April 17, 2015

Friday’s Government Reports

By Serenna McCloud

There is a dearth of reports to report today, I have decided to post a beautiful poem in honor of Spring and Earth Day by Emily Dickinson:

A Light Exists In Spring

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

April 17, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

April 16, 2015

Reiss on Homes as Investments

By David Reiss

US News and World Report quoted me in Is Your Home a Sound Investment? It reads in part,

Whether it’s beautiful new construction or a rehabbed fixer-upper, the place we call home demands time, attention and upkeep over the years. All this can enhance its value, and to be sure, Rich Arzaga inhabits a fabulous residence in San Ramon, California. The founder and CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management estimates that its value approaches $1.9 million. The 5,400 square-foot abode boasts a swimming pool and a built-in barbecue, and has undergone more than a half-million dollars in improvements since he purchased it in 2005.

He considers the money well-spent: But does his home a double as a sound financial investment? As much as Arzaga loves his lodgings, he’d also argue that homeownership doesn’t translate into a smart addition to his portfolio – or anyone else’s, for that matter.

“We have seen many scenarios where a family would be much better off today, and in the future, renting,” Arzaga says. “Most people who insist that owning is a great investment are purely emotional on the matter and have not done any serious overall calculation. They are blinded by a feeling.”

Arzaga says he’s got the statistical analyses to back up his assertions. Yet expert opinion varies greatly as to whether a home represents a great investment. No single answer reflects a one-size-fits-all scenario any more than a cute brick bungalow resembles a sprawling suburban mansion.

*     *     *

Still, others pit themselves on both sides of the debate over the value of homeownership from an investment angle. “My view is that a home is not an investment, but it can certainly be a profitable noninvestment,” says David Reiss, a professor of law and research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.

Reiss maintains that the notion of “value” should revolve around financially intangible factors, although certainly, those could increase a home’s value over time. “Are there good schools and playgrounds for your kids? Is it near your job and your social network? If the answer is no, that’s a good reason to pass on a house that seems like a good deal,” he says.

April 16, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursday’s Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

  • Harvard’s Joint Center for Houses Studies released its Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) which predicts a deceleration in remodeling activity due to sluggish home sales, the LIRA also projects annual spending for home improvements will increase a more modest 2.9% in 2015.
  • National Association of Realtors’ testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Hearing titled Regulatory Burdens to Obtaining Mortgage Credit, argues that unnecessary burdens prevent qualified buyers from obtaining mortgages in today’s market.

April 16, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

April 15, 2015

Reiss on FHA Mortgages for First Timers

By David Reiss

MainStreet quoted me in FHA Loans Can Be A Good Option for First-Time Homebuyers. It opens,

FHA loans can be an attractive option for consumers purchasing their first home, because they require much smaller down payments.

First-time homebuyers often consider these Federal Housing Administration loans, because they do not require a large down payment or high FICO scores unlike traditional 30-year fixed mortgages. Given that young households tend not to have the savings for a substantial down payment, they can be an attractive option, David Reiss, a law professor at Brooklyn Law School.

Because FHA loans are mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration, this guarantee reduces the risk of “loss of principal for lenders, which is advantageous for borrowers,” said Joseph Cahoon, director of the Folsom Institute for Real Estate at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business School in Dallas.

This results in some consumers being able to put down as little as 3.5% for a down payment towards the purchase of a new home. For many first-time Millennial homebuyers, the prospect of saving 20% for a standard down payment has been challenging during the past several years because of a combination of low growth in wages and high student loan debt.

“For those borrowers with good credit, FHA insured loans offer a good pathway to home ownership, he said.

*     *     *

“Homebuyers should compare all of their options before going with an FHA mortgage,” Reiss said.

April 15, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

April 15, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

April 14, 2015

Reiss at TechSalon on Tenant Rights

By David Reiss

I will be the lead discussant at a Technology Salon Brooklyn event on Thursday morning: How Are ICTs and Social Media Supporting Tenant Rights? The invitation reads,

Gentrification is top of mind of many Brooklynites, as they are pushed out of their communities by large-scale economic development and wealthier groups moving in. One effect of the gentrification process is often the shuttering of local businesses and skyrocketing rents for residents as landlords make way for those who can pay more.

The New York City Office of the Comptroller reported in April 2014 that median rents in the city had risen by 75% since 2001, compared to 44% in the rest of the US, while at the same time, real incomes declined overall for New Yorkers. At the same time, the numbers of rent-regulated properties has decreased. The harshest consequences of rising rents and lowering incomes are felt by the poor and working classes (those earning less than $40,000 a year).

This situation is contributing to an increase in homelessness, with the city’s shelters receiving an all time high number of people seeking support and services. The negative impacts of gentrification also tend to differentially impact on communities of color. Tenants do have rights — however, enforcing those rights can take years when landlords have deep pockets. In 2003, a tenant advocacy group found that in cases initiated by tenants, only 2% resulted in fines for landlords.

Residents of gentrifying areas have not been silent about the impact of gentrification. Numerous community groups have formed and are fighting to keep communities intact, cohesive and affordable for residents. Social media and better data and data visualization can help to track and create evidence bases that can support residents, or to connect them to support services and legal aid.

Please RSVP now to join us at the Brooklyn Community Foundation for a lively roundtable conversation on tenant rights and ICTs. We’ll hear from community organizations, technology developers, legal advocates and others with an interest in technology and social activism around tenant rights, including such questions as:

  • How are community organizations successfully using ICTs and social media to support tenant rights?
  • What is working well, and what are some of the lessons learned about using ICTs and social media for outreach?
  • What are some new ways that organizations could use ICTs to support their work?
  • What support do community organizations need to do this work?

Please RSVP now to join Technology Salon Brooklyn for a lively discussion! Be sure to arrive early to get a good seat, hot coffee, and morning snacks before we start.

ICTs, Social Media and Tenant Rights
Thursday, April 16, 2015, 9-11am
Brooklyn Community Foundation
1000 Dean Street, Suite 307
Brooklyn, NY 11238
RSVP is Required to Attend

The Foundation is a short walk from the A, C, S 2, 3, 4 or 5 trains (Franklin Av stop) (map).

April 14, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Tuesday’s Regulatory & Legislative Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

  • Congress is back from recess and its schedule puts many bills (see March 31st Tuesday’s Round-up)  impacting financial institutions, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Home Loan Bank System.

April 14, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments