Charity that Builds Custom Homes for Wounded Veterans Once Again Facing Fraud Allegations

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Helping A Hero Gala Invite 2014

When Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Lathan returned home from his second tour in Iraq, finances were tight. Lathan had been severely injured in Balad, Iraq in 2006 when 155mm rounds blew apart the Humvee he was riding in, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury, cognitive disorders, PTSD, and knee, back, and hip problems. The young soldier, who had a wife and young child, could no longer work.

The family struggled without Lathan's income, and money became an even bigger problem when Lathan's wife Sarah, who became breadwinner after his injuries, had to resign from her job to have heart surgery. Saddled with car and mortgage payments, the Lathans worried constantly about how to make ends meet.

But everything changed in September 2012, when Helping a Hero, a local nonprofit group that builds custom homes for veterans that have suffered severe injuries in war, contacted Sgt. Lathan. The charity's director, Meredith Iler, offered to build the Lathans a 2,400 square foot home with four bedrooms in exchange for a small mortgage, $50,000 over 10 years at 3.5 percent. It was a home they could better afford, and it seemed like the answer to their problems.

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City Gets $300,000 for Illegally Removed Oak Trees on Kirby

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Remember those massive oak trees that were illegally removed in front of the Wendy's off Kirby a few weeks ago? You know, the ones that triggered a massive uproar after they were chopped down in the middle of the night illegally.

Well, the City of Houston is about to get those dolla, dolla bills, y'all. The issue has already been settled, and to the tune of a $300,000 settlement, no less.


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Weather Channel Advises Not Buying That Galveston Dream Home

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Photo from Library of Congress
Basically, the Weather Channel is wary of Galveston because of stuff like this -- and this is just a sample of the destruction from the 1900 hurricane.

Somewhere in Galveston County, officials must be smacking their foreheads in exasperation over the latest bit with Galveston. Namely, the Weather Channel's recently-compiled list of the 50 worst places to own a home based on natural factors. Galveston made it into the top 10, ranking eighth on the list.

This may come as a surprise to those with short memories, but it can't be much of a shock to those who, well, know anything at all about the history, both recent and long past, of Galveston. Basically, despite the best efforts of many people to make Galveston into something important -- a center for trade, the constant New Orleans-style Mardi Gras of the Texas Coast, whatever -- nature has always stepped in and smacked such aspirations down so hard it almost slapped Galveston back in time.

Way back when in 1900, Galveston was the "Octopus of the Gulf" (because it was a huge commercial port and a remarkably prosperous area) and it looked like things were only going to get better for those living there. It was even thought that Galveston would win a contest to get a deep water port, permanently turning Houston into an overlooked little sister of a city.


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Plans for the Controversial Freeland District Development Are Back, Sort Of

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Surge Homes

Remember those controversial plans to build a massive condominium complex in the Freeland Historic District in the Heights? Well, they appear to have been resurrected -- at least in part, anyway.

A bright red sign touting a "future development" from Surge Homes went up earlier this week along the south side of the Heights hike-and-bike trail, just south of the Freeland Historic District, according to Swamplot.

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All of Houston's Nationally Ranked "Top ZIP Codes" Are Kinda White

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Another day, another Houston-centric list.

Our fair city has earned its way onto quite a few lists as of late, thanks to all the attention being paid to our growth and steady job market. The latest Houston nod comes courtesy of a California real estate blog, Movoto, and a list of the "Best ZIP Codes in America."

Movoto recently ranked the top ZIP codes in the nation by looking at a few factors -- median household income, unemployment rate, average commute time, median rent, median house value, poverty levels and education -- and landing in the top 100 of those spots are six -- count 'em, six -- of Houston's ZIP codes.

And while those ZIP codes -- 77005, 77401, 77046, 77024, 77056 and 77030 -- may indeed be centrally located, there's a bit of an issue with that "Best ZIP" moniker. You see, all of the neighborhoods that made it onto Movoto's list are not only high on the median rent and home value scales, they are also predominantly white. Like, really really white.

