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The Progressive Review

Housing Undernews

The Progressive Review

TOPICS

Foreclosures

Homelessness

Home values

Housing stats

Obama and housing

Public housing

ESSAYS

The foreclosure plan politicians wouldn't touch

Shared equity plan

LINKS

GROUPS
ARCHITECTURE FOR HUMANITY
ECO VILLAGE

HOUSING PRICE INDEX
NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS

STATISTICS

Getting better

New home sales highest since 2008

Housing starts largest since 2006

Mortgage delinquencies decline

Homes with indoor plumbing up from 55% in 1940s to 99% now

Homelssness down from 2007

Utah slashes homelessness

Getting worse

This year's Children's Defense Fund report finds roughly 1.2 million public school students were homeless in 2011-2012, 73 percent more than before the recession. More than one in nine children lacked access to adequate food in 2012, a rate 23 percent higher than before the recession.

Other

HOUSING

2014

Where federal housing dollars go

Half of renters pay 30% of income on rent

HOMELESSNESS

Record 53,000 homeless in NYC shelters

@amprog - Housing a homeless person costs $21,000 less than doing nothing

Homelssness down from 2007

Public housing

2014

Gentrification strikes again

Homelessness

2014

Cities ban feeding homeless

One quarter of those in NYC homeless shelters include employed adult

Study: Real housing more effective, cheaper for homeless

Wall Street becoming America's biggest landlord

The hidden homeless: camps in the woods

Occupy Madison build first of tiny homes for homeless

2013

Homeless at the Ramada

The cure for homelessness is a. home

Tips for the newly homeless

Foreclosures
BACK TO TOP

2014

Newark to take over underwater mortgages

What to do when you can't afford your mortgage payment

FBI doesn't care about mortgage fraud

California town using eminent domain to save homeowners from banks

Mortgage delinquencies decline

2013

Interview with the mayor whose town using eminent domain to fight foreclosures.

Federal judge rejects challenge to city's threat to seize mortgages

A unique approach to foreclosed homes: buy them

Seizing underwater mortgages by eminent domain

How the banks rigged foreclosure settlements

Detroit homes for sale at $1 each

Zombie foreclosures hurt homeowners

2013

Unexpected horrors for foreclosed homeowners

Obama's biggest mistake: mishandling foreclosures

2012

Why that 'losers'' foreclosure makes a difference to you

Wells Fargo forecloses wrong house, seizes owners' possessions

People losing homes for back taxes not fully paid

Why the current eminent domain approach to mortgages is a bad idea

Analysis of a new approach to handling underwater mortgages

Nearly one third of mortgage holders owe more than home is worth

Obama's foreclosure failure

The other foreclosure crisis: Losing a home over $400 in back taxes

Big investors buying thousands of crashed homes to rent

Defense lawyer who's won 40 foreclosure cases in last year desribes the bank fraud he found

States ripping off federal funds intended for homeowners

  • The foreclosure settlement was itself a ripoff of homeowners and now state governments are misusing its funds

Another housing solution: government reverse mortgages

The foreclosure-rental boondoggle

Big mortgage deal won't help those who need it most

States abusing foreclosure settlement funds

Hundreds of illegalities or suspicious documents found in recent San Francisco foreclosures

Mortgage settlement: Better than it might have been but still terrible
Massachusetts sues banks over deceptive mortgage practices

Freddie Mac bet against homeowners

Is Obama's mortgage investigation a fraud?

Three House members linked to VIP Countrywide special loans

Andrew Cuomo's key role in the mortgage meltdown

Banker admits his firm pushed subprime mortgages

BAILED OUT BIG BANKS WERE FINANCIAL FORCE BEHIND SUBPRIME SCAM

Local heroes: Judge tells US Bank like it is

Woman gets longer sentence for food stamp lie than multimillion dollar mortgage fraudsters

92% of New York foreclosures lack proper documents

Nevada Makes Illegal Foreclosures Felony

Mortgage lenders still fabricating documents

Foreclosure prevention scheme isn't working

California AG pulls out of sweetheart deal with banks

The foreclosure solution banks hate

AIG sues Bank of America for mortgage fraud

State high court suspends foreclosure because of "untrustworthy paperwork"

Massachusetts Supreme Court takes messy mortgage to the cleaners

Sheriff: 95% of Chicago foreclosures don't have proper paperwork

The foreclosure plan politicians wouldn't touch

Bank of America pays $8.5 billion to settle foreclosure fraud cases

Banks bulldozing foreclosed homes

More state judges getting tough with banks

But not in Florida where high speed rubber stamping of foreclosure is underway.

