News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Feb. 12, 2015

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Clueless in Kentucky: Rand Paul's ideas about the Fed make absolutely no sense – The Washington Post

2) mainly macro: Policy, risks and public discourse

3) Economist's View: 'A Fed Insider Calls for Reform'

4) A new start for Greece | Guntram B. Wolff at Bruegelorg

5) Los Angeles Has the Biggest Disconnect in the US Between Wages and Rents – Rentally Deranged – Curbed LA

6) Housing Snapshot: Prices Rising Fast | Bankratecom

7) Why new jobs don't translate to new homeowners

8) China's real estate bubble inflates California commercial values – OC Housing News

9) Warren business owner pleads guilty in arson-for-profit scheme

10) February 10, 2015 — Couple Accused of Burning Wallace Home for Insurance Money

11) Study finds Midwest flooding more frequent | Iowa Now

12) Dollar rise: will US or Europe see better swing? – YouTube

13) Internet of Thieves: All that shiny home security gear is crap, warns HP • The Register

14) Off the Charts Blog | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities | House GOP Restarts Effort to Make "Tax Extenders" Permanent

15) Chinese monetary policy undergoes big shift – FTcom

16) Do derivatives make the world safer? | VOX, CEPR's Policy Portal

17) [Very Highly Recommended] Simon Wren-Lewis · The Austerity Con · LRB 19 February 2015

18) Interview with Timothy Geithner — Money, Banking and Financial Markets

19) macroblog – Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

20) Press Release: Statement by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Ukraine

21) The Greek Austerity Myth by Daniel Gros – Project Syndicate

22) Home Prices Increased in 86% of US Metro Areas – Bloomberg Business

23) How To Protect Your Investment Property | Cornelius Camp

24) Why does financial sector growth crowd out real economic growth?

25) 29 West Coast seaports, a key trade link with Asia, begin partial shutdown amid labor dispute | Fox Business

26) Three Ways Builders Can Attract Millennials to Combat the Labor Crisis | Builder Magazine

27) #BlackstoneEvicts | naked capitalism

28) Pablo Iglesias: If the Greek olive branch is rejected, Europe may fall | Comment is free | The Guardian

29) Greece And The Euro

30) Oklahoman sues energy companies for earthquake damage – Duncan Banner: News

31) Contractor rebuilding Richmond Hill home charged with fraud

32) 101 vacant Philadelphia properties deemed unsafe, dangerous – Philadelphia Business Journal

33) Why it's crucial to rethink poor perceptions of real estate investors | Inman

34) Study Finds Rising Levels of Plastics in Oceans – NYTimescom

35) 10 Investigates stories exposes HUD ethic problems

  1.    Clueless in Kentucky: Rand Paul's ideas about the Fed make absolutely no sense – The Washington Post

    Bilderberg Group conspiracy theory? What, there aren't plutocrats? Yes there are. We've read about the Koch brothers' secret meetings and what's come out of them. We'll bet Matt thinks the Koch brothers have been conspiring.

    "…Austrianism is a cult more than anything else. It preaches that the Fed is to blame for the economy's boom-and-bust cycle…." Well, we're anti-Austrian School, but Alan Greenspan's policies really did lead to a bust, not that one couldn't simply argued that Alan Greenspan screwed up rather than that the Fed, per se, is a bad idea. But it actually is a bad idea. Remember, we're not Austerians (Austrians/Austerity); but we said that.

    "Austrians really say it's irrelevant whether their hyperinflation predictions come true—which makes sense, I guess, since they haven't—as long as those predictions logically follow from first principles." Well, again, they claim asset inflation, commodity inflation has been rather high, which is true; but we do know many of them meant consumer-price inflation. Well, we thought that fiscal spending would actually overshoot. We thought that before we learned that fiscal spending would be anemic (thanks to the Austrian mindset in Congress and the White House). We wish the nation had erred on the side of inflation and dialed it back rather than not spend enough to even turn the engine over.

    "…he wants Congress to be able to oversee the Fed's monetary policy decisions. In other words, he wants to grill the Fed about when and whether it raises interest rates." Actually, he wants to killed the Fed. So do we, but for different reasons. You know, if Rand Paul were to get his way, all that would happen is that many would get an education as to what the Fed really does, which isn't what Rand thinks. Transparency would not hurt the Fed.

