Flood Insurance Extension Moves Forward/Housing Starts Up

House and Senate appropriators approved more funds for a foreclosure mitigation program and included another short-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program in a spending bill expected to pass shortly. The combined Transportation, Housing and Agriculture “minibus” appropriations bills for fiscal year 2012 provide $80 million for housing counselors to assist struggling homeowners facing possible foreclosure. In FY 2011, Congress approved $67.7 million for foreclosure mitigation programs.The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., and NeighborWorks America will once again distribute the funds, and oversee the effort. The appropriators also tied a continuing resolution (CR) to the minibus appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) to fund other government operations through Dec. 16. The current CR expires Nov. 18. If passed as expected, the CR will allow Federal Emergency Management Agency to continue to issue new flood insurance policies through mid-December. “The National Association of Realtors strongly urges Congress to use the additional time to complete work on a 5-year NFIP re-authorization bill to provide certainty and avoid further disruption to real estate markets,” NAR president Ron Phipps says in a Nov. 14 letter to Congress. Congress has been working on a reform bill that extends the flood insurance program for five years. The House of Representatives passed a five-year NFIP reform bill in July by a 406-22 vote. The Senate Banking Committee passed a similar flood insurance reform bill in September, but several issues need to be resolved before the measure can reach the Senate floor for a vote. Source: National Mortgage News

Permits for housing construction climbed in October, signaling an uptick in optimism among homebuilders. The number of permits for future housing construction jumped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 653,000 last month, up 10.9% from the revised rate of 589,000 in September, the Commerce Department said. That was much higher than expected, with economists surveyed by Briefing.com looking for a 603,000 permit rate. Housing starts, the number of new homes being built, edged down 0.3% to an annual rate of 628,000 units in October, the Commerce Department said. That’s down from a revised 630,000 in September. “Builders thought they were going to be able to get out there and get some houses done, but then they found that they didn’t necessarily want to make the stone cold commitment and want to put anything in the ground,” Roberts said. “The demand wasn’t there, so they weren’t willing to bet a serious amount of money.” But economists had expected a much lower annual rate of 604,000 units, according to consensus estimates from Briefing.com. If the glut of foreclosures starts thinning and demand picks up, the jump in permits could translate into a rise in new construction in coming months. Permits and construction have both increased significantly from a year ago. Housing starts are up 16.5% from the same month a year ago, and building permits are up 17.7%. Source: CNN/Money


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