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Houston's Surviving Landmarks

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons
The former Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston's Fifth Ward.

The planned demolition of former Wheatley High School in the Fifth Ward started in September was stalled yet again on Monday, this time after a resident sued Houston ISD over concerns about asbestos. Previously, preservationists had fought the district's plans to replace the historically black, 1929 school with a modern, smaller version, but HISD put a bulldozer-sized hole in the side of the building anyway before a judge ordered a halt to the razing. The temporary respite is just that though -- the building is coming down one way or another, going the way of countless other sites throughout Houston history that may have been proposed for landmarking had owners only known what to do with them.

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What $1,500 in Rent Gets You in 5 Houston Neighborhoods

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Grace C
If you're in New York or Boston, $1,500 in rent might get you a studio apartment that more closely resembles a glorified dorm room than an actual adult's living space. On the other end of the spectrum, you can basically rent a mansion in Omaha, Nebraska, or Missoula, Montana, for $1.5k a month.

In its recent list of what $1,500 in rent gets you in cities across the country, Mashable skipped right the hell over Houston. Sure, rent is skyrocketing here, jumping about 4.9 percent every year, with average rent hitting $1,249 in July. Inside the loop, rent's expected to spike about 9 percent every year.

But at least we're not NYC, which collectively freaked out this summer when average rent crossed the $3,000-per-month threshold (that "Rent is Too Damn High" dude was right). But neither are we Iowa City, where $1,500 a month rents a 3-bed, 2.5-bath, 1,500 square foot house.

We checked w/ Zillow to see what you can rent in Houston, inside the loop, with $1,500 a month. Here's what we found.

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Depressing Photos From Northwest Mall

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Monica Fuentes
Where did they film Dawn of the Dead again?
Northwest Mall, the 800,000 square-foot shopping center situated right behind the U.S. 290 and 610 Loop construction project, is up for sale, according to the Chron.

The listing company says the site is ideally suited for a hotel, multifamily housing, office, and retail development. The listing company, HFF, also told the Chron that most of the tenants could easily be moved as soon as the property sells for an expected $86 million.

That shouldn't be too hard, we think. We poked around the shopping-center ghost town yesterday and found it looking more like the outskirts of Chernobyl than a mall. Take a look.


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Biggest Clusters of New Apartment Construction Going Up Right Where You Would Expect (and a Few Where You Wouldn't)

Categories: Surreal Estate

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Google Maps
Lots of new apartment construction inside the loop.
Houston has experienced an explosion of growth over the past five years. As a result, housing costs have skyrocketed and rent has escalated right along with it. Yet the demand continues with no end in site. Some have suggested this is a real estate bubble, while others are more cautiously optimistic, saying the city's traditionally low rent and home costs are now just coming in line with the rest of the country. Whatever the case may be, a lot of new construction for both homes and apartments are is cropping up all over town.

For new multifamily construction, you probably won't be surprised to find that the bulk of it is occurring in downtown, Midtown, the Montrose area, the Washington Corridor and near the Galleria. To illustrate that, Erin Mulvaney of the Houston Chronicle created a Google map of all the new apartment construction around the city.

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Houston Rent May Be Skyrocketing, But These Five Areas Are Still Affordable

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Apartment Guide

Looking for an affordable apartment? Good luck -- and we mean that. Houston's rental prices are increasing at the fastest pace on record, and those sky-high apartment tags are no longer limited to the Inner Loop.

As of July 2014, the average apartment rent in Houston is about $1,249 a month, and recent data shows that apartment rents are increasing at around 4.9 percent every year in the Houston region. The housing market for buyers is also kinda rough -- as in there's not very much to buy -- and residents in Houston are also making a shift from owning to renting.

The data, released by CBRE, a Los Angeles-based real estate brokerage firm with offices in Houston, shows that rents are growing at the fastest pace on record at that 4.9 percent rate. And that growth isn't all in areas one would expect, either.

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