Posts Tagged ‘Indiana’

Foreclosures Decline, But Expect a Spike Thanks to Banks Settlement

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Foreclosure filings declined eight percent in February, the smallest year-over-year decrease since October 2010, as lenders began working through a backlog of seized properties, according to RealtyTrac Inc. A total of 206,900 homes received notices of default, auction or repossession last month, down two percent from January, according to the data firm, which noted that one in every 637 households received a filing.  Those numbers could rise sharply in coming months.

Banks slowed foreclosures for more than a year as attorneys general in every state investigated charges of shoddy and incomplete paperwork.  A $25 billion settlement with the five largest lenders removed some roadblocks to property seizures and gave the go-ahead for future actions, Brandon Moore, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer, said.  “February’s numbers point to a gradually rising foreclosure tide.  That should result in more states posting annual increases in the coming months.”

“The pig is starting to move through the python,” said Daren Blomquist, RealtyTrac’s director of marketing.  The banks “have already adjusted their foreclosure practices to fit the terms of the settlement.  We expect that to continue as (the settlement) gets finalized,” Blomquist said.

The settlement clarifies the way in which foreclosures must be handled.  That is expected to let banks speed up their processing, putting many delinquent homeowners into the foreclosure process.  Cases could move forward after being on hold for months — even years — with their delinquent owners still living illegally in the properties.

“The foreclosure and mortgage settlement filed in court earlier this week will help pave the way to a properly functioning foreclosure process by providing a clear roadmap for necessary foreclosures,” Moore continued.  “That should result in more states posting annual increases in the coming months.  Not surprisingly, many of the biggest annual increases in February were in states with the more bureaucratic judicial foreclosure process, which resulted in a larger backlog of foreclosures built up over the last 18 months in those states.”

Cities with the highest foreclosure rates were Riverside-San Bernardino in California (one in 166 housing units); Atlanta (one in 244); Phoenix (one in 259); Miami (one in 264); and Chicago (one in 302).

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of the Inspector General’s report found that several banks violated servicing standards and foreclosure procedures and engaged in extensive robo signing.  The banks agreed to follow new servicing standards and offer relief to borrowers by providing $10 billion in principal reductions, $3 billion in refinancing loans and $7 billion in alternatives to foreclosure.  Foreclosures in the 26 states with a judicial foreclosure process rose 24 percent over last year, while activity in the 24 states that follow a non-judicial foreclosure process fell by 23 percent

Default notices, the initial step in the foreclosure process increased more than 20 percent in 12 states, including Hawaii, Maryland, Connecticut, South Carolina, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida.  State attorneys general have filed lawsuits against major lenders in New York, California and Nevada in recent months, further slowing the pace of foreclosures in those states.

North Dakota’s Booming Economy Grew 7.1 percent in 2010

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Guess which state’s economy grew at a significantly faster pace than the nation’s measly 2.9 percent?  According to a report from the Department of Commerce, it’s North Dakota, whose economy expanded a robust 7.1 percent in 2010.The key driver behind both North Dakota’s success is drilling for oil.  Historically, North Dakota’s mining sector — which includes oil — was quite small compared to its overall economy.  That has undergone change in recent years due to new technology that makes it possible to tap billions of barrels of oil in a remote area of North Dakota known as Bakken. American oil demand was relatively flat last year — but that made no difference in North Dakota.  Mining surged 59 percent, primarily because businesses were working to build the infrastructure to support this young industry in the Bakken region.  “North Dakota has a lot of untapped shale oil, and developing that field may have attracted a lot of investment and a lot of employment into the state,” said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association.

By 2015, the new fields could yield as much as two million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.  This new drilling is expected to raise American production by a minimum of 20 percent over the next five years.  Within 10 years, it could reduce oil imports by more than half.  “That’s a significant contribution to energy security,” said Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Credit Suisse.

Among the other states, one of the prevailing themes impacting growth is the ongoing housing slump – which was most evident in Nevada and Arizona.  Several states — including Indiana, Massachusetts and Oregon — saw a manufacturing comeback for autos, high-tech equipment and machinery.

The states seeing the greatest growth in 2010 after North Dakota include New York at 5.1 percent; Indiana at 4.6 percent; Massachusetts at 4.2 percent; and West Virginia at 4.0 percent.

Wyoming was the loser with its $34 million GDP falling 0.3 percent in 2010. It’s because the majority of Wyoming’s coal is used to generate electricity — and when demand for energy declined. last year, it was a setback for Wyoming’s mining industry.  With the energy sector rebounding and coal prices soaring, Wyoming is likely to fare better in 2011. Wyoming performed very differently from North Dakota in 2010.  Mining is a well established segment of the economy, accounting for approximately one third of the entire state’s GDP.  When energy demand fell and oil prices barely picked up in 2010, Wyoming’s GDP was badly hurt.  “When the economy is just flat or just limping along, you can expect a state like Wyoming to really take it hard,” Popovich said.

After Wyoming, the slowest growing states are Nevada at -0.2 percent; Arizona at 0.7 percent; Oklahoma at 0.7 percent; and Montana at 1.1 percent.  States like Delaware, which rely heavily on manufacturing of soft goods such as plastic, struggled due to weak consumer demand and competition from producers overseas.

