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Southern Nevada officials coming down on Airbnb, HomeAway

Southern Nevada officials coming down on Airbnb, HomeAway

LAS VEGAS/May 27, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News)— Code officers in southern Nevada plan to crackdown on illegal short-term home rentals for Memorial Day weekend.

Officials are expecting thousands of tourists to come to Las Vegas for the holiday, some of which they expect will be staying in homes listed on services such as Airbnb and HomeAway. Home rentals for periods less than 30 days are illegal in unincorporated Clark County.

Homeowners caught in violations can be fined $1,000 a day.

Reports say the action in Clark County is meant to keep neighborhoods quiet. A news release from the County states that services create more congestion, traffic, trash and noise in residential neighborhoods.

A Clark County spokesman says code officers will be checking on homes where complaints have been filed.

$95.6M awarded to Philadelphia building collapse survivor

$95.6M awarded to Philadelphia building collapse survivor

PHILADELPHIA/May 27, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News)— An arbitrator has awarded $95.6 million to a Ukrainian immigrant who was seriously injured in a 2013 Philadelphia building collapse.

Mariya Plekan’s attorney, Andrew Stern, announced the division of the $227 million settlement on Thursday. Lawyers for 19 people killed or injured in the collapse reached the settlement with several defendants in February after a 17-week trial. Plekan was expected to receive the largest individual portion.

Six people were killed and 13 injured when a towering brick wall left unbraced during a demolition project crushed an adjacent Salvation Army store on June 5, 2013. One of the injured died a few weeks later. The jury had found the Salvation Army and the building owner, a New York real estate speculator, largely responsible.

Plekan, who was then 52 and a frequent shopper at the Salvation Army store, was buried beneath the rubble for 13 hours. Stern said she was rescued, but her injuries were so severe that she suffered a “guillotine amputation,” the removal of the lower half of her body at the hips.

Stern told the jury at trial earlier this year that Plekan had undergone 30 operations. While she had survived kidney failure and lung problems, she had lost her ability to speak because of throat damage from months on a respirator. He added that she would require 24-hour medical care for the rest of her life and estimated her future medical expenses at $50 million.

“We take comfort that Ms. Plekan finally can obtain the appropriate skilled medical care she needs for the rest of her life, and that she has received just compensation for the gruesome injuries she sustained from this devastating tragedy,” Stern said Thursday following the arbitrator’s announcement of the award.

Chicago firm will run $1 billion overhaul of Union Station

Chicago firm will run $1 billion overhaul of Union Station

CHICAGO/May 26, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Chicago’s historic Union Station will get a roughly $1 billion makeover that will include millions of square feet of office, retail and hotel space, according to details unveiled Thursday by Amtrak and the city.

The proposed commercial development will span about 3.1 million square feet, including a pair of 12-story residential towers, and is expected to take about six years to complete. On Thursday, officials announced Chicago-based Riverside Investment & Development Co. would oversee the renovation of the station and surrounding Amtrak-owned properties.

Riverside officials called it a “transformative” project for Chicago.

“Adapting such an iconic building and transportation hub that serves so many is a responsibility we take very seriously,” Riverside CEO John O’Donnell said in a statement.

Union Station was built in 1925 and is one of the nation’s busiest rail terminals with about 120,000 daily passengers. Amtrak and Metra commuter trains use the station, which is adjacent to a major bus depot.

Plans for the overhaul have been in the works for years, with Amtrak and city transportation officials choosing four finalists to oversee the massive project last year.

Private funds will be used for the overhaul, city officials said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the project will generate thousands of jobs and ensure a “more vibrant future” for the city.

The project is expected to create about 7,500 construction jobs, along with up to 8,000 permanent jobs. Amtrak officials said they will negotiate final terms of the development agreement by the end of the year.

Union Station has recently undergone other renovations, including overhauling a passenger lounge.

US home equity is back, so why aren’t more people borrowing?

US home equity is back, so why aren't more people borrowing?

WASHINGTON/May 25, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Alicia Johnson and her husband wanted to renovate their home last fall but ran into a roadblock: When they tried to refinance their mortgage and borrow against their equity, five banks said no.

Problem was, the Johnsons’ mortgage covered their home in Christiansburg, Virginia, and some adjacent land — a deal-breaker.

“They all pointed to the same thing: The rules have changed,” she said. The banks refused to lend against both the home and the land.