    As for how much the Fed has, it's always been irrelevant. They can write off everything, and there isn't an entity on Earth that would be negatively impacted. The Fed has actually been the "bad bank." Matt gets that.

    So, we agree with most of Matt's article. We just think he toed the "liberal" line too much. You know, the lack-of-vision thing.

    Add your comment.


  2.    mainly macro: Policy, risks and public discourse

    Simon Wren-Lewis:

    …economists do their fair share of complaining about how difficult it is to get policymakers, let alone the public, to recognise the importance of risk analysis. However in writing about the role of fiscal policy in creating a weak recovery not just in the UK but the world generally, I was struck by how little public model based quantification of this there was even after the event, let alone before. … Central banks nearly all maintain models capable of doing the kind of risk analysis I am talking about, but how much of that work gets into the public domain, or is even seen by fiscal policymakers? In the UK there has definitely been technological regress in this respect….

    Add your comment.


  3.    Economist's View: 'A Fed Insider Calls for Reform'

    Mark Thoma:

    …I do feel that most people have the perception (as opposed to the reality) that the Fed has been captured by interests other than their own.

    We like Mark Thoma, but we laughed when we read that.

    Most people have the perception that the Fed's own interests are still ultimately the banksters' interests. Yes, the Fed has a mandate and does work at it; but it does so in our view, always with the banking industry first and foremost at heart (for obvious reasons if you've studied the makeup of the Fed and its whole network of commercial banks). It really is the fox watching the chicken coop, though the fox's powers have been diminished by virtue of its regulatory obligations and powers being strengthened. Yes, you read that right.

    Add your comment.


  4.    A new start for Greece | Guntram B. Wolff at Bruegel.org

    …the response has so far been insufficient. The new Greek government has been voted into office with a strong mandate to change course both with domestic economic policy and in terms of relationships with its partners. Ignoring this vote is not an option. Greeks need a realistic perspective that their daily lives will improve. This perspective cannot be the result of gambling, unilateral action or blackmail. Instead, it needs to be the result of serious domestic action and an agreement between the partners of the Eurogroup.

    …the social situation is appalling in some parts of Greece and other crisis countries. The EU could therefore agree on a dedicated programme to alleviate social hardship where most needed.

    You're asking Angela Merkel to have a heart? We tried that. Others tried it too, and so did Greece. She's remained hard, cold, and small in the heart department.

    Add your comment.


  5.    Los Angeles Has the Biggest Disconnect in the US Between Wages and Rents – Rentally Deranged – Curbed LA

    Sorry to sound like a broken record, but Los Angeles is in a rental crisis-is-is-is-is-is-is-is. It has the highest rental rate in the country, the most renters paying untenably high amounts of their incomes toward rent, and now a new report from the NYU Furman Center *and Capital One reveals that the city has the biggest lag of all major rental cities between rents (rising!) and wages (falling), meaning renting in the city is becoming more and more unaffordable for the average wage slave. Meanwhile, occupancy rates are dramatically low, suggesting there's just not enough housing being built for middle-income renters (there's a lot of luxury housing going up, but that's not much help).

    Wow, could you ever build mega-rental complexes in LA right now and make a huge fortune (provided they solve some pressing problems such as the drought; well, you could develop and sell).

    Add your comment.


  6.    Housing Snapshot: Prices Rising Fast | Bankrate.com

    What is the state of the U.S. housing market? Ask that question in two different cities and you may get dramatically different answers.

    For example, in Denver, values have soared a mile high, far above their peak during the recent housing bubble.

    By contrast, homeowners in Las Vegas continue to feel as if they lost the bet, with prices that remain well below their bubble highs.

    Overall, though, the American picture looks good. National home prices continue to climb significantly faster than the rate of inflation, according to Thomas Thibodeau, academic director of the University of Colorado Real Estate Center in the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

    However, challenges remain. Thibodeau highlights a few of them in the following interview.

    Add your comment.


  7.    Why new jobs don't translate to new homeowners

    Why they'll rent:

    Employment is increasing, no question, but not in the professions that typically own homes.