“It’s only been fleshed out over the last 12 months just how consequential this can be,” said Mark Papa, chief executive of EOG Resources, the first company to use horizontal drilling to tap shale oil.  “And there will be several additional plays that will come about in the next 12 to 18 months. We’re not done yet.”

United States in Third Place in Developing Clean Energy Sources

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

The United States has fallen to third place – behind China and Germany – in the development of clean energy sources, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts. Investment in global clean energy expanded significantly in 2010 to $243 billion, a 30 percent increase over 2009.  China, Germany, Italy and India were among the nations that were most successful at attracting private investments.  China solidified its position as the world’s clean energy leader.  Its 2010 investment record of $54.4 billion in 2010 represents a 39 percent increase over 2009.  Germany ranked second in the

G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100 percent increase in investment to $41.2 billion.  The United States’ 2010 investment totaled just $34 billion, a 51 percent increase over the previous year.

“The United States’ position as a leading destination for clean energy investment is declining because its policy framework is weak and uncertain,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.  She said that the U.S. could lag behind even more as competitors adopt renewable energy standards and incentives for investing in solar, wind and other forms of clean energy.  “We are at risk of losing even more financing to countries like China, Germany and India, which have adopted strong policies such as renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production,” Cuttino said.

“The United States remains the global leader in clean energy innovation, receiving 75 percent of all venture capital investment in the sector, a total of $6 billion in 2010, but the U.S. has not been creating demand for deployment of clean energy.  As a result it is losing out on opportunities to attract investment, create manufacturing capabilities and spur job growth.  For example, worldwide, China is now the leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels,” says Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

China’s goal is to install 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020; the European Union intends to generate 20 percent of its power from renewable sources over the same timeframe.  In the United States, 30 states have policies requiring utilities to buy more electricity from renewable sources.  Although the federal government has incentives in place to cut project costs, there’s no nationwide mandate for clean energy.

The website believes it doesn’t really matter who leads the world in alternative energy creation – as long as global effort continue.  According to Douglas McIntyre, “Most of the data does not matter much.  The fact that China invests such a large amount in clean energy does not mean it will not sell products based on that technology to U.S. firms.  China will export manufactured wind and solar infrastructure just as it does everything else.  Green technology is hardly a strategic asset.  The Chinese are as anxious to make money from their investment as U.S. companies.  If any proof is needed, many Chinese and US alternative energy firms are listed on stock exchanges.  Green is a business as much as it is a movement.”

Unfortunately, McIntyre says, solar and wind energy are not as powerful a source as many believe.  Solar energy doesn’t work at night unless the user has a storage device such as a battery; cloudy weather can make the technology unreliable.  Solar technologies are also quite costly and need significant land to collect the sun’s energy at useful rates.  Wind energy is intermittent in most areas.  Additionally, wind turbines typically are not connected to the American power grid, making the energy it produces difficult to deliver effectively to places where it could replace coal-powered electricity.

McIntyre notes that “America has a nearly inexhaustible supply of coal.  Nuclear energy projects may be delayed by the effects of the Japan earthquake, but its growth in the U.S. is inevitable because the country needs to produce more energy within its borders.  Investment in solar and wind energy may be up, particularly in China.  That does not matter much if the two sources do not work as well as others that are currently available.”

Click here to read a discussion about nuclear power by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Illiana Expressway to Bring Growth, New Jobs to Will County, IL

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Illiana Expressway will stimulate growth in Will County.  A historic partnership between the states of Illinois and Indiana gave the green light to constructing the Illiana Expressway, a 56-mile superhighway whose goal is to ease traffic congestion, create jobs and promote economic growth.  Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels recently signed an agreement to construct a roadway that connects Interstate 55 in Illinois with Interstate 65 in Indiana.  An “outer encircling highway” that bypasses Chicago to the south, which was originally proposed in Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Chicago more than 100 years ago, is now closer to becoming a reality.

“We are partners,” Quinn said as the two governors signed the agreement at a location on the Illinois/Indiana state line.  “”They’re our allies, and we’ll work together for the betterment of both of our states and the whole region.”  The Illiana Expressway is expected to create 14,000 new jobs in Illinois and enhance access to growing freight and trucking facilities in Will County.

Illinois’ and Indiana’s transportation departments will choose a consultant to begin environmental impact studies and evaluate the optimal routes later this year.  A final plan should be recommended by 2015.  Also under consideration are four-, six- and eight-lane configurations, including one that includes four truck-only lanes.

The Illiana Expressway will be convenient to two Will County land sites that Alter 360° represents in unincorporated Wilmington, IL.  One is 30650 Route 53, a 7.98 acre parcel in unincorporated Will County at the corner of Route 53 and New River Road.  Currently there is a 14,668 SF, 30-year-old industrial building on the south eastern corner.  The asset is just five miles from Interstate 55 and the Centerpoint Intermodal center.  The second is a three-parcel, 21.14-acre site on the northeast corner of Indian Trail Road and Peotone Road, just six miles from Interstate 55.  Both sites are approximately 17 miles from the proposed South Suburban Airport.

