Affordable housing: Americans want help getting in

WASHINGTON – June 22, 2017 – Most Americans and Canadians say their nations aren’t doing enough to address and solve affordable housing needs, according to Habitat for Humanity’s Affordable Housing Survey. Escalating costs remain a top barrier preventing families from accessing decent homes with affordable mortgages, the survey says.

“In many ways, housing is an invisible crisis,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “There are still too many families without access to safe, secure and affordable housing. This survey highlights the value all of us place on a decent place to call home and underscores the critical need to increase access to affordable housing.”

Owning a home is a key rung on the ladder of economic advancement. What happens if that rung remains elusive for many?

According to the survey, nine out of 10 Americans say owning a home is one of their greatest achievements in life. Also, 68 percent of U.S. renters say owning a home is one of their chief goals, according to the survey. PSB, on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. and Canada to gauge their perceptions of, and challenges to, affordable housing.

Ninety-one percent of American homeowners credited owning a home with making them more responsible, and 44 percent said it helped them build a nest egg. Forty-one percent say homeownership has given them stability.

But homeownership remains out of reach for many. Nine out of 10 Americans and Canadians say it’s important to find solutions to the lack of affordable housing. At 59 percent, concerns regarding U.S. affordability in particular easily topped other housing issues like safety (16%) and quality (11%).

One major barrier to homeownership cited among survey respondents: the high cost of rent. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents said the high cost of rent was preventing them from buying, followed by 75 percent who said obtaining a mortgage was proving to be a big barrier.

Many of the survey respondents said they’ve struggled to pay housing costs at some point in their life. Among U.S. respondents, 27 percent of respondents said they struggled to pay housing costs in their 20s; 22 percent in their 30s; 11 percent in their 40s; and 9 percent in their 50s.

Source: “Nine Out of 10 Americans and Canadians Call for Affordable Housing Solutions,” Habitat for Humanity (June 20, 2017)

© Copyright 2017 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

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U.S. consumer confidence rose a bit in June

 NEW YORK – June 27, 2017 – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased moderately in June after dropping a bit in May. Overall, consumers have a rosier picture of their situation today, but they’re a bit less optimistic about the future.

The Index now stands at 118.9, up from 117.6 in May. The Present Situation Index increased from 140.6 to 146.3, while the Expectations Index that gauges attitudes about the short-term future declined from 102.3 last month to 100.6.

“Consumer confidence increased moderately in June following a small decline in May,” says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved to a nearly 16-year high (July 2001, 151.3),” Franco adds. “Expectations for the short-term have eased somewhat but are still upbeat. Overall, consumers anticipate the economy will continue expanding in the months ahead, but they do not foresee the pace of growth accelerating.”

Present Situation Index
Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved in June. Those saying business conditions are “good” increased from 29.8 percent to 30.8 percent, while those saying business conditions are “bad” declined from 13.9 percent to 12.7 percent.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also more positive. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” rose from 30.0 percent to 32.8 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased slightly from 18.3 percent to 18.0 percent.

Expectations Index
Consumers, however, were less optimistic about the short-term outlook in June. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased from 21.5 percent to 20.4 percent, however, those expecting business conditions to worsen also declined marginally – from 10.3 percent to 9.9 percent.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market remained mixed. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 18.6 percent to 19.3 percent, but those anticipating fewer jobs increased from 12.1 percent to 14.6 percent.

The percentage of consumers expecting an improvement in their income rose from 19.1 percent to 22.2 percent, but the proportion expecting a decline increased slightly from 8.7 percent to 9.2 percent.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a global provider of information and analytics. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was June 15.

© 2017 Florida Realtors

Related Topics: Economic indicators

Downtown Ft. Lauderdale Redevelopment

Sun Sentinel

The Stiles real estate firm is moving forward with plans to redevelop a stretch of downtown Fort Lauderdale with residential units, retail and a 25-story office tower.

Stiles is scheduled to meet with the city’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday to discuss 348 apartments and 25,222 square feet of retail at 212 SE Second Ave. Stiles last year paid $13.1 million for the Bank of America building on the site.

Meanwhile, the developer has started preleasing an office building on a neighboring parcel at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd. as part of a previously announced deal with Broward College to replace its two aging buildings.