    Add your comment.


  8.    China's real estate bubble inflates California commercial values – OC Housing News

    Larry Roberts:

    Unfortunately, it looks as if China is exporting it's real estate bubble to the United States, not unlike the Japanese did 25 years ago.

    Add your comment.


  9.    Warren business owner pleads guilty in arson-for-profit scheme

    Yfantidis, 74, of Clinton Township, was indicted in 2014 by a federal grand jury on six charges for the explosion that damaged 49 homes and business structures, causing more than $1 million in property losses.

    Add your comment.


  10.    February 10, 2015 — Couple Accused of Burning Wallace Home for Insurance Money

    Department of Insurance criminal investigators allege that on Jan. 3, 2014, Rivers and Fairley conspired to set fire to their Wallace residence for the purpose of collecting insurance claim funds. Farley is accused of providing false and misleading information to the North Carolina Joint Underwriting Association while filing the claim.

    Add your comment.


  11.    Study finds Midwest flooding more frequent | Iowa Now

    The U.S. Midwest and surrounding states have endured increasingly more frequent flood episodes over the past half-century, according to a study from the University of Iowa.

    "It's not that big floods are getting bigger, but that we have been experiencing a larger number of big floods," says Gabriele Villarini, UI assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and corresponding author on the paper, published Feb. 9 in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

    The findings likely come as no surprise to millions of people in the Midwest and bordering states. During the past several decades, large floods have plagued the region in 1993, 2008, 2011, 2013 and again in 2014. The floods have caused agricultural and economic losses in the billions of dollars, displaced people and led to loss of life.

    Add your comment.


  12.    Dollar rise: will US or Europe see better swing? – YouTube

    The dollar's appreciation has been driven by optimism over the US economy. Stephanie Flanders, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management and capital markets editor Ralph Atkins discuss shifts in investor sentiment to the US and back to Europe.

    Whether it's good or not for the US actually depends upon what kind of economy the US wants to build: A strong economy with strong security versus a strong dollar with much less concern with security. A strong dollar exports the manufacturing base (read military equipment, etc.).

    To make the strong dollar truly work, the US would need to embark on a much more peaceful approach to international affairs and boost wages for service-sector jobs (not an easy feat).

    Add your comment.


  13.    Internet of Thieves: All that shiny home security gear is crap, warns HP • The Register

    All systems that HP tested, including cloud-based web interfaces and mobile interfaces, failed to require passwords of sufficient length and complexity, with most only requiring a six-character alphanumeric password. All the systems also lacked the ability to lock out accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts, leaving the door open to brute force attacks.

    All accessed systems collected some form of personal information, such as names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, and even credit card numbers. That's bad, because account-harvesting issues were pervasive across all systems tested.

    Add your comment.


  14.    Off the Charts Blog | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities | House GOP Restarts Effort to Make "Tax Extenders" Permanent

    Putting corporations before people is bad tax policy.

    Bias tax reform against reducing deficits. Policymakers are expected to attempt corporate tax reform this year. If they make the extenders permanent in advance of tax reform, a reform plan wouldn't have to offset the extenders' cost to be considered revenue neutral. This would free up hundreds of billions of dollars over the decade that policymakers could use to lower the corporate tax rate more sharply or close fewer dubious corporate tax breaks, while still claiming revenue neutrality. The result would be much larger deficits than under revenue-neutral corporate tax reform that pays for any extenders it keeps.
    Place corporate tax extenders ahead of other, more critical tax provisions slated to expire. Most notably, if key elements of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income working families expire as scheduled at the end of 2017, more than 16 million people in low-income working families, including 8 million children, would fall into — or deeper into — poverty. Some 50 million Americans would lose part or all of their credits. A growing body of evidence links income from these credits to improvements in children's health, educational attainment, and employment and earnings later in life.

    Add your comment.


  15.    Chinese monetary policy undergoes big shift – FT.com

    Gabriel Wildau:

    The PBoC's latest monetary policy report shows that base money creation through central bank purchases of foreign exchange fell to Rmb640bn last year, a decrease of Rmb2.1tn from 2013.