Their frustration reflects a major factor slowing a still-sluggish U.S. economy: The inability of many to tap their home equity.

Americans have long borrowed against the ownership stakes in their homes to buy cars, build decks and renovate houses. That borrowing helped accelerate consumer spending, the U.S. economy’s primary fuel — until the housing bust struck a decade ago and shrank home prices.

But prices have recovered, and housing equity now equals 58 percent of home values — the highest point since 2006. Yet borrowing against that equity has barely budged from post-recession lows, which helps explain why consumer spending remains weak eight years after the Great Recession ended.

On Friday, the government is expected to estimate that the economy grew at an annual rate below 1 percent in the January-March quarter, thanks in large part to anemic spending.

The main problem, according to consumer surveys and banking analysts, is that despite low interest rates, it’s become harder to borrow. The web of lending regulations that was tightened after the financial crisis has yet to be eased. Many households would like to borrow more through home equity credit lines or cash-outs from loan refinancings. But having been burned by defaults during the financial crisis, banks are demanding nearly pristine credit.

“It’s harder to do a cash-out refinancing or get a home equity line of credit than it used to be,” said Karen Dynan, who was a chief economist at the Treasury Department in the Obama administration. “That has dampened the housing wealth effect” — the tendency of households to spend more when home values rise.

Johnson, 54, had hoped to spend $30,000 on the renovation. It would have meant building a music studio and adding wheelchair ramps and other modifications for her husband, a disabled veteran. That project is now on hold.

Americans do carry slightly more overall debt than before the recession, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. But that’s mainly because of huge increases in student loans. By contrast, the kind of debt that fuels consumption — credit card borrowing as well as housing debt — remains well-below pre-recession peaks.

Research from the New York Fed suggests that if home-equity-related borrowing were to regain healthier levels — dating to the early 2000s, before the housing bubble — the economy could accelerate by three-quarters of a percentage point a year.

Stricter lending rules aren’t the only factor restraining borrowing. Younger and less affluent Americans are less likely than before the recession to own a home, for example, or to have much equity to borrow against if they do own. These are people who have historically been most inclined to borrow and spend.

Older, wealthier homeowners now own a larger share of America’s housing wealth. Yet at their age, they’re less likely to borrow for big purchases or projects.

Partly as a result, Americans have increased spending an average of just 2.3 percent a year since 2009, when the recession ended, just two-thirds of the historical norm. Because consumer spending drives about 70 percent of the economy, that weaker pace has hobbled growth.

The economy hasn’t grown 3 percent or more — its long-term norm — for a full year since 2005. Other factors are also slowing the economy, like retirements by the vast generation of baby boomers. But weak consumer spending is a significant drag.

“The previous behavior of using housing debt to finance other kinds of consumption seems to have completely disappeared,” William Dudley, president of the New York Fed, said in a speech earlier this year. “People are apparently leaving the wealth generated by rising home prices ‘locked up’ in their homes.”

Americans borrowed an average of $181 billion annually against homes from 2000 through 2003, before the reckless borrowing of the housing bubble, New York Fed economists found. But from 2012 through 2015, as housing recovered, they borrowed just $21 billion annually on average.

Banks now must hold more money in reserve for each home equity credit line they extend. So home equity lines have become a less attractive business for banks than loans that require lower reserves.

Mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can now send home loans that default back to the banks that provided them, thereby inflicting losses on the banks. Fannie and Freddie also view cash-out refinances as riskier now and have imposed higher fees to guarantee them. This makes such loans costlier for banks and consumers.

Banks are increasingly focusing on the most credit-worthy borrowers. It now requires an average credit score of 780 to get a home equity loan, up from 730 before the housing bust, the New York Fed estimates. Barely 30 percent of households have scores that high.

“There’s been a really striking shift, with a whole class of scores that are no longer getting loans,” said Bill Nelson, deputy chief economist at The Clearing House, a banking trade group.

The use of homeownership debt can be healthy, Dudley noted. Most people earn more as they age and their careers progress. To borrow against future income, they need to use home equity as collateral.

And more people would like to do so. In the summer and fall of last year, about one-third of banks reported rising demand for home equity credit lines, according to the Fed. But rejection rates for such loans have also risen.

Benjamin Keys, a real estate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, notes that just 42 percent of mortgage refinances last fall were “cash outs,” compared with roughly two-thirds during the pre-bubble period. Keys suggested that enabling banks to lend more to households with somewhat weaker credit and easing requirements on income documentation would be beneficial.