The 395,836-square-foot office tower, expected to open in the fall of 2020, would include about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The office building would be the largest built in downtown Fort Lauderdale since Stiles developed 200 Las Olas Circle nearly a decade ago. AutoNation is that building’s signature tenant.

Office construction virtually ended following the Great Recession, and developers have been slow to propose new projects in the years since.

But market observers say the timing is right for a new building, pointing out the strong demand for space in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I would say the lack of large blocks of contiguous space in downtown Fort Lauderdale could be hindering new business relocation,” said Peter Reed, of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

Stiles executives did not return calls Monday. But Chairman Terry Stiles said earlier this year that the office building would revitalize the area “by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering.”

City officials are trying to make the downtown corridor a live-work-play destination, and having retail within walking distance is a key component of that strategy, said Barry Wolfe, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Fort Lauderdale.

“To be living downtown and still having to drive everywhere, it becomes more challenging,” Wolfe said.

In an online brochure marketing the office tower, Stiles says it has built more than 4 million square feet on and near Las Olas Boulevard.

Projects include Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, Plaza at Las Olas and Amaray Las Olas.

Amaray, a luxury apartment building at 215 S.E. Eighth Ave., sold this month for $133.5 million.

The Stiles real estate firm is moving forward with plans to redevelop a stretch of downtown Fort Lauderdale with residential units, retail and a 25-story office tower.

Stiles is scheduled to meet with the city’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday to discuss 348 apartments and 25,222 square feet of retail at 212 SE Second Ave. Stiles last year paid $13.1 million for the Bank of America building on the site.

Meanwhile, the developer has started preleasing an office building on a neighboring parcel at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd. as part of a previously announced deal with Broward College to replace its two aging buildings.

The 395,836-square-foot office tower, expected to open in the fall of 2020, would include about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The office building would be the largest built in downtown Fort Lauderdale since Stiles developed 200 Las Olas Circle nearly a decade ago. AutoNation is that building’s signature tenant.

Office construction virtually ended following the Great Recession, and developers have been slow to propose new projects in the years since.

But market observers say the timing is right for a new building, pointing out the strong demand for space in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I would say the lack of large blocks of contiguous space in downtown Fort Lauderdale could be hindering new business relocation,” said Peter Reed, of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

Stiles executives did not return calls Monday. But Chairman Terry Stiles said earlier this year that the office building would revitalize the area “by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering.”

City officials are trying to make the downtown corridor a live-work-play destination, and having retail within walking distance is a key component of that strategy, said Barry Wolfe, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Fort Lauderdale.

“To be living downtown and still having to drive everywhere, it becomes more challenging,” Wolfe said.

In an online brochure marketing the office tower, Stiles says it has built more than 4 million square feet on and near Las Olas Boulevard.

Projects include Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, Plaza at Las Olas and Amaray Las Olas.

Amaray, a luxury apartment building at 215 S.E. Eighth Ave., sold this month for $133.5 million.

The Stiles real estate firm is moving forward with plans to redevelop a stretch of downtown Fort Lauderdale with residential units, retail and a 25-story office tower.

Stiles is scheduled to meet with the city’s Development Review Committee on Tuesday to discuss 348 apartments and 25,222 square feet of retail at 212 SE Second Ave. Stiles last year paid $13.1 million for the Bank of America building on the site.

Meanwhile, the developer has started preleasing an office building on a neighboring parcel at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd. as part of a previously announced deal with Broward College to replace its two aging buildings.

The 395,836-square-foot office tower, expected to open in the fall of 2020, would include about 17,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The office building would be the largest built in downtown Fort Lauderdale since Stiles developed 200 Las Olas Circle nearly a decade ago. AutoNation is that building’s signature tenant.

Office construction virtually ended following the Great Recession, and developers have been slow to propose new projects in the years since.

But market observers say the timing is right for a new building, pointing out the strong demand for space in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“I would say the lack of large blocks of contiguous space in downtown Fort Lauderdale could be hindering new business relocation,” said Peter Reed, of Commercial Florida Realty Services in Boca Raton.

Stiles executives did not return calls Monday. But Chairman Terry Stiles said earlier this year that the office building would revitalize the area “by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering.”

City officials are trying to make the downtown corridor a live-work-play destination, and having retail within walking distance is a key component of that strategy, said Barry Wolfe, vice president of investments for Marcus & Millichap in Fort Lauderdale.