    By contrast, monetary policy tools — including open market operations and other forms of lending by the PBoC to commercial banks — injected Rmb2tn in base money last year, compared with a Rmb100bn drain in 2013.

    "A change emerged in the base money supply channel," the PBoC said in typically understated language.

    "Rate cuts and reserve ratio cuts get a lot of attention and are welcomed by the market, but to understand if policy easing is really happening, you need to look at borrowing rates to the real economy," said Helen Qiao, chief greater China economist at Morgan Stanley.

    People's Bank of China's expanding toolkit…

    Add your comment.


  16.    Do derivatives make the world safer? | VOX, CEPR's Policy Portal

    Guillaume Vuillemey:

    It can thus be that — absent speculating motives — derivatives hedging increases the occurrence of defaults.

    "absent speculating motives"? What are we missing? Doesn't it depend on whether the motives are translated into judgment calls that pan out. Motives may be speculative, but the very nature of speculation is gambling. Can't derivatives hedging increase the occurrence of defaults regardless of speculating motives?

    Frankly, we think derivatives constitute an entire Ponzi layer on the economy.

    Add your comment.


  17.    [Very Highly Recommended] Simon Wren-Lewis · The Austerity Con · LRB 19 February 2015

    Simon Wren-Lewis puts it all together here. His criticism of media is, as they say across the pond, spot on. They are witting and unwitting accomplices in major economic and financial crimes. It is a crime for George Osborn to lie to the public about what the current government has been doing and why.

    Oh, you might say that he hasn't been under oath, therefore, it hasn't been a crime, per se. Wrong! Any criminologist worth his or her salt will tell you that for a crime to be committed concerning the public trust and one's duty to the people does not require the criminal to be first sworn in at court. Breaking the social contract for the sake of the few while clearly knowing that it is not for the greater good is breaking the law.

    What Simon has pointed out is not a conspiracy theory. He's pointed out the actual conspiracy via facts clearly laid out in his exceptionally important article (because he put it all together).

    'The government cannot go on living beyond its means.' This seems common sense, so when someone puts forward the view that just now austerity is harmful, and should wait until times are better, it appears fanciful and too good to be true. Why would the government be putting us through all this if it didn't have to?

    By insisting on cuts in government spending and higher taxes that could easily have been postponed until the recovery from recession was assured, the government delayed the recovery by two years. And with the election drawing nearer, it allowed the pace of austerity to slow, while pretending that it hadn't. Now George Osborne is promising, should the Tories win the election in May, to put the country through the same painful and unnecessary process all over again. Why? Why did the government take decisions that were bound to put the recovery at risk, when those decisions weren't required even according to its own rules? How did a policy that makes so little sense to economists come to be seen by so many people as inevitable?

    The place to begin is 2009.

    Add your comment.


  18.    Interview with Timothy Geithner — Money, Banking and Financial Markets

    Timothy Geithner, former Secretary of the Treasury of the United States; former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:

    We should distinguish between two types of financial risks or shocks. There is an infinite variety of pain or trauma that can hit a financial system, individual institutions, or asset prices. During the 30 years before the crisis, we experienced all sorts of shocks. Some of them were just idiosyncratic failures of single firms that got risk management wrong or were consumed by fraud. Then you had a series of more generalized shocks, like the savings and loan crisis and the stock price plunge in 1987. These kinds of shocks can cause some trauma, but the scale of the threat they present to the system or to the economy is completely different from a classic systemic crisis like the one we faced in 2008.

    The really important distinction to make in terms of both diagnosing the risks of a crisis and of thinking about how to respond is to try to determine when your system is vulnerable to a truly systemic disruption and when it is not. If there is a lot of dry tinder, you are more vulnerable and even a modest shock can risk tipping you over into a more systemic panic. You want to make your system resilient to such shocks. So, the most important thing is to ask yourself: where today do we face the kinds of vulnerabilities, the kinds of conditions — the dry tinder — that might make us more vulnerable to a more cataclysmic kind of shock that would be very damaging to the economy?

    For systems to face that kind of threat you really need to have had a long boom in credit financed either through the banking system or through the financial system in ways that create a classic vulnerability to a run. That is, you need to have a set of long-dated assets that are illiquid, are vulnerable to a loss, and are funded short. We don't face that sort of vulnerability in the financial system today.

