Tag Archives: legislation

House Passes Stimulus Bill, Senate What Next?

We pulled this directly from a C.A.R newsletter:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the Economic Recovery Package, by a 244 to 188 vote. Amid all the negative economic news we’re hearing on a daily basis, this is good news, as the bill contains a number of issues critical to REALTORS® and the industry, including extending all 2008 Metropolitan Statistical Areas’ (MSAs’) Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA loan limits through the end of this year.

The extension prevents an MSA’s 2008 loan limit from being reduced in 2009 for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA. Language in the bill also specifies that if an MSA’s loan limit is set to change, it can increase, but is prohibited from declining.

The proposed legislation also will eliminate an existing payback requirement on the first-time home buyer tax credit for qualified buyers who purchase a home between Dec. 31, 2008, and July 1.

Congress included these provisions as a direct result of the grassroots efforts put forward by REALTORS®, and the advocacy efforts of both NAR and C.A.R. Congress elected not to include numerous housing provisions beyond those previously mentioned. It looks like Congress will begin to address other housing issues next week when the Financial Services Committee meets.

The legislation also contained a laundry list of appropriations for various affordable housing programs, neighborhood stabilization programs, and other housing and/or real estate-related issues, including:

Public Housing Capital Fund
Native American Housing Block Grant
Home Investment Partnership Program
Self-help & assisted homeownership
Elimination of lead paint in homes
Repairing leaking underground storage tanks
Low-income home energy assistance
Rural Housing Insurance Fund
In addition to tax credits for individuals and married couples, other provisions in the bill include funds for increasing access to high-speed and broadband Internet; highways and roads; railroads; alternative energy incentives; unemployment insurance; Medicaid insurance; health care technology upgrades; childcare; education; and low-income and affordable housing programs.

The Senate now is working on its version of the stimulus legislation, and is expected to vote on it next week. Congress would like to get a bill to the President’s desk by President’s Day, Feb. 16.

So what next? More importantly, what kind of impact will this have for San Francisco? Here’s your chance to go on record and compare the power of your crystal ball to that of other readers.

Obama Wants to Jump in on the Real Estate Crisis. Which Way should He Jump?

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You might have already read Alex Clark’s article on the Bush plan to help homeowners, named optimistically “Hope for Homeowners.” Commenters on that post were less optimistic. Seems a lot of lenders won’t touch the program, though that might be because the program itself is new and everyone is so gun-shy right now.

That leaves President-elect Obama (Hi, Obama, if you’re reading!) in a tough place. He wants to act immediately on this issue, but has multiple, and conflicting voices to listen to as he plans a methodology. I feel for the guy. We want someone to bail us out of a clusterf*** that is 8 years in the making, and we want him to do it yesterday.

Sunday’s Chron outlines the issues Obama will draw from in taking action:

“Unlike his opponent, Sen. John McCain, he did not urge the government to buy up bad home loans and reduce them to the homes’ new values, putting taxpayers on the hook for the difference. But some of Obama’s proposed $10 billion fund would help homeowners who are facing foreclosure ‘through no fault of their own’ by letting them refinance mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

What Obama accomplishes depends, in part, on what the Bush administration does about housing in its waning days.”

Well, that admin is credited with the Hope for Homeowners program, to which $300 billion dollars was allocated. Other moves under consideration:

  1. a proposal by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. similar to what it is doing to modify IndyMac mortgages. The FDIC plan would use $50 billion from the $700 billion bailout bill to modify mortgages.
  2. a mortgage-industry proposal to split losses on modified mortgages with the government. Treasury has not confirmed these reports.
  3. In recent weeks, some large lenders including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have announced their own mortgage-modification plans.
  4. Rick Harper, director of housing at the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco, says it’s becoming much easier for borrowers to get a mortgage modification.

In his address to the nation last Friday, Obama said: “It’s ‘absolutely critical that the Treasury work closely with the FDIC, HUD and other government agencies to use the substantial authority they already have to help families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes.”

To do that though is not going to be an easy task. That’s why I want to ask the experts out there what Obama, in case he’s reading (and if you are, Obama: Hi!) what he should do first. And then second. And third.

