Monday, January 26, 2009

Biscuit Run Joins Other Developments in Responding to Recession

Biscuit Run, the massive development south of Charlottesville, is delayed for the foreseeable future, according to the DP.

The Biscuit Run development had 3,100 units planned with buildout over 20 years.

"The business climate is such that it's not in the investor's best interest to proceed with development at this stage," said attorney Steve Blaine, a lawyer representing developer Hunter Craig.

December's national housing starts were at an all-time low, weakest since 1959.

Delaying Biscuit Run is a prudent move in an economy that is "resetting" its outlook every week. Just today, Lawrence Summers, Director of the White House's National Economic Council, said “The next few months are, no question, going to be very, very difficult and it may be longer than that." He appeared on Sunday's Meet the Press. Last week, big banks continued tanking: BofA and Citigroup both reported massive losses, and have needed Government handouts twice.

The "good news" this week is the expected confirmation of former NY Fed chair Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary, which would bring tighter regulation, a TARP overhaul is expected, plus details of President Obama's $850B stimulus plan.

But more bad news is just hours away: This is what's coming up this week, via CNN:
  • Monday: December existing home sales are expected to have declined to 4.40 million.
  • Tuesday: S&P/CaseShiller home index for November, expected to show steep declines.
  • Wednesday: The Federal Reserve concludes its two-day policy meeting with an announcement on interest rates due at around 2:15 p.m. ET. No change is expected.
  • Thursday: The December durable goods orders: expected to have dropped 1.8% after dropping 1.5% in November. December new home sales are expected to have fallen to a 400,000 annual unit rate from a 407,000 annual unit rate in November.
  • Friday: Fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to have fallen by an annual rate of 5.2%, the biggest quarterly decline in roughly 26 years.

But back to Biscuit Run. Albemarle County Supervisor Lindsay G. Dorrier Jr. said the fallout from the housing bubble seems to have halted the project.

“Any future demand for houses is premature at this time,” Dorrier said.
“We’ve got a long way to go before we get past this unemployment hump and we get past this era with mortgage financing.”

In addition to the "unemployment hump" and "mortgage financing," there seems to be little need for additional housing (except "affordable housing") in this area; by the end of December, there was 26 months of inventory in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area. In the seven day period ending Saturday, January 24, 100+/- properties were added to the MLS in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area alone, not including the surrounding counties, which brings the total to over 3,200 properties available for the Central Virginia area.

Other projects that have been scaled back or paused include Downtown C'ville's Waterhouse and the Landmark Hotel.

Housing Development "Belvedere" builders Church Hill Homes faced mass foreclosures, as did Weather Hill Homes. Parcels from one of K Hovnanian's Four Seasons Active Adult Communities also faced mass foreclosure. A community association is now suing the developer.

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