    Hi, Tim. You should have mentioned the methodical attempt being undertaken right now by libertarian and crony-capitalism types to dismantle, and prevent from being enacted, strong regulatory standards, oversight, and enforcement. Just look at the current Republican Congress and the various Democrats there who are compliant with the false narrative concerning the causes of the 2008 crash and the right cure for that crash. The libertarians and crony-capitalist are flat-out wrong.

    Add your comment.


  19.    macroblog – Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

    John Robertson, vice president and senior economist, and Ellie Terry, an economic policy analysis specialist, both of the Atlanta Fed's research department:

    The economy has been generating full-time general-service jobs at a much slower pace than in the past. Of the approximately 7.6 million full-time jobs created between 2010 and 2014, only about 17 percent have been in general-service occupations, versus about 32 percent of the 7.8 million full-time jobs created between 2003 and 2007. At the current rate of full-time job creation in general-service occupations, it would take more than 10 years for the part-time share of employment in general-service occupations to return to its prerecession average.

    From the workers' perspective, a relevant question is whether these part-time utilization rates are desirable. Some people work part-time and do not currently want or are not available for full-time work (so-called part-time for noneconomic reasons, PTNER). Others are available and want full-time work but are working part-time because of slack business conditions or the unavailability of full-time jobs (so-called part-time for economic reasons, PTER).

    Add your comment.


  20.    Press Release: Statement by IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Ukraine

    Neoliberalism at work:

    Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued a statement today in Brussels, Belgium, concerning Ukraine in which she said "that the IMF team working in Kiev has reached a staff-level agreement" calling for no fiscal stimulus but privatization…to strengthen and better target the social safety net.

    She supports that.

    So much for logic and for Christine Lagarde living in reality.

    The bondholders and Austrian economics are sacrosanct there while hiding beyond false commitments to the social safety net.

    Add your comment.


  21.    The Greek Austerity Myth by Daniel Gros – Project Syndicate

    Daniel Gros, Director of the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies:

    Over the last two years, the eurozone's other peripheral countries have proven their capacity for adjustment, by reducing their fiscal deficits, expanding exports, and moving to current-account surpluses, thereby negating the need for financing. Indeed, Greece is the only one that has consistently dragged its feet on reforms and sustained abysmal export performance.

    To be sure, one can reasonably argue that austerity in the eurozone has been excessive, and that fiscal deficits should have been much larger to sustain demand. But only governments with access to market finance can use expansionary fiscal policy to boost demand. For Greece, higher spending would have to be financed by lending from one or more official institutions.

    For the same reason, it is disingenuous to claim that the troika forced Greece into excessive austerity. Had Greece not received financial support in 2010, it would have had to cut its fiscal deficit from more than 10% of GDP to zero immediately. By financing continued deficits until 2013, the troika actually enabled Greece to delay austerity.

    The "eurozone's other peripheral countries" went through Hell not because there wasn't an alternative but because there was an economic lock against prosperity.

    "…only governments with access to market finance can use expansionary fiscal policy to boost demand. For Greece, higher spending would have to be financed by lending from one or more official institutions." Well, that's wrong. Are we supposed to assume that Greece can't leave the euro and then use a debt-free currency to stimulate its economy?

    "For the same reason, it is disingenuous to claim that the troika forced Greece into excessive austerity. Had Greece not received financial support in 2010, it would have had to cut its fiscal deficit from more than 10% of GDP to zero immediately. By financing continued de ficits until 2013, the troika actually enabled Greece to delay austerity."

    Daniel Gros has built is argument on faulty premises and a mis-definition of austerity. The faulty premise is stated above, and austerity comes in relative degrees. Just because tightening could have been worse absolutely does not mean that the austerity that was inflicted was not excessive. In fact, the infliction of any austerity at any time is excessive, as no amount of austerity is ever needed and should never be required.

    Add your comment.


  22.    Home Prices Increased in 86% of U.S. Metro Areas – Bloomberg Business

    Home-price growth accelerated in much of the U.S. in the fourth quarter as low mortgage rates and improving employment spurred demand.