Home values

2013

Is another housing bubble underway?

New home sales best since 2008

Housing starts largest since 2006

29% of mortgaged homes worth less than loan

Luxury homes starting to bomb, too

The real numbers of the mortgage meltdown

22 million sharing homes

Baltimore homes selling for $10,000

28% of homeowners owe more on mortgage than house is worth

11% of U.S. homes are empty15 Detroit homes you can buy for less tha $500

Home value decline almost equal to depression

American homes lost $9 trillion in value in four years

Major California estate sells for less than 50% of list price. . . cut $40 million

Obama and housing

Only four percent of Obama's foreclosure funds have reached homeowners in badly run program

Obama’s foreclosure plan far from enough

Foreclosure prevention scheme isn't working

Obama foreclosure programs failing because it won't take on banks

Panel says Obamadmin blew housing crisis funding

Obama caving to banks in subprime mortgage scandal settlement

 

People moving towards cities with affordable housing

Portside - The country’s fastest-growing cities are now those where housing is more affordable than average, a decisive reversal from the early years of the millennium, when easy credit allowed cities to grow without regard to housing cost and when the fastest-growing cities had housing that was less affordable than the national average. Among people who have moved long distances, the number of those who cite housing as their primary motivation for doing so has more than doubled since 2007.

Rising rents and the difficulty of securing a mortgage on the coasts have proved a boon to inland cities that offer the middle class a firmer footing and an easier life. In the eternal competition among urban centers, the shift has produced some new winners.

Oklahoma City, for example, has outpaced most other cities in growth since 2011, becoming the 12th-fastest-growing city last year. It has also won over a coveted demographic, young adults age 25 to 34, going from a net loss of millennials to a net gain. Other affordable cities that have jumped in the growth rankings include several in Texas, including El Paso and San Antonio, as well as Columbus, Ohio, and Little Rock, Ark.

How Obama may kill public housing

Rebecca Burns, In These Times - After decades of decay, public housing in the United States could soon be relegated to the dustbin of history, thanks to a new Obama administration initiative called the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. A pilot launched last year in response to a $26 billion backlog in needed repairs, RAD will hand over 60,000 units of public housing nationwide to private management by 2015. Though that’s only a fraction of the nearly 1.2 million public housing units that provide a safety net for more than 2 million people, housing advocates worry that RAD’s reforms are a Trojan horse for sweeping privatization of a crucial public asset.

In the wake of the Great Depression, a surge of tenant activism helped usher in public housing as a federally funded, locally administered program to address poor living conditions in urban areas. But the program came to be viewed less as a public good and more as housing of last resort, giving rise to a cycle of demonization and neglect, followed by pernicious “reforms.” RAD is the latest in a series of initiatives to address the underfunding of public housing with a familiar free-market solution: handing off state-owned assets to private actors who receive public subsidies in exchange for an increasingly involved role in managing housing for low-income tenants.

Though public housing residents have been assured that RAD will fund long-overdue repairs while keeping housing affordable and preserving tenants’ rights, similar promises have been broken by would-be free-market saviors before. Critics say RAD shares key features with past privatization initiatives that have displaced hundreds of thousands of public-housing residents. In the last decade and a half alone, more than 100,000 units of public housing have been lost to demolition or sale.

More cities defining homelessness as a crime

PBS - In many cities throughout the U.S. it is now a crime to beg, loiter or sleep in public. It’s getting harder to be homeless in America.

Laws that criminalize homelessness are cropping up in cities throughout the country, while simultaneously, a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system.

Since 2001, the U.S. has lost nearly 13 percent of its low-income housing according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that surveyed 187 cities.

The advocacy group’s report found that laws placing restrictions on loitering, begging, sitting and lying down in public have increased nationwide since 2009. Eighteen percent of cities now ban sleeping in public and 42 percent of cities ban sleeping in vehicles.

From Skid Row to high school graduation, Los Angeles supports homeless students’ academic success Homeless professor protests conditions of adjuncts

And that’s a problem, NLCHP Executive Director Mary Foscarinis told NPR, because it makes it difficult for individuals to get back on their feet.

