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Homeless housing growth

(AP) -- A huge homeless encampment has mushroomed in a grassy field near downtown San Jose.

The San Jose Mercury News said housing director Leslye Corsiglia told the City Council in a memo on Wednesday that the encampment is targeted for cleanup the first week of March.

Most of the city's estimated 60 encampments are along waterways where they are hidden from view.

But the new 70-tent homeless village has drawn complaints because it is highly visible and it has grown quickly.

Tahoe goldfish

(AP) -- Researchers are concerned about a fish that's turning into a new threat to the ecology of Lake Tahoe.

Biologists with the University of Nevada, Reno say they're finding a growing number of giant goldfish in the lake.

While officials have been working for years in trying to keep the lake's water crystal clear, researcher Sudeep Chandra told KCRA-TV the discovery of the goldfish is particularly worrisome because goldfish eat a lot and excrete “lots of nutrients,” which stimulate algae growth.

The goldfish, some of which have grown to 18 inches, could also eat smaller fish, creating new competition for native trout.

It's not clear how the goldfish got into Lake Tahoe, but it's believed to be from people dumping aquariums into the lake.

Casino loan refused

(Bloomberg) -- Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other lenders justifiably refused additional loans to an “ambitious” casino development by Fontainebleau Las Vegas LLC, as the company had breached a credit agreement governing the revolving loans, a U.S. appeals court said.

The casino company sued the lenders for $3 billion in 2009, saying they refused to provide $800 million in funding for the development.

Fontainebleau hadn't abided by conditions it undertook to fulfill before the banks would increase their revolving loans from $150 million, the appeal judges ruled Wednesday.

Fontainebleau, whose corporate parent owns a hotel on 22 acres of Miami Beach, Fla., needed the money to complete a $2.4 billion casino-hotel being built in Las Vegas.

The company and affiliates filed bankruptcy in Miami in 2009, and billionaire investor Carl Icahn bought the unfinished Las Vegas casino resort for about $150 million in 2010.

Accelerating aid

(Bloomberg) -- Banks that agreed to help troubled borrowers as part of a $25 billion settlement over mishandled foreclosures are accelerating their efforts to keep people in their homes.

Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and three other banks in last year's agreement spent $42.3 billion in borrower aid such as principal reductions, refinancings and home-equity loan forgiveness through the end of last year, compared with $21.9 billion through the third quarter, according to figures Thursday from the settlement’s independent monitor, Joseph Smith.

Forgiveness of primary mortgage rose to $6 billion from $2.6 billion at the end of the third quarter.

Banks are boosting principal reductions as they approach a Feb. 28 deadline marking the end of the settlement's first year after focusing for the first 10 months on so-called short sales that let homeowners avoid foreclosure by selling for less than they owe on their mortgages.

By the end of 2012, banks had spent $19.5 billion in short sales, where owners sell for less than they owe, up from $13.1 billion in September.

NY farms unchanged

(AP) -- Federal officials say the number of farms in New York remained unchanged last year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the state had about 36,000 farms last year with about 7 million acres in use.

Farms with sales of more than $500,000 grew by 100 to 1,900, those with sales between $250,000 and $499,999 remained at 1,300 and smaller farms with sales between $100,000 and $249,999 rose by 300 to 3,500.

There were 11,300 farms with sales under $100,000, up from 10,800 in 2011.

The agency said there were about 2.2 million farms in the U.S., down 11,630 last year.

Football upgrade

(AP) -- The University of Colorado presented a $170 million proposal to upgrade the Buffaloes' football facilities to the board of regents at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

The university would rely on $50 million in private money to finance the multi-year initiative.

The project, unveiled by Bohn, Chancellor Phil DiStefano and new football coach Mike MacIntyre, includes a new academic center and expansion of the Dal Ward Center along with a new indoor practice facility and upgrades to Folsom Field.

Collecting rent

(AP) -- An Ohio landlord is accused of whipping a tenant with a belt on his bare buttocks for falling behind on his rent.

Ron Kronenberger, 53, was charged with assault for the Jan. 22 encounter in his office, police in the village of Waynesville said. He was due in court Thursday in Warren County.

Police said the tenant, 29, was late with a $2,800 rent payment.

“If you're going to act like a child, I'm going to treat you like one,” Kronenberger was quoted in the police report as telling the tenant before striking him four times with a belt. The report said the belt left “little marks.”

Waynesville Police Chief Gary Copeland talked to the accuser, who reportedly told him he submitted to the whipping because “he was scared and just wanted to get it over with,” according to the police report.

The Dayton Daily News reported that Kronenberger is a former chamber of commerce president who was Waynesville's “Citizen of the Year” for 2006.

Musical house sale

(AP) -- For about $350,000, someone can buy a slice of music history.

The Asbury Park Press reported the two-bedroom cottage in Long Branch, N.J., where Bruce Springsteen wrote the classic rock anthem “Born To Run” is for sale.

Real estate agent Susan McLaughlin said tourists stop by the house “all the time.”