    The median price of an existing single-family home rose from a year earlier in 86 percent of the 175 metropolitan areas measured, the National Association of Realtors said in a report Wednesday. Twenty-four areas had price gains of 10 percent or more, up from 16 regions in the third quarter. Prices declined in 24 areas.

    Add your comment.


  23.    How To Protect Your Investment Property | Cornelius Camp

    Insurance: This is the most obvious and best way to protect your investment, especially when you add fire and flood damage to the coverage. By fully protecting your property through insurance, you not only cover any losses that may occur, you can also use the money to update and modernize the structures on the property if needed.

    We aren't sure what he has in mind with that last bit. Here's this from the Business Dictionary, which definition is a pretty good overview:

    One of the basic tenets of insurance, that the insured should not profit from a loss or damage but should be returned (as near as possible) to the same financial position that existed before the loss or damage occurred. In other words, the insured cannot recover more than his or her actual loss from the insurer. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule, such as personal accident and life insurance policies where the policy amount is paid on occurrence of accident or death and the question of profit does not arise. Some marine insurance policies also constitute an exception because the settlement of a total loss is based on a sum agreed upon at the time the insurance policy was written. [http://www.businessdictionary.com/defin ition/indemnity-principle.html]

    Add your comment.


  24.    Why does financial sector growth crowd out real economic growth?

    In this paper we examine the negative relationship between the rate of growth of the financial sector and the rate of growth of total factor productivity. We begin by showing that by disproportionately benefiting high collateral/low productivity projects, an exogenous increase in finance reduces total factor productivity growth. Then, in a model with skilled workers and endogenous financial sector growth, we establish the possibility of multiple equilibria. In the equilibrium where skilled labour works in finance, the financial sector grows more quickly at the expense of the real economy. We go on to show that consistent with this theory, financial growth disproportionately harms financially dependent and R&D-intensive industries.

    Yep!

    Add your comment.


  25.    29 West Coast seaports, a key trade link with Asia, begin partial shutdown amid labor dispute | Fox Business

    Talks have stalled over how to arbitrate future workplace disputes. Some of the biggest issues, including health care, have been resolved with tentative agreements.

    It's inflationary but won't last.

    The longshoremen are aware that they need to get what they can while they can because more and more automation is coming. They will be replaced.

    We, as a nation and world, need to start planning for no work for necessary compensation. There must be a "free lunch" for all. We can and should do it.

    Add your comment.


  26.    Three Ways Builders Can Attract Millennials to Combat the Labor Crisis | Builder Magazine

    Good advice:

    A skilled labor shortage is threatening the construction industry, and contractors across the nation are already feeling the effects.

    A report by Construction Labor Market Analyzer indicates that by 2016, U.S. construction projects will require 6.7 million skilled workers — about 50% more than are available today. Eighty-three percent of construction firms are already having trouble finding qualified craft workers, especially in the Southeast.

    This skilled labor shortage is a direct result of the Great Recession, which hit the construction industry hard. And because societal pressure pushes young people toward higher education rather than technical trade schools, there are fewer people entering the construction field.

    … free skills training. Helping Millennials develop their skills and knowledge is a great way to show that you care about them and want them to succeed. This sentiment will lead to increased loyalty and a skilled workforce that will differentiate your firm in the marketplace.

    Another great thing to try is pairing Millennial workers with more experienced workers….

    Add your comment.


  27.    #BlackstoneEvicts | naked capitalism

    Blackstone has a PR problem. How much of it is brought on by itself? Can't a major real-estate corporation compete and win without engaging in such tactics (if the article and video have properly characterized Blackstone)?

    We bring this up not to bash Blackstone, quite the contrary. We bring it up as a matter of good risk management.

    If you watch the video, a bone of contention is that the mortgages were sold to Blackstone at a price where many borrowers could have met the payments if the mortgage had been restructured. It's an echo of the picture here, where servicers refused to do mortgage modifications, as banks routinely did in the stone ages when they retained the mortgages they had originated. Given the large losses incurred as a result of servicer bad incentives and outright theft from investors, there were clearly many cases where a deep principal reduction would still have left both investors and borrowers better off. Huge amounts of unnecessary homeowner stress and wealth destruction, as well as investor losses, were the direct result of the Administration decision to paper over pervasive abuses in servicing.