“But it’s a slippery slope,” he added. “We don’t want to go down that path that has made the mortgage market much safer.”

Looser regulation wouldn’t address another constraint on borrowing: Homeowners with the most equity are likelier to be older and wealthier than before the recession and so less likely to borrow for major purchases. In early 2016, Americans over 60 owned one-third of housing equity, up from one-fifth in 2006, according to New York Fed economists. And homeowners with credit scores above 780 own half of all housing equity, up from 40 percent a decade earlier.

In addition, the proportion of mortgages of less than 30 years has jumped. Nearly 38 percent of refinancings last year were for less than 30 years, the Mortgage Bankers’ Association said, up from 29 percent in 2011. Shorter mortgages force homeowners to save more and spend less by requiring higher payments.

Dynan also notes that given the wild fluctuation in home prices since 2006, some Americans now see housing wealth as akin to volatile assets like stocks and may be more hesitant to spend it.

Of course, there’s a positive side to the trends: More saving and modest spending means households are in rosier financial health, which should help sustain the economy.

And with mortgage rates rising, more homeowners may choose to renovate homes rather than buy new ones. That could lead more creditworthy homeowners to seek home equity loans to finance projects.

“If households and lenders again become comfortable with financing consumption with debt in addition to income, this will provide additional support” to the economy, Dudley said.



Contact Chris Rugaber at

Honolulu mayor unveils affordable housing strategy

Honolulu mayor unveils affordable housing strategy

HONOLULU/May 25,2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Mayor Kirk Caldwell has released his strategy to increase affordable housing on Oahu.

Hawaii News Now reports ( ) the Honolulu mayor made the strategy public on Wednesday.

The strategy is packed with new regulations and incentives for developers. Caldwell says more than 24,000 housing units are needed to address Oahu’s housing crisis.

He says the majority of the demand is for people who make less than 80 percent of the Area Median Income, which is $58,600 for a single person and $83,700 for a family of four.

The city would offer developers properties at a $1 year lease under the strategy.

If passed, these rules will be rolled out first in Ala Moana, Downtown and Chinatown and then expanded island wide over a three-year period.

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 3.95 pct, 2017 low

Average US 30-year mortgage rate falls to 3.95 pct, 2017 low

WASHINGTON/May 25, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Long-term U.S. mortgage rates fell this week to their lowest levels of the year. The benchmark 30-year rate dipped below the key 4 percent mark.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans tumbled to 3.95 percent from 4.02 percent last week. The rate stood at 3.64 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent in 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

The rate on 15-year mortgages slipped to 3.19 percent from 3.27 percent last week.

Carson would like to see HUD’s name changed

Carson would like to see HUD's name changed

WASHINGTON/May 25, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Housing Secretary Ben Carson wants to change the name of the sprawling federal agency he leads.

Carson says he’s has “a plan for eventually changing the name from Housing and Urban Development to Housing and Community Development.”

He made the remarks in an interview with Armstrong Williams on SiriusXM.

Carson says he’d like the name to focus more on the agency’s broad mission, which extends beyond cities and urban areas and deep into small towns and rural areas. He says it’s really about “creating communities, communities of opportunity, wherever they exist.”

A name change for the agency would require congressional approval.

Bucks, Johnson Controls build neighborhood sports complex

Bucks, Johnson Controls build neighborhood sports complex

MILWAUKEE/May 24, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — The Milwaukee Bucks and Johnson Controls are partnering to build a multi-sport complex in a northwest Milwaukee neighborhood.

The two are donating the $150,000 complex to Milwaukee Public Schools, the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center and the Housing Authority of Milwaukee.

It will be built on the campus of Browning Elementary School and the neighborhood center.

The complex includes six basketball courts, a soccer field and additional recreation space, all contained within a 200-meter track. The courts can also be used for other sports, such as volleyball or tennis.

The Westlawn neighborhood includes a large public housing development, which is currently being rebuilt.

Home sales fell in April amid supply squeeze

Home sales fell in April amid supply squeeze

WASHINGTON/May 24, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Americans pulled back their pace of home-buying in April, as shrinking inventories and rising prices are putting them in a bind with fewer and fewer options.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes slipped 2.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million. Still, a stable job market has supported solid demand from buyers as home purchases are 1.6 percent higher than a year ago.

