Category Archives: Housing

Walmart Sues Tesla Over Solar Panel Fires, Claims SolarCity Purchase Was A Bailout

Until now, the general public was only aware of the remarkable ability of Tesla cars to spontaneously combust, that is at least when they are not smashing into random things while on autopilot. It now appears that Tesla’s solar panels (some may be unaware that several years ago, Elon Musk tried to unsuccessfully pivot Tesla into a solar power company as well as that’s where a few billion in government subsidies were to be found) are just as combustible.

On Tuesday, Walmart sued Tesla, after its solar panels atop seven of the retailer’s stores allegedly caught fire, alleging breach of contract, gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards. Walmart is asking Tesla to remove solar panels from more than 240 Walmart locations where they have been installed, and to pay damages related to all the fires Walmart says that Tesla caused.

Walmart said it had leased or licensed roof space on top of more than 240 stores to Tesla’s energy operations unit, formerly known as SolarCity (which was basically a bailout by Elon Musk for Elon Musk who was also the largest SolarCity shareholder), for the installation and operation of solar systems. But as of November, fires had broken out at no fewer than seven of the stores, forcing the disconnection of all the solar panel systems for the safety of the public.

The breach-of-contract suit by Walmart, which was filed in the state of New York, alleges that: “As of November 2018, no fewer than seven Walmart stores had experienced fires due to Tesla’s solar systems-including the four fires described above and three others that had occurred earlier.” The fires resulted in evacuations, damaged property and inventory.

Walmart’s inspectors additionally found that Tesla “had engaged in widespread, systemic negligence and had failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating and maintaining its solar systems.’

Walmart also claimed that “Tesla routinely deployed individuals to inspect the solar systems who lacked basic solar training and knowledge and also alleged that Tesla failed to ground its solar and electrical systems properly, and that Tesla-installed solar panels on-site at Walmart stores contained a high number of defects that were visible to the naked eye, including loose and hanging wires at several locations, and which Tesla should have found and repaired before they led to fires.

It gets better: according to the suit, Tesla’s own inspection reports revealed “improper wire management, including abraded and hanging wires,” as well as “poor grounding” and “solar panel modules that were broken or contained dangerous hot spots.”

To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla,” Walmart said in the suit. “To this day, Tesla has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final ‘root cause’ analyses needed to identify the precise defects in its systems that caused all of the fires described above.”

Walmart said the first fire broke out at a store in Beavercreek, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton, in March 2018, and two more fires occurred at stores in California and Maryland in May of that year. While Tesla disconnected the panels at Walmart’s request that same month, it wasn’t enough to stop fires from occurring, and another blaze broke out in November at a store in Yuba City, California.

Ironically, the lawsuit comes at a time when Tesla has been trying to salvage its collapsing solar business; on Sunday, Elon Musk announced in a string of tweets which reeked of desperation that customers in some states can now rent Tesla’s residential, solar rooftop systems without a contract. The offer is available in six states, and will cost customers at least $50 a month (or $65 a month in California). And although Musk touted the ease of cancelling a rented roof at anytime, CNBC noted that the fine print on Tesla’s website mentions a $1,500 fee to take out the solar panels and restore the customer’s roof.

There is a reason why Tesla is basically giving the spontaneously combustible solar panels away: In the second quarter, Tesla installed a mere 29 megawatts of solar, a record low for the company in a single quarter. In its heyday, Tesla’s solar division (formerly SolarCity) installed over 200 megawatts in a single quarter.

But wait there is more.

As if allegations of shoddy quality control, dismal workmanship and overall blatant lack of professionalism weren’t enough, Walmart also “went there” and in the “explosive”, pun not intended 114-page lawsuit, piled onto a long-running controversy according to which Tesla bailed out a failing SolarCity in 2016 when it purchased the company for $2.6 billion (Elon Musk was also the biggest shareholder of SolarCity at the time, while Tesla’s Elon Musk bought out SolarCity in a gross conflict of interest), with WalMart highlighting the familial ties between Tesla and SolarCity as the underpinnings of a flawed merger that allegedly produced shoddy craftsmanship and led to fires at seven Walmart stores.

“On information and belief, when Tesla purchased SolarCity to bail out the flailing company (whose executives included two of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s first cousins), Tesla failed to correct SolarCity’s chaotic installation practices or to adopt adequate maintenance protocols, which would have been particularly important in light of the improper installation practices,” Walmart claimed in a suit that is sure to draw regulators attention to the 2016 deal that should never have been allowed. As shown in the diagram above, SolarCity co-founders Lyndon Rive and Peter Rive are Musk’s cousins, while Musk was the largest shareholder of both companies.