    …deliberately negligent PE landlords like Blackstone traditionally have hurt the value of neighboring properties. If this trend continues, abused tenants and their neighbors face a common threat.

    …Dudley notes, for example, that while commercial leases sometimes say that tenants have to rent a property "as is," putting this stipulation in a residential lease "is a violation of the RLTO, which clearly places the greatest responsibility for repairs on the landlord. … [Invitation Homes] is definitely overreaching and trying to shift all the risk and the expense to the tenant," she says. Swartz adds that the lease's attempt to indemnify Invitation Homes for any damages, including those caused by its own negligence, violates Illinois' Landlord and Tenant Act. He also points to several other sections of the lease tha t are illegal under the RLTO, including a stipulation that tenants must pay the associated fees in the event that Invitation Homes employs an attorney to enforce an eviction or collection of rent.

    Keep in mind that unlike New York and San Francisco, which have strong protections for tenants, Chicago does not have a reputation of being a pinko, pro-tenant town. It's not hard to imagine that its tenant-related laws are middle of the road. Thus Blackstone and any of the other PE players that are joining its race to the bottom in major cities are likely in violation of local ordinances. And Doug Terpstra's Arizona example suggests that even low-density, supposedly conservative states aren't necessarily any landlord-friendlier.

    Here's the video description:

    Blackstone, the world's largest real estate private equity fund bought part of Catalunya Bank, a Spanish financial institution that received 12 billion euros ($15.4 billion) of taxpayers' money as a bail out. Blackstone buys non-performing loans at huge discounts but these loans are actually families, families who have lost their jobs and are now about to be evicted from their homes. Everyday citizens receive no aid or solutions to social problems while global financial billionaires profit from bailed out banks. For PAH activists this is abusive and unjust to all citizens. These homes belong to people not to financial profiteers. Foreclosures and evictions are rapidly escalating in Spain under Blackstone's pressure, but the PAH has a message: this is a global fight for the right to housing, we won't stop, and we will win. Si Se Puede

    That video should actually be chilling to Blackstone. A word to the wise, Blackstone ought to avoid miscalculating. Pedemos is very real and not without huge justification.

    Add your comment.


  28.    Pablo Iglesias: If the Greek olive branch is rejected, Europe may fall | Comment is free | The Guardian

    This is an excellent follow-up to the immediately preceding link.

    Pablo Iglesias, leader of Spain's Podemos party:

    Europe's threefold problem is inequality, unemployment and debt — and this is neither new nor exclusively Greek.

    Nobody can deny that austerity has not solved this problem, but rather has exacerbated the crisis. Let's spell it out: the diktats of those who still appear to be running things in Europe have failed, and the victims of this inefficiency and irresponsibility are Europe's citizens.

    It is for this precise reason that trust in the old political elites has collapsed; it is why Syriza won in Greece and why Podemos — the party I lead — can win in Spain.

    …It is unwise to put a democratic government between a rock and a hard place. The wind of change that is blowing in Europe could become a storm that speeds up geopolitical changes, with unpredictable consequences.

    The viability of the European project is at stake. Pro-Europeans, especially those in the socialist family, should accept the hand offered by Tsipras and help curb the demands of the pro-austerity lobby. It's not just their own political survival that is at stake but that of Europe itself.

    Add your comment.


  29.    Greece And The Euro

    John Palmer:

    The election of the left-wing Syriza in Greece has thrown a time bomb into the economically stagnant waters of the EU single currency Euro-area. The Greek government has shocked some other Euro-area countries, by pointing out that the endless austerity imposed on Greece will not — indeed cannot — achieve the desired reduction of its debts to the EU and the IMF. They have made it clear that the Greek people's patience with this mindless strategy is exhausted.

    Many international economic experts who have examined the Greek situation in detail tend to agree with Athens. …

    The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister, Yannis Varoufakis, stress their willingness to compromise. The Athens' government plans to raise minimum wages and re-hire sacked workers will be spread over the next four years. Far from wanting to be given even bigger loans by the EU, they insist on new growth priorities because this will allow Greece to pay back what it has already borrowed.

