time has apparently arrived. By almost every measure, the housing sector is finally returning to the land of the living.”

We’re hearing that sales of pre-owned homes in many areas of Dallas are up, and that several enclaves are actually seeing home sell for over list price!

So what do you think, is it finally time to tip a glass and celebrate a recovering housing market?