So already facing a slumping stock price from dozens of lawsuits and investigations, store closings, delayed loan repayments and the departure of key executives, CNBC notes that the Walmart suit lands at a particularly difficult time for Tesla and Musk. Specifically in regards to SolarCity, Musk was slated to be deposed earlier this month in a complaint brought by shareholders over the deal.

The name “SolarCity” shows up 46 times in the lawsuit, which alleges the company had a failed business model, stemming from a goal to speed up revenue growth at all costs.

“Walmart’s experience bears out Tesla, Inc.’s and Tesla’s inability to turn around and bail out the solar panel operations acquired from SolarCity,” the suit says.

* * *

Walmart is asking a judge to declare Tesla in breach of contract, order the company to remove the solar panels from all of its stores and award damages equal to its costs and consulting fees in connection with the fires.

Tesla shares fell as much as 1.7% to $222.70 as of 6:45 p.m. in after hours trading. The stock is down 32% this year.

The case is Walmart Inc. v. Tesla Energy Operations, New York State Supreme Court, New York County; Index No.  654765/2019.

The full lawsuit is below

Source: ZeroHedge

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FHA Eases Condo Rules, Expanding The Purchase And Reverse Mortgage Market

Through a new rule announced Wednesday, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is making it easier for aspiring entry level housing buyers and condo owners to get reverse mortgages with FHA insured financing. 

The FHA published a final regulation and policy implementation guidance this week establishing a new process for condominium approvals which will expand FHA financing for qualified first time home buyers as well as seniors looking to age in place, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said in a press memo. 

In a stated Trump Administration effort to “reduce regulatory barriers restricting affordable home ownership,” the new rule introduces a new single-unit approval procedure that eases the ability for individual condominium units to become eligible for FHA-insured financing. It also extends the recertification requirement for approved condominium projects from two years to three.

The rule will also allow more mixed-use projects to be eligible for FHA insurance, the department said in a press release. HUD Secretary Ben Carson touted the rule’s ability to assist both first-time home buyers, as well as seniors aiming to age in place.

“Condominiums have increasingly become a source of affordable, sustainable home ownership for many families and it’s critical that FHA be there to help them,” said Carson in a press release announcing the new rule. “Today, we take an important step to open more doors to home ownership for younger, first-time American buyers as well as seniors hoping to age-in-place.”

Acting HUD Deputy Secretary and FHA Commissioner Brian D. Montgomery added that this rule is being implemented partially in response to the demands of the housing market.

“Today we are making certain FHA responds to what the market is telling us.
Montgomery said in the release. “This new rule allows FHA to meet its core mission to support eligible borrowers who are ready for home ownership and are most likely to enter the market with the purchase of a condominium.”

The last notable action taken by FHA in terms of condominium approvals took place in the fall of 2016, when the agency proposed new rules that would allow individual condo units to become eligible for FHA financing, including Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs).

FHA estimated this new policy will notably increase the amount of condominium projects that can now gain FHA approval. 84 percent of FHA-insured condominium buyers have never owned a home before, according to agency data. Only 6.5 percent of the more than 150,000 condominium projects in the United States are approved to participate in FHA’s mortgage insurance programs.

“As a result of FHA’s new policy, it is estimated that 20,000 to 60,000 condominium units could become eligible for FHA-insured financing annually,” the press release said.

Read the final rule in the Federal Register.

Source: by Chris Clow | Reverse Mortgage Daily

Coastal Cities Lead In Apartment Rents

Not surprisingly, apartment rents in the US are the highest in land-use restricted coastal cities like San Francisco, New York city, San Jose CA, Boston and Washington DC. Other west coast cities and Miami round out the remaining top ten most expensive apartment rents.

According to Zumper, North Carolina (Raleigh and Charlotte) and Arizona (Glendale and Scottsdale) along with Fort Worth TX saw the biggest increases in apartment rents.

Raleigh, NC saw one bedroom rent climb 5.1%, which was the largest monthly rental growth rate in the nation, to $1,040. This large bump moved the city up 2 positions to become 49th most expensive rental market.

Charlotte, NC took a 5 ranking bump up to 26th with one bedroom rent climbing 5% to $1,260 and two bedrooms increasing 2.2% to $1,370.

Glendale, AZ jumped up 7 spots to rank as the 67th most expensive city. One bedroom rent grew 5% to $840, while two bedrooms were up 1.9% to $1,070.

Scottsdale, AZ saw one bedroom rent climb 4.5%, settling at $1,380, and up 3 positions to become the 21st priciest city.

Fort Worth, TX moved up 3 spots to rank as 40th with one bedroom rent jumping 4.5% to $1,150 and two bedrooms increasing 2.3% to $1,340.

On the downward side, tax- and pension-crazy Chicago has fastest declining rents. And it is Always Sunny In Philadelphia for rents!