    …agreement must be reached by the end of February — when the next Greek repayment tranche is due. If not the risk of the crisis leading to an accidental but disastrous Greek exit from the Euro area will increase. Some on the doctrinaire, neo-liberal right say that a "Grexit" would not be such a disaster because the resulting financial turbulence could be handled by the ECB and the other Euro-area central banks.

    But this ignores the dangerous precedent which would be created. The question would be posed: if push comes to shove might other weaker Euro-area economies be forced out of the system in any future crises?

    Or leave right away, refusing to wait for any new "crisis." They are already in a crisis.

    Add your comment.


  30.    Oklahoman sues energy companies for earthquake damage – Duncan Banner: News

    An Oklahoma resident has sued two energy companies seeking class-action status for people in nine counties who were affected by recent earthquakes.

    Jennifer Lin Cooper of Prague filed the suit on Tuesday against Tulsa-based New Dominion LLC and Spess Oil Co. of Cleveland, Okla., along with 25 unnamed companies. Cooper is seeking class-action status for people in Lincoln County and eight surrounding counties whose homes were damaged by earthquakes.

    Add your comment.


  31.    Contractor rebuilding Richmond Hill home charged with fraud

    A building contractor has been charged with a slew of felonies after prosecutors say he defrauded a homeowner whose house was damaged in the 2012 Richmond Hill explosion.

    Gary Ogle of BiltRite Homes is facing six counts of forgery, six counts of perjury, three counts of theft and one charge of a corrupt business influence….

    The home was damaged in November 2012. Prosecutors charged four people in connection with the massive explosion that killed John and Jennifer Longworth and leveled part of the Richmond Hill neighborhood.

    Court documents allege the group conspired to blow up the home of Monserrate Shirley, a neighbor of the Longworths, in order to collect insurance money to pay off gambling and credit card debts.

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  32.    101 vacant Philadelphia properties deemed unsafe, dangerous – Philadelphia Business Journal

    Just over 100 vacant properties in Philadelphia have been labeled as dangerous, unsafe and with structural issues, according to an analysis of a Dept. of Licenses & Inspections database conducted by the city controller's office.

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  33.    Why it's crucial to rethink poor perceptions of real estate investors | Inman

    There are 14 million single-family rental households in the United States today. That number has increased a little since the housing crisis but has remained north of 10 million for the last 30 years.

    There are an additional 7 million two- to four-family rental households.

    That total of 21 million households towers over the 16 million multifamily households that exist.

    Add your comment.


  34.    Study Finds Rising Levels of Plastics in Oceans – NYTimes.com

    Do you eat seafood? Do you require recycling at your rental properties?

    Some eight million metric tons of plastic waste makes its way into the world's oceans each year, and the amount of the debris is likely to increase greatly over the next decade unless nations take strong measures to dispose of their trash responsibly, new research suggests.

    The paper's middle figure of eight million, she said, is the equivalent of "five plastic grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world" — a visualization that, she said, "sort of blew my mind."

    By 2025, she said, the amount of plastic projected to be entering the oceans would constitute the equivalent of 10 bags per foot of coastline.

    The research also lists the world's 20 worst plastic polluters, from China to the United States, based on such factors as size of coastal population and national plastic production.

    According to the estimate, China tops the list, producing as much as 3.5 million metric tons of marine debris each year. The United States, which generates as much as 110,000 metric tons of marine debris a year, came in at No. 20.

    The problem is more than an aesthetic one: Exposed to saltwater and sun, and the jostling of the surf, the debris shreds into tiny pieces that become coated with toxic substances like PCBs and other pollutants.

    Research into the marine food chain suggests that fish and other organisms consume the bite-size particles and may reabsorb the toxic substances. Those fish are eaten by other fish, and by people.

    Add your comment.


  35.    10 Investigates stories exposes HUD ethic problems

    Tampa, Florida — A major federal agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs, or HUD, is embroiled in what is being called an ethical breach.

    This is far from over.

    We're pretty sure we'll be able to report more on this to you as it unfolds. So far, we've only heard this one side of the story.

    Add your comment.


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