With the ink barely dry on the bi-state agreement, no start date has been set for construction of the Illiana Expressway.

Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago a “Temple of Light”

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Amidst the most dire financial crisis in a generation, Chicago has created a magnificent rejoinder to all the bad news.  The Russian writer Dostoevsky once said that “Beauty will save the world.”  Seeing Renzo Piano’s new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago makes you believe that it just might.  First of all, how did they do it?  A $300 million capital project when cities and states are tottering on the edge of bankruptcy?  The answer is that the project is the denouement of a $385 million fundraising campaign — $300 million for the new building and $85 million for the endowment.  All of it came from private patrons in Chicago, some of whom contributed multi-million-dollar sums — a sign of the enormous wealth generated in our city over the last business cycle.  Fortunately, the capital campaign was completed before the downturn in the economy, but the larger museum’s budget will rise from $77 million to $97 million.  This comes at a time when the Art Institute’s endowment has lost a quarter of its value since mid-2008 when it was $641 million, though the museum has been raising an average of around $60 million a year for the expansion.  Meanwhile, in March, the Art Institute issued two series of bonds totaling $140 million to finance construction and other costs while waiting for pledges to come in.

Piano's design includes a facade of Indiana limestone, white steel, and aluminum topped with a "flying carpet" flat roof.

Piano's design includes a facade of Indiana limestone, white steel, and aluminum topped with a "flying carpet" flat roof.

So how good is the building?  For one, it increases the gallery’s space by 35 percent to one million square feet, making the Art Institute the second largest art museum in the U.S. after the Metropolitan Museum in New York (he said proudly as a Chicagoan).  But the really singular thing about the new Modern Wing and what puts it, in my mind, beyond the Met, is that it is a masterpiece of design and urban planning.  Joining Beaux Art with Prairie, the new building has been described as a temple of light.  The key word is temple with all its suggestion of serenity and grace.  Piano (he of the New York Times building and the Whitney Museum) has created a white steel, aluminum and Indiana limestone jewel box topped with a gorgeous flat roof (his flying carpet) and overhanging eaves (in Prairie fashion) which carefully refract light into the galleries below.

The interior is a marvel of the earthbound — wood floors and red wood paneling — and the airborne — vellum ceiling panels and a floating glass staircase that looks back and ahead at the architectural aspirations of our city.  Piano is effusive in his fidelity to transparency and translucence in his work: “architecture must fly: it is made of emotions, tensions, transparency, “and it is not enough for the light to be perfect, you also need calm, serenity, and even a voluptuous quality linked to contemplation of works of art.”

The stunning Nichols Bridgeway, a 620-foot-long pedestrian walkway between the Modern Wing and Millennium Park, gives the impression of floating through treetops and buildings.

The stunning Nichols Bridgeway, a 620-foot-long pedestrian walkway between the Modern Wing and Millennium Park, gives the impression of floating through treetops and buildings.

Then there’s the way the building is situated, offering us the best views yet of the sumptuous Millennium Park gardens and the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion.  The genius of the building is that it makes the city part of its permanent collection, continually juxtaposing its pop art and abstract expressionist canvases against the northeast views of Lake Michigan and the gilded Loop skyline.  The connection is fully realized at the end when the path snakes onto the stunning Nichols Bridgeway, a sloping, 620-foot-long pedestrian walkway that buoys you from the Modern Wing straight into Millennium Park. Lit like the drawbridge to a spaceship, the walkway gives the impression of floating through treetops and buildings.  An unforgettable way to close.  The new Modern Wing of the Art Institute is everything civic architecture should be — inspiring, provoking and, ultimately, a bellwether of better things ahead.

Want Affordable Housing? Here’s Where to Find It

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Despite all the doom-and-gloom reports on the residential real estate market, there are some bright spots.  In several markets, housing has become surprisingly affordable to families earning a median household income of $61,500.  And there’s more good news.  Mortgage rates are again nearing the record lows of a few years ago; and family incomes jumped an average of a $2,500 between 2007 and 2008.

What are some of the markets most strongly impacted by this trend?

Indianapolis, IN – The largest affordable cities – Indianapolis, for example — tend to be in the Midwest.  More than 90 percent of all Indianapolis households have sufficient incomes to buy a median-priced $125,000 home.  During the first quarter of 2008, Indy ranked as the most affordable major U.S. housing market for the 11th consecutive quarter.

Stockton, CA: — The average single-family home price fell 35 percent to $230,800 in the first quarter of 2008, compared with $357,800 just two years previously.

Kokomo, IN: — Among smaller metro markets, Kokomo ranked well in terms of housing affordability during 2008’s first quarter.  A median-priced home in Kokomo is about $147,000.

Grand Rapids, MI: — Approximately 88.7 percent of homes sold were affordable, a 4.2 percent change from 2007.  A median-priced house in Grand Rapids is currently $132,100.

Youngstown, OH: — In this small city with a population of 82,000, the median sales price dropped 13.5 percent to $67,700 in just one year.