Thursday, June 27, 2019
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Each month Leah Green, Izabela Perry, Sivan Oysermand, Jeff Naylor and Bill Shea preside over the "Most Dysfunctional Public Meeting in Marin County”. Their childish school yard bully tactics to silence the public have meet resistance from people who know their rights. The CSD engages openly in corrupt practices, abuses the public and violates public meeting laws. Here is one small segment of the circus. They interrupt fourteen times, insult me, ask the Sheriff for my removal and refuse to answer a single question about the Marinwood CSD's irregular accounting and slush fund.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
By Dan Walters | May 26, 2019 | COMMENTARY, DAN WALTERS
Let’s talk about “fungibility” – the economic concept that one unit of a commodity may be interchangeable with another.
That’s true if the commodity involved is something like a bushel of corn or a barrel of crude oil. But in politics, the commodity is money and fungibility means that a dollar is a dollar and if it’s spent on one thing, it’s not available for another thing, no matter how it may be spun to the public.
One of countless examples is Assembly Bill 11, which would recreate city redevelopment programs that the Legislature abolished earlier in this decade. Redevelopment’s downside, which led to its demise, was that incremental property taxes generated in redevelopment projects were withheld from other local governments, such as counties, and school districts.
At its zenith, redevelopment was diverting about $5 billion per year and under the state constitution, the state had to make up the property tax losses to schools, about $2 billion a year. AB 11, which is now on hold, would direct the incremental taxes from redevelopment into low-income housing and the state, as in the past, would have to make up tax losses to schools by shifting funds from other state programs.
Measure EE, a highly controversial parcel tax measure being proposed by Los Angeles Unified School District, is also a wonderfully misleading example of fungibility.
An early version of the measure prohibited using its revenues for “funding long-term healthcare or pension liabilities,” but the wording was changed to a less specific prohibition on “funding legal settlements and liabilities.”
Regardless of the weasel words, “legal settlements and liabilities” certainly include the district’s inescapable legal obligations for pensions and other benefits. Moreover, by underwriting other district expenses, the new taxes would indirectly pay for those fast-growing benefit costs, thanks to fungibility. It’s just a semantic exercise to fool voters.
Sacramento’s city government is also in the throes of a terrific fungibility squabble.
Last year, at the behest of Mayor Darrell Steinberg, city voters passed Measure U, extending a half-cent sales tax that was due to expire and adding another half-cent to the levy.
Steinberg insisted that the extra half-cent, raising perhaps $40 million a year, would be “a real game changer” that would finance affordable housing, shelters, services for the homeless, job training in low-income communities and small business incentives.
Independent analysts, including this column, pointed out, however, that by the city’s own estimate, its mandatory payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) are expected to increase from $81.6 million a year to $129 million by 2023, thus consuming the additional $40 million a year that Measure U would generate.
This year, City Manager Howard Chan, in proposing a new budget, essentially said that the money should be available to cope with rising pension costs, earning him a public tongue-lashing from Steinberg.
“If we keep the second half-cent (of new Measure U revenue) in the general fund, every penny will go to pension and salaries,” Steinberg said. “All of the money will be gone, and so will the increased public safety that we promised in this budget.” However, the mayor also acknowledged that if voters had been told that the extra taxes would be needed for pensions, they would not have approved them.
Steinberg wants to pledge the extra revenue to repay a proposed $400 million community improvement bond, but that would mean it would not be available as CalPERS demands for higher pension payments, thus requiring cuts in other city services to make up the shortfall.
That’s fungibility. There is no free lunch, despite politicians’ efforts to persuade voters otherwise.
Data science helped Amherst Holdings CEO Sean Dobson make a fortune in the housing crash. Now he's deploying A.I. to profit from properties that most investors wouldn’t touch.
By Shawn Tully
June 21, 2019
Meet the A.I. Landlord That’s Building a Single-Family-Home Empire
Data science helped Amherst Holdings CEO Sean Dobson make a fortune in the housing crash. Now he's deploying A.I. to profit from properties that most investors wouldn’t touch.