“It’s really hard to get a job when you’re homeless anyway, or to get housing,” Foscarinis said. ”You have no place to bathe, no place to dress, no money for transportation. But then if you also have an arrest record, it’s even more challenging,” she said.

In May, city officials in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, passed a series of ordinances cracking down on public drunkenness, urination and sleeping on sidewalks — all in an effort to help the homeless and preserve the city’s quality of life, city spokesman Matt Little told USA Today.

“The city of Fort Lauderdale has a distinguished history of compassion toward those in need,” Little said. “Protecting our quality of life and business environment ensures continued funding for humanitarian needs.”

NLCHP says an overwhelming increase in urban homelessness after the recession and a widespread initiative to revitalize cities’ downtown areas incited the crackdown on the homeless.

Gentrification strikes again

When your editor lived in Washington, he was struck by how little attention was given by the media to the demolition of public housing units. There was, it seemed, a placid assumption that the residents would be taken care of by programs like Section 8 housing, essentially quiet subsidies for landlords and developers. Now, with gentrification in full force, Section 8 is the target.

Washington City Paper - Last month, word spread among the residents of the Museum Square Apartments about a notice posted in the building informing them that they’d have to come up with $250 million or lose their homes. It wasn’t a ransom note or a mob warning, but to the tenants in the Mount Vernon Triangle residence, it might as well have been.

Everyone who lives at Museum Square, located at 401 K St. NW, receives a Section 8 housing subsidy from the federal government. Most of the residents are Chinese, and many are elderly, speak little English, and live on fixed incomes, often as low as a few hundred dollars a month.

“When we first realized that this was happening, we were panicking,” says Jianhong Wang, 76, who’s lived in the building for eight years. “We couldn’t sleep at night.”

Museum Square tenants receive a project-based Section 8 subsidy. The residents all pay 30 percent of their income; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development covers the rest of the rent. The building’s Section 8 contract is set to expire on Oct. 1, and last fall, the property owner, the Bush Companies of Williamsburg, Va., informed HUD of its intent not to renew the contract. Bush, listed on some documents as W. H. H. Trice & Company, which appears to share the same address, followed up with the notice to the tenants in June naming the price they’d have to pay to stay.

Under D.C.’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, when a property owner sells a building, the tenants have the right of first refusal to buy it, either themselves or through an agent like a developer. Typically, this means they’re able to match whatever price is offered by a prospective buyer—a price determined by the market. But the Museum Square case is unusual because the building owner isn’t planning to sell the property, but demolish it.

John Atlas and Peter Dreier, 1994 - By the late 1960s, the housing industry convinced Congress to replace public housing with privately owned, subsidized housing (Known by their statute numbers: Sections 236, 221d, and 8) that gave private developers tax breaks, low-cost mortgages, and rent subsidies to house the poor. These inefficient and costly programs led to widespread political abuses and eventually to the HUD scandals of the 1970s, which were repeated in the 1990s.

Strategic Practice - The story of [Chicago's] Cabrini-Green's demolition uncovers a string of broken promises. At first, they said there would be one-to-one replacements. They offered residents vouchers to rent apartments on the private market, while also allowing more landlords to opt out of Section 8 (meaning there would never be enough private rentals available). They hyped the benefits of mixed income developments where subsidized residents would live side-by-side with residents paying full-market rates. They failed to mention that such developments would have built-in incentives to slowly push out the subsidized residents.

Ben Austin, Harper's, 2012 - Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract. And although that effort had by most accounts failed, the problems represented by the likes of Cabrini-Green persist, and nothing remotely adequate has been built to replace what has been demolished. Chicago has yet to complete the Plan for Transformation’s 15,000 family units, and even that number would fall woefully short of need: when the CHA opened its public-housing waiting list in 2010, more than 215,000 families applied. Since only about a third of the units in the mixed-income buildings are reserved for public-housing tenants, hundreds of these developments would have to be built all across Chicago—in a market glutted with foreclosures and short on buyers. In numerous cases the cleared sites that public-housing residents hoped one day to repopulate were still vacant lots. Only 2,100 former public-housing residents, and fewer than 400 from Cabrini-Green, currently live in mixed-income buildings citywide. Most of the others were uprooted and replanted in unfamiliar areas no less uniformly poor and black—though now they had to manage without the support networks and extended family that had surrounded them in public housing.