Chicago, IL fell 2 spots to rank as the 17th priciest city with one bedroom rent dropping 5.1%, which is tied with Bakersfield’s growth rate as the largest dip in the nation, to $1,490.

Bakersfield, CA saw one bedroom rent drop 5.1%, settling at $740, and down 7 positions to become 86th.

Anchorage, AK moved down 3 spots to 62nd with one bedroom rent falling 4.2% to $910. Two bedrooms, on the other hand, were flat at $1,150.

Atlanta, GA took a 4 ranking dip to 22nd with one bedroom rent decreasing 4.2% to $1,370 and two bedrooms down 3.3% to $1,740.

Philadelphia, PA one bedroom rent dropped 3%, settling at $1,310, and down 2 spots to rank as the 24th priciest city. Two bedrooms stayed stable at $1,700.

Of the top 100 cities, LeBron James’s home town of Akron has the lowest apartment rents in the nation. Followed closely by other non-coastal cities like Wichita, Detroit, Lubbock TX and Tucson AZ. And if you are taken back to Tulsa, you will find relatively inexpensive apartment rents.

Source: Confounded Interest

Rent Unaffordability Continues To Grow For Americans

The National Low Income Housing Coalition has published its latest “Out of Reach” report which shows that renting is becoming increasingly unaffordable for countless Americans.

https://www.zerohedge.com/s3/files/inline-images/2019-07-01_4-59-30.jpg?itok=8fjTZnmJ

Its central statistic is the Housing Wage which is an estimate of the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn to rent a home without spending more than 30 percent of his or her income on housing costs. As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes, for 2019, the Housing Wage is $22.96 and $18.65 for a modest two and one-bedroom flat respectively based on the “fair market rent”.

A worker earning the federal wage would have to put in 127 hours every week – equivalent to more than two full-time jobs – to afford a two-bedroom apartment. It isn’t just a regional issue – there isn’t a single state, metro area or county in the U.S. where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom property.

It isn’t just workers on the minimum wage who are effected.

The report also states that the average renter’s hourly wage is $1.08 less than the Housing Wage for a one-bedroom rental and $5.39 less than a two-bedroom rental. That means that an average renter in the U.S. has to work a 52 hour week, something that becomes increasingly difficult if that renter is a single parent of someone struggling with a disability. When it comes to the situation in different occupations, a median-wage worker in eight of the country’s largest ten occupations does not earn enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

https://infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_18485_housing_wage_compared_to_median_hourly_wages_n.jpg(source)

Software developers, general managers and nurses are able to meet both Housing Wages but for many other occupations and accomodations, renting is becoming increasingly difficult. Medical assistants, laborers and janitors are among those falling short while the gap back to minimum wage workers is even greater still. Worryingly, these are the ten jobs that are expected to see the biggest growth over the coming decade and that is likely to result in an even greater disparity between wages and housing costs by 2026.

Source: ZeroHedge

The Evolution Of Mortgage Policy, 1970-1999

“A Crack in The Foundation?” Part 2: Three Decades of Red Flags — Mortgage Policy & Praxis, 1970-1999

Welcome to “A Crack in the Foundation?”, a four-part series in which Maxwell Digital Mortgage Solutions will examine the evolution of the mortgage industry and homeownership in America, with an eye on government policies and how GSEs can promote (or prohibit) periods of economic growth.

Part 2 begins at the start of the 1970s and follows the uneasy path of government policy and economic turmoil as we creep towards the end of the century. (Missed Part 1? Read it here).  This section will follow the astronomical growth in the secondary market, the mounting government pressure put on Fannie and Freddie to increase their offerings to lower- and moderate-income borrowers, as well as a widespread shift towards deregulation in the market that (spoiler alert) will prove to have disastrous consequences as the new millennium begins.

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California’s Housing Bubble’s So Bad, 100s Forced To Live On Boats

California’s housing affordability crisis is getting worse. Affordability in San Francisco is now at 10-year lows, and only one in five households can afford to purchase a median-priced single-family home in the Bay Area. The crisis has driven many people onto the water, living on makeshift boats, outside marinas, and wealthy communities.

Sausalito officials and other agencies have been stepping up efforts to manage ‘anchor out’ mariners and floating debris in Richardson Bay. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)

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The Evolution Of Mortgage Policy, 1930-1960

“A Crack in The Foundation?” Part 1: Fannie & Friends — The Evolution of Mortgage Policy from 1930-1960

Welcome to “A Crack in the Foundation?”, a four-part series in which Maxwell Digital Mortgage Solutions will examine the evolution of the mortgage industry and homeownership in America, with an eye on government policies and how GSEs can promote (or prohibit) periods of economic growth.

Part I starts at the turn of the 20th century and traces the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as well as the birth of Fannie and Ginnie, to look at the inception of the modern mortgage and its impact on home ownership.

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