By Shawn Tully
June 21, 2019
Erin Burrus has endured some misfortune in recent years: After a cancer diagnosis, she lost her home to foreclosure. Today she’s healthy again, and a stable job in sales has helped her mend her finances. “I’m climbing my way back up,” says Burrus. One symbol of her stability is the two-bedroom home she shares with her husband and their children in Greenwood, a solidly middle-class suburb of Indianapolis. The family rents the place rather than owning their home. But it was important to Burrus that they not be in an apartment. “I wanted to get a house with a yard for the kids, for that family atmosphere,” she says.
Burrus’s landlord is a company called Main Street Renewal; she found out about it from her mother, who rents a nearby home from the same outfit (and runs a thriving dress-alteration business with Burrus). And each is now playing a small part in an ambitious experiment.
Main Street Renewal is an arm of Amherst Holdings, a real estate investing firm with $20 billion under management. It owns or manages some 16,000 single-family homes, scattered across the Midwest and the Sunbelt. That portfolio makes Amherst one of the biggest, fastest-growing players in institutionally owned rental homes, a $45 billion subsector of the real estate industry that barely existed before the Great Recession.
Sean Dobson, Amherst’s CEO, is an imposing Texan data savant who dropped out of college to get into mortgage trading. A decade ago, he made a killing shorting shaky debt during the housing crash. Today he’s adding 1,000 homes a month to his empire with the help of artificial intelligence, using data modeling to make dozens of offers a day on potentially profitable houses. The Main Street homes are a $3.2 billion investment that generates around $300 million in annual rental income, but Dobson harbors far bigger ambitions: “We want to get to 1 million homes in the next 15 years or so,” he says. While that figure reflects as much bravado as realism—it’s more than 60 times the number of homes Amherst owns today—the fact that it’s conceivable shows how much the housing market has changed, and how technology is helping investors profit from those changes.
The rise of the single-family-rental industry reflects profound shifts in the finances and attitudes of America’s families. Homeownership, long a bedrock of financial stability, has become unattainable or undesirable for many middle-income workers—for reasons including tighter lending standards, large college-debt loads, and lagging wage growth and savings. According to Yardeni Research, slightly more than one in three households that would have been buying first homes before the financial crisis is now either renting or still living with their parents.
These trends translate into roughly 5 million households that are renting single-family homes rather than taking out mortgages and building equity, and that’s Amherst’s target market. Its specialty is grabbing run-down properties in nice, middle-class subdivisions—guided by algorithms that help it avoid bidding wars and money pits—which it then spruces up for the new rental generation. Amherst’s typical customers are couples in their early forties with one or two kids and household incomes around $60,000. They’re paying an average rent of $1,450 a month. “That’s almost exactly what they’d pay on a mortgage and other expenses if they owned the house,” says Dobson. “We’re catering to a whole new class of Americans—the former buyers who are now either forced renters or renters by choice.” And Dobson is betting that this new class is a permanent one.
Single-family-home rentals have long been dominated by local entrepreneurs—mom-and-pop investors or groups of businesspeople who own and manage no more than a couple of dozen properties (and often as few as one). Historically, when bigger fish, such as hedge funds and real estate investment trusts (REITs), invested in rental housing, they focused on apartment buildings—larger assets whose bunched-together density made them more cost-effective to manage.
The housing crash of the 2000s changed the math. As hard-pressed households gave See ARTICLE HERE
Monday, June 24, 2019
Kayaking through a mangrove forest.
Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan
Spending at least two hours a week in nature may be a crucial threshold for promoting health and wellbeing, according to a new large-scale study.
Research led by the University of Exeter, published in Scientific Reports and funded by NIHR, found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing than those who don't visit nature at all during an average week. However, no such benefits were found for people who visited natural settings such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches for less than 120 minutes a week.
The study used data from nearly 20,000 people in England and found that it didn't matter whether the 120 minutes was achieved in a single visit or over several shorter visits. It also found the 120 minute threshold applied to both men and women, to older and younger adults, across different occupational and ethnic groups, among those living in both rich and poor areas, and even among people with long term illnesses or disabilities.
Dr Mat White, of the University of Exeter Medical School, who led the study, said: "It's well known that getting outdoors in nature can be good for people's health and wellbeing but until now we've not been able to say how much is enough. The majority of nature visits in this research took place within just two miles of home so even visiting local urban greenspaces seems to be a good thing. Two hours a week is hopefully a realistic target for many people, especially given that it can be spread over an entire week to get the benefit."
