Obama housing aide to be mortgage banking lobbyist - (www.reuters.com) A key advisor on housing policy to President Barack Obama has accepted an offer to head the Mortgage Bankers Association. "Yes, it's true," Federal Housing Administration Commissioner David Stevens said on Tuesday in a brief telephone conversation when asked if he was going to run the trade association. Stevens announced his resignation from the Obama administration last week but said at the time he was "not sure" where he would next land.
Chicago South Loop condo tower converting to apartments - (www.chicagorealestatedaily.com) Another failed South Loop condominium project — the 333-unit Lexington Park — is going rental about 10 months after its Irish builder abandoned the development. ST Residential LLC, the current owner of the high-rise at 2138 S. Indiana Ave., plans to list units in the building for rent within the next three months, with move-ins starting by late summer, an ST spokesman says. ST, a joint venture led by Greenwich, Conn.-based Starwood Capital Group and TPG Capital of Fort Worth, Texas, took control of the 35-story tower in May after Lexington Park's developer, Limerick, Ireland-based Chieftain Group Ltd., relinquished the struggling project through a so-called deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. Completed in fall 2009, the building has sat nearly empty for more than 18 months, as the South Loop condo market has shown few signs that it's pulling out of its depressed state. About 55% of Lexington Park's 333 units had been under contract as of early 2010, but those deals were canceled, the spokesman says. Buyers have closed on just three condos in a seven-story portion of the project that has 36 loft units, according to property records.
Nearly vacant condo tower goes bak to lender - (www.chicagorealestatedaily.com) A Near South Loop site where Chicago gangster Al Capone once had his headquarters, and where Geraldo Rivera famously found nothing in Mr. Capone's vault, has gained new notoriety as the city's biggest condo tower to be taken over by its lender in the current housing crisis. The 35-story Lexington Park, near Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road, was surrendered last week by its Irish developer through a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. The private-equity venture that now owns the property acquired Corus Bank's the distressed condo loans after the Chicago-based lender failed last fall. Just three buyers have closed on Lexington Park's 333 units, according to property records. The tower, 2138 S. Indiana Ave., was supposed to be ready for occupancy in 2008. Limerick, Ireland-based Chieftain Group Ltd. borrowed $84 million from Corus in fall 2006 to finance the tower's construction, and also obtained $10.6 million in financing from 47 individuals in Ireland, according to mortgages recorded in Cook County. A Chieftain executive who had overseen the development declines to comment and referred questions to ST Residential LLC, a venture led by Greenwich, Conn.-based Starwood Capital Group and TPG Capital of Fort Worth, Texas. "The building's in strong hands," says a spokesman for ST Residential. "We just took ownership last week, and we're evaluating our next steps." The three sales that have closed are in a seven-story portion that consists of 36 lofts, sources say. Condos in the tower seemed to be gearing up for closings late last year, says one buyer, when a flood on an upper floor caused damage to units and the elevator shaft and further delayed the project.
Nevada's boom ends in record number of empty houses - (news.yahoo.com) The promise of palm tree groves and low-priced real estate lured Alan and Katherine Ackerly across the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Nevada in 2004, where thousands of new houses beckoned brightly as any neon sign. They came to buy their retirement home. But the real estate bust took its toll, with a flood of short sales and foreclosures in the market, and last month the Ackerly's dream home was foreclosed on, too. "I pretty much gave it back to them," said Alan Ackerly, a 57-year-old electrician who stopped paying his mortgage because he owed more than the house was worth. The Ackerly's home is now among a swelling number of abandoned houses in Nevada. There were 167,564 empty houses in the state last year, according to newly released U.S. Census data, more than double the number in 2000. The number of vacant homes represents about one out of every seven houses across Nevada. The figures are another striking example of how the housing crisis has pummeled Nevada, casting a new light on the severely weakened market after years of boom. One result is an increase in code violations. In Clark County, home to Las Vegas, such complaints nearly doubled from 2008 to 2009 and the median price of resale homes dropped to $115,000 in January.
Houses sit empty across SF East Bay - (www.contracostatimes.com) Two years after moving out, Kevin Chandler still drives by the house where he expected to raise his children to see how high the weeds have grown out front and check for vandalism. He and his wife moved to Brentwood from Livermore in 2002, excited to buy a home large enough to accommodate their growing family. In 2009, however, both husband and wife lost their jobs. No longer able to make their mortgage payments and facing bankruptcy, the family of six moved in with relatives in neighboring Discovery Bay. Today, the house remains empty -- one of the more than 62,000 homes in the East Bay driving vacancy rates to record highs. According to recently released census data, the percentage of empty homes in Contra Costa and Alameda counties has doubled in the past decade, jumping to more than 6 percent. Many of the Contra Costa cities that grew the fastest in the lead-up to the housing crash are now littered with the highest percentages of empty homes. The cities of San Pablo and Richmond have the highest overall vacancy rates in Contra Costa -- 8.5 and 8.2 percent, respectively. Pittsburg, Antioch and the rest of East Contra Costa follow close behind.
Does Anyone Seriously Believe the Global Recovery Is Still Intact? - (Charles Hugh Smith of www.oftwominds.com)