November 27, 2014
In the morning as the storm begins to blow away
the clear sky appears for a moment and it seems to me
that there has been something simpler than I could ever
simpler than I could have begun to find words for
not patient not even waiting no more hidden
than the air itself that became part of me for a while
with every breath and remained with me unnoticed
something that was here unnamed unknown in the days
and the nights not separate from them
not separate from them as they came and were gone
it must have been here neither early nor late then
by what name can I address it now holding out my thanks
by W.S. Merwin from The Pupil
November 26, 2014
The New York City Council released a report, Engines of Opportunity: Reinvigorating New York City’s Manufacturing Zones for the 21st Century. I am always worried that discussions of increasing manufacturing jobs, especially in a city as expensive as New York, are informed by a romantic vision of a past that cannot be recaptured. This report seems to be aware of that trap. It focuses on marginal improvements that can be made to support the kind of manufacturing and creative economy jobs that can survive the brutal competition for space and skilled employees that New York companies have to deal with.
The report makes three land use policy recommendations:
November 25, 2014
The Urban Institute has posted its November Housing Finance At A Glance. This is a really valuable resource. The introduction provides a nice overview of recent developments in the area:
November 24, 2014
MaintStreet quoted me in How to Avoid War Between Homeowner Associations and Residents. It reads in part,
When Robert Stern moved into the Sedgefield retirement community in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. four years ago, all he could see was four golf courses, a pool and club house on multiple wooded acres.
“Our home is on the 14th hole of Lion’s Paw golf course where there is beautiful water lining the green,” Stern told MainStreet. “It is common to see egrets, herons, geese, turtles and other wildlife coming in and out of the area.”
But lurking under the beautiful scenery was the Homeowners Association, which Stern discovered when he left for six months to live in his Nevada retirement home. Stern is among the 63 million Americans living in communities across the country under the jurisdiction of an HOA, according to the Community Association Institute.
“Our property was being neglected and is currently a mess and the dysfunctional Sedgefield Committee won’t take responsibility for not having performed contractual compliance inspections,” said Stern.
“An HOA is a double edged sword,” said David Reiss, professor of real estate with the Brooklyn Law School. “HOAs allow residents to have a lot of sway over their environments but they also make decisions that individual residents don’t like. If you don’t agree with the decision, whether it be over a big or small issue, it can grate no matter what the decision is.”
How to Resolve Disputes
Resolving a dispute with an HOA can involve litigation or joining the club.
“When it comes to the tyranny of the board, we have met the enemy and it is us,” Reiss told MainStreet. “A very effective technique to contest a decision with which you disagree is to run for the board.”
Under most HOAs, boards are elected by residents.
“Those who are willing to do the work end up calling the shots,” Reiss said.
November 20, 2014
GlobeSt.com quoted me in Waiting to Say Goodbye to the GSEs. It reads in part,
US HUD Secretary Julian Castro added another “to do” item to the lame duck Congress’ list of things they should get done before they adjourn on Dec. 11: pass the bipartisan Johnson-Crapo Senate bill introduced earlier this year that would wind down the GSEs.
“This could be, I believe, a good victory in the lame duck session or next term of Congress for housing finance reform,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television earlier this week. The crux of the plan – doing away with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, creating a backstop for these loans and removing tax payer risk – are all supported by the Obama Administration, he said.
“Housing finance reform will continue to be a priority for the Obama Administration,” Castro said.
The multifamily finance industry has been expecting GSE reform for years now; certainly there have been calls for their dismantlement when they were placed in conservatorship in 2008 during the depth of the financial crisis. Many in the industry, in fact, would welcome their sunset, in the expectation that the private sector could fully and more efficiently and more cheaply provide the same level of funding.
That is not the unanimous sentiment though. In fact, opinions about the subject in commercial real estate range, widely, across the board from “it is about time” to “the politics are too strident for it to happen” to “maybe it will happen but it is difficult to believe the GSEs could entirely be replaced by the private sector.”
* * *
David Reiss, a professor of Law and Research Director, Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE) at Brooklyn Law School, has been calling for the privatization of Fannie and Freddie for some time and is dismissive of the “Chicken Little claims” that the sector will collapse if the government reduces its footprint in multifamily and single-family housing finance.
“With a carefully planned transition, it is eminently reasonable to believe that we can put private capital in a first loss position for multifamily housing so long as the government retains a role in subsidizing affordable housing and acting as a lender of last resort when necessary,” he tells GlobeSt.com.
November 19, 2014
Bloomberg interviewed me for Lawsky Leaving After $3 Billion in Fines Makes a Mark. The article reads in part,
When Ocwen Financial Corp. (OCN) shares soared on the news that regulator Benjamin Lawsky, who’s probing the company, will step down, Bill Miller shrugged.
The next head of New York’s Department of Financial Services will probably be as aggressive as Lawsky, continuing the uncertainty for Ocwen, said Miller, who runs the $2.2 billion Legg Mason Opportunity Trust. (LMOPX) Lawsky’s investigations of nonbank mortgage servicers such as Ocwen have caused their shares to plunge.
“Ocwen has been rallying on the view that with him gone that will lift the burden, but I would be surprised if the next person didn’t at least follow through in the way Lawsky was going to,” said Miller, whose fund, which invests in Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc., has gained an annual 38 percent since 2011.
In three years as New York’s financial watchdog, Lawsky extracted more than $3 billion in fines from global banks, called for the firing of executives and questioned whether the lightly regulated nonbank servicers are properly handling modifications and defaults. As the department’s first superintendent, Lawsky hired experienced lawyers from the New York Attorney General’s office, creating a strong enforcement culture that will continue after he’s gone, said Kathryn Judge, an associate professor focusing on financial institutions at Columbia University Law School.
“Similar to what we saw Eliot Spitzer doing as attorney general, being in New York allowed Lawsky to step in where federal regulators hadn’t,” Judge said. “By stepping into this role at a formative stage for the regulator, he created a footprint. That legacy will survive.”
* * *
The superintendent’s work has reflected favorably on the governor, said David Reiss, a professor who specializes in real estate and consumer protection at Brooklyn Law School. That will encourage Cuomo to select a successor who’s equally dynamic, Reiss said.
Cuomo will want to build on Lawsky’s record of protecting homeowners from improper foreclosures and holding mortgage servicers accountable, said Reiss.
Chief of staff Anthony Albanese, general counsel Daniel Alter, and capital markets division head Maria Filipakis are among the top people that Lawsky brought to the department. One of them may be in a position to replace him, according to a lawyer who has had extensive dealings with the superintendent. The lawyer asked not to be named because he’s not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The successor will have to focus more on regulation and finding answers to the issues the department uncovered with nonbank servicers and insurers, said Eric Dinallo, who served as New York’s superintendent of insurance from 2007 to 2009.
“Each superintendent or commissioner wants to put their unique stamp on the agency,” he said.