Some conflicting advice and ideas he’s already getting:

  • Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, says the most expedient thing Obama could do would be changing the law so Bankruptcy Court judges can modify mortgages on primary residences. These judges already can change the terms of other debts, including commercial loans and loans on second homes. On the opposite side of that argument: “Allowing judges to reduce mortgage balances on primary residences ‘will destabilize the market exactly at a time when we should provide stability,’ says Steve O’Connor, senior vice president with the Mortgage Bankers Association. “
  •  a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures (but what would come after that?)
  •  a $10 billion foreclosure-prevention fund
  •  a mortgage tax credit of up to $800 a year for homeowners who don’t itemize  their deductions, but some experts say “the tax credit would do little to stimulate housing because it would mainly benefit people who have owned homes for many years”

It’s all enough to make a President run off to Camp David–only we need this President on the job. How can he maybe do it well?

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Photo: Javno.com

In the Spirit of Halloween and Election Season, Scary Technology that “Outs” Your Neighbors

Prop 8 is not one that encourages sedate emotion. People are either vehemently for it, or they are just as vehemently against it. The debate between the two camps, heated as it is, often erupts into full out fighting, which we all know from our rhetoric classes is actually the opposite effect civilized, fair debate is supposed to have. The fights themselves can even get violent, as seen in this article about a Bakersfield man who attacked, punched, and kicked a No on 8 proponent (article and disturbing video here). 
 
That’s why I wonder whether the Chronicle’s new technology that allows you to see who in your area has contributed to “yes” or “no” on 8 is a good idea. Here you can type in a city, a zip, or even a name to see who has contributed to which side, as well as the dollar amount contributed. I do see the logic of printing the names of corporations who donate to or against the proposition, as you can retaliate by ceasing to spend your money with those companies whose views differ from your own. But how do you retaliate against an individual person? Punching and kicking? And though candid information about campaign contributions helps us understand the actions of our elected leaders, in this case the revealed data seem akin to publicizing people’s ballots after they’ve voted, when by law our votes are supposed to be secret. 
 
Essentially: I’m happy enough to say I’m voting no on 8; but I’d like the freedom to keep that to myself if some frothing-at-the-mouth Bakersfield psycho is waving a blood spattered YES ON 8 sign in front of my face.

A Worse Punishment for Sisyphus: Policing Noise in a Metropolis

Hello out there, theFrontStep Readers! You may (or just as likely, may not) know my name from my blogs for Redfin. I’ve kindly been invited to write also for theFrontSteps, so here I am, on the steps, with my first blog.

So here’s the setting: last night, 2:00am, sultry night, people walking up from the bars, falling down, giggling. That noise doesn’t bother me much. I’d have to be a hypocrite if I tried to pretend I’ve never, after closing time, made too much noise under someone’s window as I staggered home. But another noise does bother me: some a-hole flooring his car and slamming on the breaks as he reaches the stop sign in front of my house. Then, from fully stationary, he floods the car again, tyring to go from zero to sixty instantaneously. Then he screeches off, circles the block, and comes back to do it again.

But we all live in a city. We can’t really expect quiet, can we? We can hope for it, and maybe in some areas, get it most of the time. But in the end, we’re sharing with a lot of people, some of them loud and possibly crazy. That’s why this new law aiming to curb SF noise interests me. Continue reading A Worse Punishment for Sisyphus: Policing Noise in a Metropolis

Texting + Driving = NO

The land of the free keeps getting a bit less free doesn’t it?

Beginning January 1, 2009, a person driving a motor vehicle is prohibited from writing, sending, or reading a text message, instant message, or e-mail from an electronic wireless communication device. However, a person may read, select, or enter a name or phone number in a wireless device to make or receive a phone call. A violation of this law is an infraction punishable by a base fine of $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. Senate Bill 1613.

Awesome! More freedom! (This is one of those cases where an I.S. is necessary, which stands for Insert Sarcasm.)

Is it New Hampshire where one can “Live Free or Die”? I’m moving there.