But the specter of ever tightening supplies is starting to squeeze the market. Would-be buyers are mobbing open houses as sales are occurring on the shortest timeline ever recorded by the Realtors. The inventory of homes for sale has declined on an annual basis for the past 23 months, creating a shortage that has pushed up prices above income growth.

The number of properties listed for sale has plunged 9 percent over the past 12 months to 1.93 million. Homes are staying on the market for a median of just 29 days. The fast-moving market has fueled rising home values that have priced some entry-level buyers out of the market.

The median sales price has risen 6 percent from a year ago to $244,800. But the sales volume of homes worth less than $250,000 has declined over the past year, while homes worth more than the median have experienced sales growth.

Sales declined last month in the Northeast, South and West, while rising in the Midwest.

As a result of the rising prices, it’s still cheaper to buy rather than rent, but the gap is narrowing.

The real estate firm Trulia released an analysis Wednesday finding that buying was more affordable in the 100 largest metro areas, provided the owner provided a 20 percent down payment and stays at least seven years. But rental prices were flat or falling in 93 of the metro areas, while home prices kept rising — such that it might soon be cheaper to rent than buy in high-priced markets such as Honolulu and the California Bay Area cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.

Relatively low mortgage rates still favor buying in many markets.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate on 30-year fixed-rate home loans edged down to 4.02 percent last week from 4.05 percent the prior week. The rate was 3.58 percent a year ago and averaged 3.65 percent in 2016, the lowest level in records dating to 1971.

JOSH BOAK, AP Economics Writer

Hemingway house changes hands, still off limits to public

Hemingway house changes hands, still off limits to public

BOISE, Idaho/May 24, 2017 (AP) (StlRealEstate.News) — Ownership of the Idaho house where Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his last works before killing himself in the main entryway in 1961 has changed hands but will stay off limits to the public.

The Nature Conservancy transferred the two-story, 2,500-square-foot house in the Idaho resort town of Ketchum earlier this month as a gift to the Community Library, a privately funded public library.

Library officials say an apartment in the house will be renovated for a residency program for visiting writers, scholars and artists starting next year.

“What having the Hemingway house does for the Community Library is situate our Idaho community in this global network,” executive director Jenny Emery Davidson said Tuesday.

Hemingway aficionados frequently take to what’s called the Hemingway trail, which includes stops tied to the globe-trotting author’s many adventures. The area in Idaho is packed with such areas, including Hemingway’s grave in the Ketchum cemetery.

The house has many of the author’s personal possessions, and some will be put on display at the Sun Valley Museum of History, Davidson said. They include a bull’s tail given to Hemingway following a bullfight in Spain, correspondence with locals Hemingway befriended and hunting paraphernalia, she said.

Hemingway owned the house from April 1959 until his suicide in July 1961 at age 61, when he feared that he had lost his ability to write to his standards, biographers say. The author worked on “A Moveable Feast” and “The Dangerous Summer” at the house, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

The author’s wife, Mary Hemingway, who died in 1986, gave the house to the Nature Conservancy but with restrictions that precluded operating it as a public museum. The group used the house as a field office before outgrowing it.

Owning the house has never been a good fit for the conservation organization dedicated to preserving the kind of wild places that drew Hemingway to Idaho. That made it difficult for the group to justify the annual upkeep on the house built in 1953 above a tree-lined river with views of snow-topped mountains.

The 13.9 acres (5.6 hectares) included with the house are worth millions, but the house is small and outdated compared with the mega-mansions common in the area.

The Community Library has a base of wealthy locals to draw from to help pay for what it estimates is $1.5 million in annual expenses for upkeep and its plans for the house.

The Carr Foundation supplied the initial money to make the transfer of the Hemingway home feasible. Davidson declined to say how much philanthropist Gregory Carr, who was born in Idaho and owns a home in the Ketchum area, donated.

“People are interested in Hemingway, but the people who have stepped up so far are people who care about Idaho,” Davidson said.

She also said the home is a perfect fit for the library, which has a regional history division and is keen to promote the area’s literary icon. She said it’s even possible new insights could be discovered.

“We have not told the story of Hemingway and the American West as we could,” she said.

The home will not be opened to the public like Hemingway’s other homes in Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, but there will be some access, Davidson said.

“We plan to treat it as a home,” she said. “Sometimes people invite small groups of people to their home.”

The Nature Conservancy didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Tuesday.

KEITH RIDLER, Associated Press