“To be living downtown and still having to drive everywhere, it becomes more challenging,” Wolfe said.

In an online brochure marketing the office tower, Stiles says it has built more than 4 million square feet on and near Las Olas Boulevard.

Projects include Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre, Plaza at Las Olas and Amaray Las Olas.

Amaray, a luxury apartment building at 215 S.E. Eighth Ave., sold this month for $133.5 million.

Blame game begins when bank-owned homes decay

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – May 3, 2012 – Thousands of vacant properties in South Florida’s hard-hit housing market have deteriorated into eyesores that violate health and safety laws, depress property values and spread blight. The owners of these homes: some of the world’s biggest banks.

In an extensive investigation of foreclosed homes, the Sun Sentinel found more than 10,300 property code violations lodged against banks in 10 South Florida cities since 2007.

Municipalities cited the banks because they had title to the homes. But some banks deny responsibility for neglected houses for reasons that ordinary homeowners could not, the Sun Sentinel found.

Banks shift the blame, saying maintenance isn’t their job but the responsibility of another bank or company, known as a “loan servicer.” And they delay or evade accountability simply because they are large institutions, usually based in other states, even other countries.

The Sun Sentinel, in its investigation, identified banks as owners only in cases in which they held title to the property. But the newspaper also found that years after launching foreclosure suits, some banks or their agents balk at completing the process and taking title to homes that are unlikely to sell for much. That practice fuels a separate legal “limbo” problem that traps thousands of vacated homes in years-long court cases, often as they tumble into ruin.

Banks pay little price for letting neighborhoods rot.

In South Florida, property code violations are civil matters, dealt with mostly by fines, which when left uncorrected can compound daily and grow to be ludicrously steep – as much as $4.7 million, for example, on a rundown Fort Lauderdale house owned by Germany’s Deutsche Bank.

Ultimately, banks negotiate with local officials to dramatically cut the fines so as not to hinder a home’s sale.

The results of these practices are on stark display on street after street, where vacant properties sit decaying and forlorn.

They are eyesores. Many have been looted. Some have caught fire. They attract vagrants and vandals, lead to increased crime and can depress the value of nearby homes, particularly if there is an abundance of them in a neighborhood.

Some vacant homes pose extreme danger.

In Miramar, Fla., in October 2009, a common worry of parents came true. While his family was busy unpacking boxes and moving into the house next door, a toddler wandered into the backyard of an unoccupied, bank-owned house and drowned in the pool.

The boy’s mother, Margarette Francis, told investigators the water was so dark and thick with “garbage” it was unrecognizable as a place to swim.

“It was, oh, disgusting and I don’t think the baby knew there was a pool,” she said. “The only thing I can tell you is the slide attracted him. … He probably thought he was walking into a playground and he walked right into the … water.”

The family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Miami against U.S. Bank, which had title to the house, and 16 other corporate entities that had some contractual relationship or responsibility for the home after foreclosure. A spokeswoman for U.S. Bank declined comment.

In a report released earlier this month, the National Fair Housing Alliance, a Washington advocacy group, charged that banks are violating the federal Fair Housing Act by neglecting the upkeep on homes in minority neighborhoods and steering real estate agents to the banks’ better-preserved homes elsewhere.

The organization has called on federal regulators and law enforcement to investigate the banks for housing discrimination practices.

Wells Fargo, one of the banks identified, denied the allegations. The bank “conducts all lending-related activities in a fair and consistent manner without regard to race; this includes maintenance and marketing standards for all foreclosed properties for which we are responsible,” said company spokeswoman Vickee Adams.

Since the real estate crash six years ago, dozens of South Florida municipalities have passed laws requiring that homes in foreclosure be registered by lenders or their agents once they become vacant. That has helped foster communication with the banks and led to quicker responses to local concerns.

“I’d say most banks want to do the right thing,” said Brian McKelligett, Fort Lauderdale code enforcement supervisor.

But banks can be bad neighbors. In the cities surveyed by the Sun Sentinel, four of 10 bank-owned properties on average were cited for violating municipal health, safety or appearance codes in 2011.

Copyright © 2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Megan O’Matz and John Maines. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Sun Sentinel staff researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.