3/16/2011

The Housing Market mess

People just don't want to invest in housing in the US.

Builders broke ground last month on the fewest homes in nearly two years and cut their requests for permits to start new projects to a five-decade low. The decline in construction activity is the latest evidence that the housing industry is years away from a recovery.
Home construction plunged 22.5 percent in February from January to a seasonally adjusted 479,000 homes, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the lowest level since April 2009 and the second-lowest on records dating back more than a half-century.
The decline followed a surge in highly volatile apartment construction in January, which pushed the overall construction rate up to more than 600,000 units — the fastest rate in 20 months. Still, the building pace has been far below the 1.2 million units a year that economists consider healthy.
Single-family homes, which make up roughly 80 percent of home construction, fell 11.8 percent in February. Apartment and condominium construction dropped 47 percent, reversing much of January's gains.
Building permits, an indicator of future construction, fell 8.1 percent last month to the lowest level on records dating back to 1960. Permit requests for single-family homes saw the biggest decline. Apartments and condos remained flat. . . .


Given that this is from the Huffington Post, I am not sure that it is true, though it does fit in with past administration pushes (see also here). This will destroy the incentive to invest in mortgages.

The Obama administration is seeking to force the nation's five largest mortgage firms to reduce monthly payments for as many as three million distressed homeowners in as little as six months as part of an agreement to settle accusations of improper foreclosures and violations of consumer protection laws, six people familiar with the matter said.

Described as a "shock and awe" approach, the deal would accomplish the four goals set out by state and federal policy makers and regulators as part of their multi-agency investigations into abusive mortgage practices by the nation's largest financial firms: punish banks for violations of state law and federal regulations; provide much-needed assistance to distressed borrowers; stabilize a deteriorating housing market; and dissuade firms from abusing homeowners in the future.

The modified mortgages could cost the five financial behemoths -- Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial -- as much as $30 billion, according to sources. Combined, the five firms handle three out of every five home loans, according to newsletter and data provider Inside Mortgage Finance.

It also could lead to reduced mortgage payments or lowered loan balances for nearly two-thirds of the 4.7 million delinquent homeowners who have yet to fall into foreclosure, according to data provider Lender Processing Services. . . .

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