The cost of gentrification

Cheaper to house the homless than to leave them on the street

Open Mic - University of North Carolina Charlotte researchers released a study on Monday that tracked chronically homeless adults housed in the Moore Place facility run by Charlotte's Urban Ministry Center in partnership with local government. Housing these people led to dramatic cost savings that more than paid for the cost of putting them in decent housing, including $1.8 million in health care savings from 447 fewer ER visits (78% reduction) and 372 fewer hospital days (79% reduction). Tenants also spent 84 fewer days in jail, with a 72% drop in arrests.

Another study; Providing a home for homeless cheaper than leaving them on the street

Miami and LA take on JP Morgan like the feds were afraid to do

Class segregation in housing

Chinese buying up American real estate

Minimum wage has failed badly to keep up with rent

Micro home of the day

DC urban lot turned into tiny house community

The war on public housing

California town using eminent domain to save homeowners from banks

Banks find new way to cheat homeowners

Urban apartheid: DC man has everything taken by city for owing $134 in property taxes

Obama wants to trash government's role in housing

Feds badly bully town over its mortgage rescue plan

How Obama's secret trade deal will hurt housing and healthcare

The housing crisis the media ignores

The housing cost of squestration

Court decision could force banks to pay much more for mortgage cons

Some reality about the housing market

Another give away to the banks

Chaos as 5,000 seek 1,000 housing vouchers

Corporados move to take over rental industry

The changing city: Granny flats and corner stores

2012...

Housing vacancy rate drops substantially

Why American Express got more bailout help then all homeowners in trouble

ACLU sues JP Morgan for treatment of black homeowners

The importance of the Federal Housing Administration

Student debt crisis hurting housing market

Time to go back to small housing?

Planning an eco-friendly house

One in ten reverse mortgagaged senior in deep financial trouble

Shiller: Maybe no housing rebound for a generation

Why we can't deal rationally with the housing crisis

Some Fed economists wanted major different approach to mortgages

Developers betting on apartments as their construction soars

U.S. cities violate UN standards in dealing with homelessness

Urban accessory housing is catching on

How house purchase tax credit ended up costing buyers

The best & worst counties in which to hold a mortgage

The median new house size in America has dropped ten percent in three years. . .And front porches are back

2010

More state judges getting tough with banks

But not in Florida where high speed rubber stamping of foreclosure is underway.

