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Study: Fail to Plan Communities, Plan for a Failed Recovery

As the economy flounders, Americans think community planners should play a large role in helping the country recover, according to a poll released Thursday by the American Planning Association. The research study showed that two-thirds of Americans believe their communities need more planning to promote economic recovery, and 44 percent said they don't believe their community is doing enough to promote recovery. Fifty-one percent of respondents expressed an interest in participating in community planning efforts.

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Wells Fargo to Streamline Refinance Only In-House Loans

Wells Fargo recently announced that it will accept refinance applications for homeowners with FHA mortgages only if their loans are serviced in-house by the mortgage lender. Vickee Adams, a spokesperson for Wells, said in an e-mailed statement that the lender currently services more than 500,000 customers with FHA home loans that could qualify to save money by refinancing under changes at the agency. The lender will start accepting only refinance applications for in-house loans on Tuesday.

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Stock Valuations May Rise for Housing Despite Euro Crisis: Report

Despite the deteriorating situation in Europe, the United States housing market's recent gains should drive up stocks valuations for building products companies in the near future, Barclays said in a report Tuesday. Barclays├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔÇ×┬ó U.S. Building Products & Homebuilding report shows that valuations for building products stocks under the institution's coverage are in the lower half of their historical trading ranges, largely due to "fairly lackluster" first-quarter earnings caused by lag between home purchases and building products sales. Financial crises in the euro zone are also driving down building products stocks.

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Group: Housing Outlook ‘Significantly Brighter’ Than Year Ago

According to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, the key to the housing market recovery is job growth. "What the for-sale market needs most is a sustained increase in employment to bring household growth back to its long-term pace," the Joint Center said in its recent report, The State of the Nation's Housing 2012. Multifamily starts rose 54 percent and home improvement spending rose 0.6 percent over the year in 2011 and single family housing starts declined 8.6 percent over the year.

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Mortgage Rates Bounce Up From Record Lows: Freddie Mac

Mortgage rates saw increases across the board after nearly two months in record-low territory, with Freddie Mac revealing in a weekly survey Thursday that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage ticked up to 3.71 percent. The GSE found that the 30-year loan's increase ended a six-week streak of falling rates. At the same time last year, the fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.50 percent. The 15-year FRM also slid up, averaging 2.98 percent (0.7 point). The average was 2.94 percent last week, according to Freddie Mac.

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Two Arrested in $1.3M Ponzi Scheme Targeting Latino Investors

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced Friday the arrest of Edwin G. Salazar, 34, of Downey, California, and Michael Z. Zuniga, 41, of Fullerton, California, in a $1.3 million Ponzi scheme that targeted Latino investors, many of whom were seniors. Salazar and Fullerton, who operated as OMEGA Investments Corp., were arrested on 57 counts of elder abuse, grand theft, and securities fraud. From January 2007 through June 2008, the licensed insurance agent issued more than $1.3 million in fraudulent securities to individual investors they befriended through their insurance business.

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FHA to Go Forward With Delinquent Loan Sale to Investors

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Federal Housing Administration Acting Commissioner Carol Galante announced in a press conference Friday FHA's program to sell mortgage loan pools to investors. The Distressed Asset Stabilization Program, designed to give homeowners with seriously delinquent loans a chance to avoid foreclosure, is an expansion of an earlier FHA pilot program that allows investors to purchase loan pools headed for foreclosure. Investors are then charged with the task of working to bring the loan out of default. The program starts in September 2012 with a sale of the loan pools.

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