There is growing evidence that merely living in a greener neighbourhood can be good for health, for instance by reducing air pollution. The data for the current research came from Natural England's Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey, the world's largest study collecting data on people's weekly contact with the natural world.
Co-author of the research, Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University in Sweden said: "There are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. The current findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations about spending time in nature to promote basic health and wellbeing, similar to guidelines for weekly physical."
Materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Mathew P. White, Ian Alcock, James Grellier, Benedict W. Wheeler, Terry Hartig, Sara
Sunday, June 23, 2019
A FARMER walked through his field one cold winter morning. On the ground lay a Snake, stiff and frozen with the cold. The Farmer knew how deadly the Snake could be, and yet he picked it up and put it in his bosom to warm it back to life.
The Snake soon revived, and when it had enough strength, bit the man who had been so kind to it. The bite was deadly and the Farmer felt that he must die. As he drew his last breath, he said to those standing around:
"Learn from my fate not to take pity on a scoundrel."
Moral: The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful.
Saturday, June 22, 2019
Investors Are Buying More of the U.S. Housing Market Than Ever BeforeTheir interest poses a challenge for millennials and other first-time buyers
Strong rental demand, technology that facilitates buying homes online and low interest rates that make other investments less appealing have fueled investor appetite. Shown, a broker’s open house in San Francisco. PHOTO: JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES
Laura KusistoUpdated June 20, 2019 7:12 pm ET
The share of investor purchases of U.S. homes have climbed to an all-time high, a sign that rising home prices have done little to dampen demand for flipping homes or turning them into single-family rentals.
Big private-equity firms, real-estate speculators and others that buy properties comprised more than 11% of U.S. home purchasers in 2018, according to data released on Thursday by CoreLogic Inc.
The investor purchases are the highest on record and nearly twice the levels before the 2008 housing crash. The investor interest poses a challenge for millennials and other first-time buyers who are increasingly looking to buy starter homes and are forced to compete with deep-pocketed cash buyers.
Big commercial property owners like Blackstone Group LP and Starwood Capital Group began buying thousands of homes out of foreclosure during the housing bust. Many economists credit investors with helping to stabilize the housing market in 2011 and 2012 by buying with cash when prices were low and mortgage credit froze.
But analysts expected those purchases to slow, as the market rebounded and properties could no longer be had for fire-sale prices.
Cashing InPurchases of single-family homes byinvestors are at an all-time high.Percentage of homes purchased byinvestors, by home valueSource: CoreLogic
Instead, demand for properties has intensified. While these purchases dipped slightly when the market started to recover in 2015 and 2016, they have rebounded to surpass the previous peak of six years ago.
Strong rental demand, technology that facilitates buying homes online and low interest rates that make other investments less appealing have fueled investor appetite.
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Investors are an especially powerful force at the bottom of the market, where they often pay all cash. Investors purchased one in five homes in the bottom third price range in 2018, according to the CoreLogic analysis, up 5 percentage points from the 20-year average of less than 15%.
“These are the homes that first-time home buyers would logically be buying,” said Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic.
Shane Parker, a real-estate agent in metropolitan Detroit, said first-time buyers he works with are struggling to win bidding wars against out-of-state buyers. The locals he works with are becoming more aggressive, putting in escalation clauses and agreeing to pay the difference if properties don’t appraise.
One of his clients, Michael Burnett, a tech writer in Detroit, and his wife are looking for their first home so they can have a treehouse for their young girls. They have visited 25 properties and bid on half a dozen but keep losing out to cash buyers.
The couple recently fell in love with a property they thought had great potential. “It’s ugly on the outside, ugly on the inside, but it can be made beautiful,” said Mr. Burnett, 43 years old.
The house ended up getting a dozen offers, more than half of which were cash, and selling for $40,000 over the asking price of $150,000. “We write letters. You think you’ve composed this great heartfelt, ‘I have a family, see my family,’” he said. “Oh, please…Cash is king.”
Real-estate entrepreneur Gregor Watson’s business has helped boost investor participation. Following the housing bust, he and partners bought more than 6,000 homes across the country and turned them into single-family rentals.