LOCAL JUDGES LOCAL HEROES IN FORECLOSURE CASES

OVERSIGHT PANEL PANS OBAMA'S HOUSING EFFORTS
 
SOME MCSECTION 8 HOUSING INCLUDES SWIMMING POOLS AND GRILLS
 
THE ELEPHANT IN THE FORECLOSURE ROOM: SECOND LIENS
 
TIME TO FILE CRIMINAL CHARGES IN FORECLOSURE SCANDAL

NEARLY 50% LEAVE OBAMA FORECLOSURE PROGRAM

FHA TO HELP ECONOMY MAKE IT HARDER TO BUY A HOUSE

THE SCAM THAT CREATED THE FORECLOSURE CRISIS

LOCAL HEROES: A STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL SHOWS THE FEDS HOW TO TAKE ON WALL STREET

FORECLOSURE SCANDAL FAR MORE SERIOUS THAN MEDIA IS LETTING ON

BANKS MAY HAVE FORGED A HUGE NUMBER OF FORECLOSURE DOCUMENTS

BANKS SUSPEND FORECLOSURES AS HOMEOWNERS SUE OVER PROCEDURES

BANKS IGNORING LAW ON FORECLOSURES

ONE THIRD OF HOMEOWNERS SAY HOUSE IS WORTH LESS THEN THEIR DEBT ON IT

WALL STREET'S VICIOUS BACK DOOR ATTACK ON HOME BUYERS

HOMEOWNERS SET RECORD FOR BEING BEHIND ON MORTGAGE

HOME LOAN MODIFICATION PROGRAM A HUGE FLOP

OBAMA'S FORECLOSURE PLAN HELPS BANKS MORE THAN HOMEOWNERS

HOW TO DEAL WITH THE FORECLOSURE DISASTER

RECORD NUMBER OF FORECLOSURES PREDICTED IN 2010 AS GOVERNMENT RENEGOTIATES ONLY ONE PERCENT OF PROBLEM CASES

2009

ABOUT A QUARTER OF MODIFIED HOME LOANS STILL FALLING BEHIND

ANOTHER HUD SCANDAL: DEPARTMENT TURNED FORECLOSURE WORKOUTS OVER TO WALL STREET PREDATORS

HOMEOWNERS FORCED INTO BEING LANDLORDS

LOCAL HEROES: SOMEONE IN GOVERNMENT WHO ACTUALLY CARES ABOUT FORECLOSURES

OBAMA'S FORECLOSURE PROGRAM SUBSIDIZING SUBPRIME LENDERS

OBAMA'S PLAN TO HELP HOMEOWNERS IS A BUST

THE HOUSING BUBBLE TOLD IN THE TALE OF ONE HOUSE

THE ULTIMATE FORECLOSURE: CITY BOARDS MAN UP IN HOUSE HE LOST

COURT OKAYS FORECLOSURE ON GOTTI ESTATE . . . BUT NOT UNTIL DELINQUENCY HIT $650K

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

HOMELESSNESS UP A THIRD

FBI WARNED OF MORTGAGE FRAUD EPIDEMIC FIVE YEARS AGO

WHAT A REAL STIMULUS MIGHT LOOK LIKE

Sam Smith

- Reduce credit card interest. As one politician once put it, "I'd frankly like to see credit cards rates down. I believe that would help stimulate the consumer and get consumer confidence moving again.'' Another politician responded by offering a bill in the Senate to cap credit card interest at 14%. The Senate voted for it 74-19. The first politician was that radical president, George Bush, in 1991. The other politician was that well known progressive, Alfonze D'Amato. Why are Obama and the Democrats more conservative than Daddy Bush and D'Amato?

- Start a movement to nationalize banks. Progressives led by Robert LaFollette did this in the 1930s, giving FDR cover for his more moderate solutions. Today, all the political pressure is coming from Wall Street, which tilts policies in that direction.

- All measures must put the interest of the ordinary citizen first. Neither the GOP nor the Democrats are doing that.

- Deemphasize tax cuts. They are far less effective than many think.

- Emphasize programs that will cheer people up and where they can see things changing for the better. Among the Wall Street bailout scam's many faults was that no one could tell what was happening as a result. Good economies need optimism.

- Use revenue sharing. It's a quick way to get money down to the states and cities and to the people who live there. Sure, some of it will get corrupted but far less than is already happening with the phony stimulus packages. The upside is that citizens have a better idea of what is being done on their behalf and have some say in how it is done.

- Fund public works project that have large spin-off benefits and which will be heavy in blue collar employment. These would include new mass transit service and a massive growth of America's rail system. It would deemphasize fixing up existing systems because the spin off benefits are far less. Would it include the much discussed new energy projects? We haven't seen any serious discussion of this. What is the blue collar employment potential of such projects?

- Institute a shared equity program for homeowners in distress under which the federal government buys a portion of the mortgage, renegotiates interest rates with the lenders and then gets its part of the equity back when the house is sold. A similar program could be used for building new homes.

- Decentralize decisions and negotiations on foreclosures and real estate interest rates, using local courts and similar bodies as was done in the 1930s.

- Give the government preferred stock in companies it aids. At one point in the New Deal, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation owned bank shares that would be worth at least $20 billion today.

2008

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO THE MIDDLE CLASS

Americans have been slowly transferring ownership of their homes to the banking system over the last 50+ years. These figures would look much worse if the roughly 1/3 of homes owned "free and clear" (mostly by seniors) were removed from the data, but you can see the trend is toward less equity and more debt. This is not a sign of a prospering middle-class.

ETHICAL SUBPRIME LENDING

WHY YOU CAN'T BLAME THE HOUSING CRISIS ON POOR HOMEOWNERS

TRASHING OUT ON FORECLOSURE ALLEY

NEARLY ONE THIRD OF HOME OWNERS OWE MORE THAN HOUSE IS WORTH

CLINTON-BUSH HOUSING BUBBLE BIGGEST IN A CENTURY

Sam Smith, Progressive Review - According to a study by Yale economist Robert J Shiller cited in his book, "Irrational Exuberance," between 1890 and 1990 the sale of the average existing house (not new construction) rose no more that 25% over the inflation corrected value for 1890. In the 1990s, beginning in the Clinton years, that changed dramatically. Between 1997 and 2006 the typical house doubled in value of over the 1890 average. In other words, the Clinton-Bush housing bubble was greatest in over a hundred years. The bright side is that if the average house drops by 50% we'll be right back where we were in 1997.

