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Feds say Northwest Trustee knew they illegally foreclosed on active military, veterans

(REAL ESTATE NEWS) The Justice Department alleges that for the past six years, Northwest Trustee opted to knowingly foreclose illegally on active and former military servicemembers.

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Obviously foreclosures are heartbreaking and tragic, but what if you had your home taken away from you while you were overseas serving your country? Should be impossible, right?

In exchange for their service, the U.S. federal government protects active duty military from foreclosure under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). The Act ensures that servicemembers can’t have their houses repossessed while they are actively serving in the military.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the largest foreclosure trustee in the Pacific Northwest has knowingly violated this law on many occasions over the past six years.

Recently, the Justice Department filed suit in the U.S. District court in Seattle. The case will potentially provide financial compensation for 28 military servicemembers or veterans whose houses were repossessed while they were serving.

The case centers on Jacob McGreevey, a Marine who has served four tours of duty in the Middle East. His Vancouver home was repossessed between his third and fourth tour by Northwest Trustee Services of Bellevue, Washington. It was only several years later that McGreevey found out that he should have been protected by the SCRA.

The Justice Department says that Northwest Trustees did reference a database to see if McGreevey was protected by the Act, and then chose to foreclose on him regardless.

Originally the court had sided with the lender, saying that McGreevey had waited too long to file suit. After McGreevey and his lawyer wrote a complaint, the U.S. Justice Department took up the case. They argue that there is no statute of limitations on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This contradicts state laws.

Legislation may be necessary to reconcile the federal and state laws.

Annette Hayes, U.S. Attorney in the western district of Washington says that their “investigation revealed that Northwest Trustee Services repeatedly failed to comply with laws that are meant to ensure our servicemembers do not have to fight a two-front war – one on behalf of all of us, and the other against illegal foreclosures.”

Sean Riddell, McGreevey’s lawyer and former commanding officer, condemned Northwest Trustee in even harsher terms.

“I want Northwest Trustee and PHH put out of business, their buildings burned down and the ground salted so that nothing ever grows for what they did to veterans,” said Riddell.

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Ellen Vessels is a Staff Writer at The Real Daily, and is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Homeownership

Hemp could be the next sustainable building material to catch on

(REAL ESTATE) Hemp has been introduced as a building material after becoming legal to grow in America, but will it be the next popular green building material?

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Although mud and daub type building structures date back thousands of years, interest in concrete made from plant materials has increased due to the interest in sustainable architecture.

Research into more sustainable buildings materials have led to the development of bio-composite concrete of hemp and lime, which has been registered in the United States as Tradical Hempcrete® by American Lime Technology Products company.

This green product is also sold as precast walls with structural framing. The hemp lime product alone had issues with fire safety, rotting under wet conditions, and the lack of ability to perform as a standalone structure due to its poor load-bearing qualities.

Different framing structures have been introduced worldwide to improve the capacity of the building material to be used in larger buildings, although ironically these high rise buildings have been found to be less energy efficient which seems to defeat the purpose of green building.

Hemp or bamboo stalks as the structural frame combined with the hemp/lime concrete mixture are the currently preferred construction materials, and are used by companies such as Hemp Architecture in England, described in an Architectural Review article on alternative building materials.

Growing hemp for construction purposes was never criminalized in in Europe, and hemp-constructed homes as well as businesses have flourished in France and the United Kingdom
Other building projects have continued in the United States, though custom homes using hemp based products such as James Savage’s home in Stuveysant, NY are the exception rather than the rule.

The main impasse to American hemp-based construction was growing hemp was not legal in the United States until recently, and the majority of hemp construction products are imported from Canada. Although these products are fire and pest resistant, as well as economically friendly, the main appeal may be the appeal of the drug culture stigma more than the practicality of the building materials.

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Homeownership

The Granny Pod could be the alternative to nursing homes (and why people will soon demand bigger back yards)

The Granny Pod looks like a guest house and sits conveniently in any backyard – they plug right up to existing plumbing and electrical and allow both caregiver and senior to have their own space while remaining connected.

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I’ve spent most of my life living everywhere but the United States, and from what I’ve seen in other cultures, when couples tie the knot parents come with the marriage! That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents live with the kids (although I’ve seen that in countries like Japan, Korea, and Turkey), but I feel safe saying that it’s a given the kids will taken in/take on/take over their ailing parents at some point in said parent’s lives (Italy for example).