Then he founded Roofstock, a company that enables investors to purchase properties online. The internet has made it easier for smaller investors and foreign buyers to purchase properties they may never have visited. Demand is also shifting toward former industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest where prices remain low.
Mr. Watson said that many people in San Francisco and New York are priced out of buying homes where they live but are able to purchase an investment property in less expensive cities.
Michael Pickens, 31, who works in tech sales in the Bay Area, and his wife kept losing out in bidding wars to all-cash offers. “It was all cash, no contingency, seven-day close,” he said.
He and his wife decided instead to rent a small apartment in Santa Clara County and buy investment homes on Roofstock in less expensive locales.
They now own homes in Georgia and Tennessee despite never having visited either state.
So-called iBuyers, such as Opendoor, Zillow Offers and RedfinNow, which snap up homes in cash for a fee to help sellers avoid the hassle of putting their homes on the market, comprised less than 2% of investor purchases last year, according to CoreLogic.
The biggest markets for investor purchases in 2018 were Detroit, followed by Philadelphia and Memphis, Tenn., where home prices are still low enough for investors to profit by renting them out. Investors bought nearly half the starter homes in Philadelphia last year and about 40% of lower-priced homes in Detroit, according to CoreLogic.
When Tawan Davis launched a business renting out single-family homes three years ago, he focused on Philadelphia because of the city’s slow foreclosure process and history of disinvestment, he said.
Mr. Davis typically purchases homes for about $75,000 to $90,000, puts an additional $50,000 to $80,000 into renovation and rents them out for around $1,300 a month.
He said he is often welcomed in these neighborhoods because his modestly priced rental properties help act as a bulwark against gentrification. Many of his renters are single and work as nurses or adjunct professors, he said.
“They’d much rather see us than a lawyer from New York,” he said.
Write to Laura Kusisto at email@example.com
Appeared in the June 21, 2019, print edition as 'Investors Buy Homes At Unparalleled Rate.'
Friday, June 21, 2019
Another meeting filled with threats, interruptions and accusations. The Marinwood CSD director no longer writes reports despite having the largest support staff in the history of the district. Meeting notes have been suppressed and the CSD operates in secret. No report on the Marinwood Maintenance Facility that is projected to be the largest capital expense for the CSD in decades. The board feigns ignorance but the project has been delayed 60 days due to the Hansell Plan lack of compliance with County guidelines. So far Bill Hansell has been paid 300% of his original estimate. The Marinwood CSD has become more corrupt, financially irresponsible and abusive of the public trust at any time in its history.
From Superintendent Yamishiro on 6/20/19:
There is a construction project at Miller Creek this summer. It is to replace 16 portables with 16 modular classrooms and will be completed this summer. There have been at least two times this spring where details related to the project have been on the Board agenda, but we are aware that this would not necessarily reach the broader community. We received notice to proceed right at the end of the school year (just last week) and tried to reach out with communication to direct neighbors at that time. I am not sure who staff was able to reach. Based on your communication we will try to establish an update link on our website to keep the community informed of progress on the site.
I shared your concerns with our project manager who confirmed that we can build on the site (keep in mind that this is a replacement project for badly outdated portables). As you can tell from the video the portables have been removed and destroyed and we absolutely have to complete this project by the end of the summer, so we cannot delay it. There is follow up happening in regards to your concern about the tree branches and I will get back to you on that. I know this is a quick, basic summary, but I hope it addresses your desire to know more information about the project, whether it was cleared by the proper channels, and that we will follow up on the tree questions/issues.
To Superintendent Yamashiro two hours later:
I just walked past the site again and discovered a massive excavation next to the Heritage California Bay, The tree is huge with a trunk in the range of 70". I expect the root system was compromised today during the digging.
I asked the workers if they were putting in a pool. They shrugged their shoulders and walked away. The hole appears at least 8 feet deep and is the size of a large residential pool. I wonder if this is a footing or a basement foundation for a large building.
One thing for certain, this is NOT MERELY A REPLACEMENT of existing buildings. This hole indicates something else.
It is frustrating that it appears that this project has not been made public. It seems very unwise. Does the district think that no one will notice? And even today, the responses are lacking in detail. Surely you know the details. You approved them.