Throughout the preceding century, houses varied from 85-125 percent of the 1890 average value with the exception of the depression, which for housing actually began during World War I. By 1920,housing prices were down to about 65% of 1890 levels and then began to slowly rise. By 1940 they were back to the 1890 figure. In other words, housing devaluation can be a harbinger of worse to come

FACING THE HOUSING CRISIS

HOUSING CRASH DISASTROUS FOR RETIREMENT SAVINGS

CALIFORNIA FORECLOSURES UP 327%

THE NEW AMERICA

IMF SAYS MORTGAGE CRISIS IS LARGEST FINANCIAL SHOCK SINCE THE GREAT DEPRESSION

OREGONIAN FINDS JPMORGAN CHASE MEMO ON HOW TO SNEAK IN SUBPRIME LOANS

HOME EQUITY LOANS NEXT CRISIS?

BEN BERNANKE THREE YEARS AGO: HOUSING MARKET NO PROBLEM

SUBPRIME SCANDAL AN OLD STORY IN STOCKTON, CA

SUBPRIME LENDERS TARGETED BLACKS & LATINOS

SUBPRIME CRISIS HELPED BY SUBPRIME POLITICS. . . AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

MORTGAGE LENDERS PREFER FORECLOSURE TO HELPING HOME BUYERS PAY OFF LOAN

PRIMING THE SUBPRIME CRISIS

JAMES MCCUSKER, EVERETT HERALD, WA - In the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent global economic depression, Congress, among other actions, passed the Glass-Steagall Act which prohibited banks from engaging in securities underwriting. There was money to be made in securities, though, and after a suitable period of penance for their contributions to the crash and depression banks began to agitate for relief from this restrictive law.

The banking industry's whining about Glass-Steagall eventually paid off. . . Few people spoke out against the idea, which was endorsed by America's top banking regulator, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. It is tempting to say that his enthusiasm for the idea, and Congress' action, made sense at the time, but that was not so. In fact, it made no sense then, and makes none now. . .

Banks eagerly bought up low-quality mortgage loans, packaged them up and sold them as securities -- all the while using "three-card Monte" accounting constructs to keep the transactions off their balance sheets. . .

The Federal Reserve, the president and Congress have their hands full at this time. Their first priority is damage control, and that is as it should be. Eventually, though, the economy will right itself, with or without Washington's help, and the president, the Federal Reserve and Congress will have time to consider what got us into this fix in the first place.

If we had to pick a single event that set off this economic stink bomb, it would have to be Alan Greenspan's decision to support the expansion of bank activities into securities underwriting. While the Congress has a mind of its own, it is extremely doubtful that they would have approved this expansion in the face of his objections. He was at the height of his powers then, and his support for the idea made it bullet-proof, politically.

As soon as possible, Congress should extend its damage control operations to put banking back on solid ground, and reconstruct the wall between banking and stock-market gaming.

2006

43% OF FIRST TIME HOMEOWNERS LAST YEAR PUT NO MONEY DOWN

NOELLE KNOX, USA TODAY - As housing prices soared last year, an eye-popping 43% of first-time home buyers purchased their homes with no-money-down loans, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors. The trend is potentially ominous. The real estate market is cooling in some areas, and rates on adjustable-rate loans are creeping up. As a result, some no-money-down buyers could owe more than their homes are worth. The median first-time home buyer scraped together a down payment of only 2% on a $150,000 home in 2005, the NAR found. Already, home prices in many areas are declining, and the "For Sale" signs are hanging in front yards longer. There's now at least a 50% risk that prices will decline within two years in 11 major metro areas, including San Diego; Boston; Long Island, N.Y.; Los Angeles; and San Francisco, according to PMI Mortgage Insurance's latest U.S. Market Risk Index. . .

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says that if housing prices fall at least 10%, it could be even more damaging than the collapse of the high-tech stock bubble in 2000. . . Baker and other economists are concerned that many lenders have pushed a series of creative but potentially dangerous loans to help more Americans afford a home.