I’m not sure the US is set up that way. The big business of senior living facilities and nursing homes tells me otherwise.

But that might be changing thanks to the Granny Pod and similar mono-living facilities that can be installed in a person’s backyard (which is why we suspect people may demanding bigger back yards in coming years).

Close, but not TOO close

MedCottages or “Granny Pods” seem to be a viable solution for taking care of elderly family members without giving up the independence Americans put so much emphasis on.

A recent story explains that Reverend Ken Dupin created the MedCottage as an alternative to nursing homes, as 78 million baby boomers head toward retirement.

These 12 feet by 24 feet pods can sit conveniently in any backyard and plug right up to one’s existing plumbing and electrical. The pods allow both caregiver and senior to have their own space while remaining connected.

Retiree support for Granny Pods

For its part, AARP, the lobbying group for aging Americans, has gone on record to assert that local zoning laws pose one of the biggest obstacles to making such dwellings a practical solution to caring for aging family members in what it calls “accessory dwelling units.”

AARP spokesperson, Nancy Thompson said “the MedCottage has some of the features the organization advocates in accessory dwelling units, but not all of the universal design features that could be useful for people of all ages.” She does add that it’s a step in the right direction for accessory dwelling units.

No more condo fees

I’m no social worker, but studies bear out that human contact is vital as we grow older. Even in a worst case scenario (when an individual living in a nursing home is alone in their room for much of the day), they at least meet other patrons at lunch or dinner, and at whatever social outings are plugged into a daily schedule. For all the close circuitry and monitoring the Granny Pod offers, I don’t know if it takes the place of human contact, so hopefully families will remember the ties that bind them and do more than just monitor a screen to see if Granny is okay.

Another benefit of the Granny Pod is that once it’s paid for and installed, that’s it – no more monthly rent or condo fees that can deplete a retiree’s resources.

Granny Pod starting a movement

According to the Washington Post, other companies seeking to make similar structures are Seattle-based FabCab (whose name comes from Fabulous Cabin), and San Francisco-based Larson Shores Architects, which designs what it calls “Architectural Solutions for the Aging Population,” or ASAP, and its “Inspired In-Law” dwellings” demonstrates that assisted living facilities aren’t the only item on the menu.

As this type of structure catches on, it may threaten nursing homes and even retirement condo villages, and could influence the sizes of yards builders offer in coming years. Industry practitioners should be aware of the trend, and be able to offer this type of setup to clients who are actively considering options for their parents (the solution may just be a bigger back yard).

#GrannyPods

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Homeownership

Real estate association launches impactful video – I’m not crying, you are

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) The dream of owning a home is under assault – one real estate association has launched a massive awareness campaign that is truly meaningful.

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The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) has launched a new site, KeepTheDreamAlive.ca to lobby locals to “keep the dream of home ownership alive.”

America is not the only nation with diminishing affordability conditions, rising prices, and limited inventory. No, Canada is experiencing a similar market, and OREA is taking action to make sure those people hoping to own have the chance to do so.

“Millennials want to own homes but it’s never been tougher to achieve,” the organization notes. “Rising home prices have pushed home ownership out of reach. All their hard work and saving just isn’t enough to compete with rising prices.”

The KeepTheDreamAlive.ca site offers homeownership statistics and makes it easy to email their candidate to express the importance of the dream of ownership.

The video is moving. Prior to watching, we assumed it was another feel-good video about how neat homeownership, but to end it in broken dreams is more realistic than what you’ll see here in America.

We hope that changes. In America, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is extremely realistic with data and they have long been very vocal on people being squeezed out of the market. And the major real estate sites paint a sunny picture of home searching and making the dream come true, but none reach as far as OREA has, to express that homeownership is simply out of reach for otherwise qualified people.

Send a link to this story to your local and state Associations as they consider their plans for marketing outreach next year. Perhaps it’s time to empower local homeowners to contact their representatives, lest they remain unaware of the big picture.

While NAR has repeatedly noted that three things will alleviate the pressure on the market (investors putting inventory on the market, builders stepping up production, and more current homeowners opting to sell), overall awareness that homeownership is out of reach for many can put a spotlight on these conditions in each market.

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