The five-room residence has three owners. If a buyer thinks the asking price is too steep, there's another option: McLaughlin tells the newspaper that two of the owners would consider keeping their shares and selling only a one-third stake. A price for that hasn't been set.

Springsteen rented the cottage in 1974 and '75 when he wrote the music for his seminal “Born To Run” album, which features the title song, plus “Jungleland” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.”

Active service interest

(AP) -- An Army sergeant based in South Carolina has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a mortgage company of not obeying a law that requires limits on interest rates for active-duty members of the military.

Raymond Wray is a staff sergeant based at Fort Jackson in Columbia, according to a lawsuit filed late last year in federal court in South Carolina.

In his initial filing, Wray said he bought a house in North Carolina in 1997, taking out a $68,000 mortgage at a 12.99 percent interest rate.

When Wray enlisted in the U.S. Army two years later, he said he asked CitiMortgage, which is based in O'Fallon, Mo., and had bought his loan, to lower his rate because of his military service.

But Wray said CitiMortgage never fully honored his request, something he said violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which requires mortgages for military members to be capped at 6 percent while they're on active duty and for one additional year thereafter.

Intended to give military members some relief from financial pressures while serving on active duty, the federal law covers mortgages incurred even before someone joins the military, according to attorneys for Wray.

Instead of lowering his rate, Wray said CitiMortgage used what it called a subsidy program, under which the company agreed to make up the difference between Wray's rate of 12.99 and the 6 percent rate.

But Wray said that formula actually meant that his mortgage still bore interest at the 12.99 rate and also meant that he was actually paying less principal toward his home -- and therefore gaining less equity in it.

CitiMortgage wants a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, saying in court documents filed this week that the company didn't violate the law because Wray never actually paid interest of more than 6 percent after CitiMortgage adjusted his loan.

Kansas Realtors lobby

(AP) -- The Kansas Association of Realtors was the top spender among groups or companies lobbying state officials last year.

A report released this month by the state Governmental Ethics Commission shows that the real estate group reported spending $152,000 on lobbying last year.

That's more than twice as much as the $72,000 spent by the No. 2 group, Uncork Kansas.

It seeks to allow groceries and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer, wine and liquor.

The real estate agents successfully lobbied last year to preserve two popular state income tax deductions for homeowners as Kansas overhauled its income tax code.

The association spent $89,000 on advertising and $51,000 on communications with members to get them to pressure lawmakers.

Builder's ratings lowered

(Bloomberg) -- Orleans Homebuilders Inc., which successfully exited bankruptcy protection just over two years ago, had the ratings on its $130 million senior secured term loan and $30 million senior secured revolving loan lowered one grade to Caa1 by Moody's Investors Service Inc. (NYSE: MCO). The rating outlook remains stable.

“The one-notch downgrades of Orleans' term loan and revolver are not credit events," the ratings firm said Wednesday. "They instead reflect the reduced amount of trade payable claims providing support for the senior secured bank debt as compared to when the company emerged from bankruptcy.”

The 95-year-old Bensalem, Pa.-based homebuilder won court approval of its restructuring plan in December 2010 that cut its debt by more than half.

Solar firm liquidation

(Bloomberg) -- Solar Nation Inc., which designs, manufactures and installs photovoltaic solar-panels, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy to liquidate its assets without citing a reason.

The company, based in Portland, Ore., listed debt of about $11 million and assets of about $425,000 in Chapter 7 documents filed Feb. 19 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in its hometown.

Under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, a trustee is automatically appointed to take control of the company, dismantle it and distribute the proceeds for the benefit of creditors.

The vast majority of its listed debt, more than $9 million, are intercompany payables, and many of its assets are ascribed an “unknown” value.

Solar Nation makes and provides maintenance for “solar-electric systems ranging from large commercial rooftop and carport arrays serving individual schools and businesses, to ground-mount arrays deployed over hundreds of acres, serving major metropolitan areas,” according to the company's website.

The case is In re Solar Nation Inc., 13-30834, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Oregon (Portland).

Iceland bank bailout

(Bloomberg) -- Iceland biggest mortgage bank said the government would bail out the lender before it's unable to honor its debts.

“There's no risk of a default,” Sigurdur Jon Bjornsson, chief financial officer of the Reykjavik-based Housing Financing Fund (HFF), said Wednesday.

His comments were echoed by Finance Minister Katrin Juliusdottir Thursday, who said the government is prepared to cover the struggling fund, which Wednesday was downgraded by Moody's Investor Service to junk.

Moody's cited a capital shortfall and growing loan losses. The cut to Ba1 from Baa3 was also based on HFF's “full reliance on market funding,” Moody’s said.

Iceland said in November it's ready to inject 13 billion kronur ($100 million) into state-backed HFF to keep the lender afloat.

Yet even taking that support into account, the bank's capital ratio was about 3 percent of its risk-weighted assets at the end of last year, compared with a 5 percent regulatory minimum, Moody’s said. HFF had $4 billion outstanding in bonds at the end of January.

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