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Has government regulation gone too far?


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in the process of defining a "qualified residential mortgage," which determines what makes a loan safe. It requires banks to retain 5% of the risk on non-QRM loans it securitizes before packaging and selling them to investors.

The risk retention requirements were called for in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The rule is an attempt to correct market practices that led to the housing crisis: allowing people to buy more house than they could afford with no financial stake in whether they were able to repay their loans or not.

But critics are saying the regulation will do more harm than good, cutting perfectly capable borrowers out of the market or into higher cost loans.


"I want to be sure that our government fixes whatever broke the housing market," writes Michelle Singletary, a syndicated columnist who appears in The Buffalo News. "But if borrowers have to wait to save up a 20 percent down payment to qualify for the best mortgage deal, we will be putting home ownership out of the reach of a lot of people, particularly low- to middle-income borrowers."

She's not alone in believing the regulation could negatively affect low-income families and people of color

The Woodstock Institute, a non-profit research and policy organization, said the idea behind the so-called "QRM" is a good one, but that "unfortunately, regulators went overboard in defining [it]."

It sees other problems, too.


"Lenders may raise prices to compensate for having to retain some risk and it may crowd out smaller lenders who can't afford to retain risk, shrinking the mortgage credit market," writes the Woodstock Institute. "More importantly, a 20 percent down payment doesn’t significantly lower the default rate."

The National Association of Realtors is against it. So is the Center for Responsible Lending. The Mortgage Bankers Association, too.

Where do you stand on the issue? If larger down payments aren't the answer, what is?



Elmwood Avenue apartments.

From Business Today:


The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church will convert its office space and former school into about 23 market-rate apartments. The added income would help support the struggling church, whose congregation has gotten smaller and smaller throughout the years. The church has lined up a construction loan and long-term mortgage from Evans Bank and will also use historic tax credits and invest some of the congregation's money to finance the work.


Check out what real estate sold for in Erie and Niagara counties in today's real estate listings.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?


From MoneySmart:

The lessons people learned during the Great Depression stuck with many of them throughout their lives--even when times got better. The lessons from the Great Recession have been a bit more fleeting. Get a refresher course on thriftiness in today's MoneySmart from a true depression-era pro.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there:



Small business loans getting federal boost

From Business Today:


Loan guarantees from the Small Business Administration make it easier for banks to extend loans to small businesses, and that is helping small companies thrive. Lenders in the Buffalo and Rochester areas have loaned a total of $34.9 million in 221 loans over the last five months.



Two of the fastest-growing credit unions in the country are based right here in Western New York. Western New York Federal Credit Union in West Seneca ranked 31st for growth in a recent ranking, while St. Joseph's Parish Federal Credit Union in Buffalo ranked 50th. The ranking was put together by Washington, D.C.-based industry research firm Callahan & Associates and compiled to create the 2012 Credit Union Directory: The Cooperative State of Mind.


Check out the real estate listings for Erie and Niagara Counties for the week ending Feb. 3. The median sale price in Erie County during that period was $101,350. The median price for Niagara County was $83,500.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Sure feels like spring out there:


Sportmen's Tavern gets some video love

From Business Today:


The top management at a local company is getting shuffled around.

Sovran Self Storage, which owns the Uncle Bob's self-storage chain, is promoting its current chief financial officer, David Rogers, to CEO. Former CEO Robert Attea will become the executive chairman. 

The changes are part of the company's succession plan and will take place March 1.


A Hamburg building products maker has bought a small metal grating company in Alberta. Gibraltar Industries has acquired Edvan Industries, which makes metal grating primarily for the oil and gas industry. Gibraltar has targeted its metal mesh business for growth, and this latest acquisition will help propel that growth along. The addition is expected to add $5 million to Gibraltar's annual sales. 



A Tonawanda of Tonawanda homeowner is getting more exposure than she expected when she first listed her home for sale. Producers of the Today Show chose a house for sale at 61 St. John's Avenue in the Town for a segment it is doing on homes that cost less than $200,000.


 Office Depot confirmed it is closing its locationat 2309 Eggert Road. About 20 employees will be out of work when the struggling office supply store closes its doors at the end of March.   

Who is  etting hired, promoted and honored?

Check out Visit Buffalo Niagara's new promotional video about iconic local bar and music venue, the Sportsmen's Tavern:


Super Bowl ads good for local affiliate

From Business Today:


During the Super Bowl, all eyes may be on the national commercials that spend millions of dollars to air their ads in front of the the large, diverse audience the football game brings. But local NBC affiliate WGRZ was much more interested in what local advertisers were doing. That's because they were alloted enough time to air about 15 commercials during the game, selling the slots to local advertisers for an estimated $12,000 to $17,000 apiece.


Home sales increased in December. Sales rose 4.2 percent to 774 in December from 743 during the same month the previous year. Sales were up 10.4 percent from November's 701 sales, making it the largest December number since the glory days of 2006 and 2007. Newly listed sales were up 13 percent. The positive sales results are being attributed to the region's stretch of unseasonably mild weather.    


Profits were up at Astronics Corp. during the fourth quarter.  Profits rose 16 percent to $5.2 million, or 40 cents per share, from $4.5 million, or 35 cents per share, a year ago. The increase is attributed to strong growth in the company's aircraft cabin electronics sales. That strength offset losses in the company's test systems business. Astronics Corp. is an East Aurora-based maker of aircraft lighting and electronics products.

 Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here is one of the only local ads local advertising representatives found memorable:


Real estate sales and teacher woes

From Business Today:


Check out the real estate listings for Erie and Niagara Counties for the week ending Dec. 30. The highest price paid in Erie County was $1.27 million, while the average price was $151,137. In Niagara County, the highest price tag was $351,250 with an average sales price of $90,520.


Competition is intense in Western New York for jobs in education. The teacher's union estimates that 17,000 positions have been lost over the last two years, and further cuts are being made due to budget restrictions. At the same time, colleges are pumping out more and more teachers, and graduates are going years without landing work. In elementary education, local experts estimate there are 1,500 applicants for every one job opening.


 This week's Strategy for Success looks at Nadja Foods, the empire built by Nadja Piatka and the low-calorie, low-fat snacks she sells at restaurant and grocery chains. Piatka traces the steps she took to build her Buffalo-based business even when times were tough and creditors were beating down her door. Today, her recipes are mass produced and sold at such powerhouse corporations as McDonald’s, Subway, Wegmans and Price Chopper supermarkets.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?


From MoneySmart:


What did you think of this year's crop of Super Bowl commercials?


Business leaders need to lead

From Business Today:


The Buffalo News' 20th annual Prospectus issue was delivered Sunday. The special, expanded business magazine looks at what 2012 has in store for Western New York companies. What does the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise have in mind for $1 billion in promised state money? Wondering what decor trends will be hot for interior designers and home stores? Want to check in on Niagara Falls' progress as it makes over downtown? Want to see First Niagara CEO John Koelmel deliver a fantastic keynote speech at the Prospectus premiere dinner? It's all here.


The Elmwood Village will get a new fitness center. Best Fitness is set to open at 2001 Elmwood Avenue, in the site of the former Buffalo Wild Wings. The 24-hour gym plans to open its doors by late spring or early summer. It's the second Best Fitness location in Western New York, owned by a private New Hampshire company that has a total of 10 gym sites in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.


If you don't think the assessment on your home is fair, you have options.

Experts suggest making sure your municipality has the correct information about your home, research what comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold for and make sure you file your grievance by your town's deadline.

 From MoneySmart:

Thieves never stop thinking up new ways to steal and scam. MoneySmart outlines what the FBI and the Better Business Bureau call the latest and most prevalent scams and tells you how to identify them, avoid them and keep yourself protected.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

WNY housing market is stabilizing, Baum firm goes to court and more

From Business Today:


The local housing market is getting back to its own normal. After a year of fluctuations caused by a federal stimulus credit, local numbers are beginning to reflect the true nature of the housing market, rather than artificial highs and lows. Home sales in Western New York were up 22 percent from a year ago, according to figures from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors. For the year, closed sales are down 9 percent so far, and down 12 percent from 2009.


The foreclosure factory law firm that turned heads recently for mocking the homeless appeared in court Monday, against New York State attorneys and a delinquent homeowner facing foreclosure. Steven J. Baum PC says a state law that requires lawyers to attest to what they sign is unconstitutional and is asking to have it overturned.   



 World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara's annual meeting and reception will feature Tom McManus, CEO of KegWorks. The Kenmore-based online retailer of draft beer equipment will talk about why small businesses should consider getting into the export business. McManus will also talk about "in-sourcing" more work to Buffalo Niagara in order to boost local small business and better control quality. 

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

A training session for your business?


Baum firm fined $2 million, Seneca president blasts rival casinos and Norse Energy cuts staff

From Business Today:


An Amherst law firm accused of unscrupulous foreclosure practices has admitted mistakes and received penalties.

Steven J. Baum PC agreed to pay a $2 million fine and "extensively overhaul" its practices. The firm handles about 40 percent of all foreclosures in New York State. The firm is accused of filing misleading affidavits and other documents on behalf of lenders.


Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter testified before a Senate committee Thursday, saying corporate casino owners are trying to bar Indian tribes from gaining access to an impending boom in Internet gambling.

Porter later said that the Seneca Nation is not pushing Internet gaming, but wants a piece of the action should Congress open the market.


A Hamburg energy company has laid off more than half of its staff. Norse Energy Corp. eliminated 25 jobs last month at its main New York office in Hamburg.

The cuts will save the company $300,000 a month as it waits for New York to allow hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale Region. The Norwegian company, which is running out of cash, has also been trying to sell some of the 180,000 acres of land it controls in New York and has considered selling additional stock to raise money.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

People are still reeling from Steve Jobs' passing. What can we learn from the way he lived his life?


Bankruptcy filings are down, real estate transactions are posted and college students get tips on penny pinching

From Business Today:

The man driving the explosive growth at First Niagara Financial Group is a relative newcomer to FIRST NIAGARA banking. An accountant by training, John Koelmel decided to try banking, and  the rest, as they say, is history.

Bankruptcy filings were down 30 percent last month in Western New York. There were 511 filings last month, compared to 732 a year ago. That's the fourth lowest for any month in more than 10 years. Filings have dropped 18 out of the last 19 months. Filings fell 18 percent nationally. A local bankruptcy attorney posited that filings were down because consumers are not getting themselves into credit debt as they once did. Our economy, the expert said, is moving more toward production and investment and away from consumption. Another said people just can not afford to file.


Check out Erie and Niagara County's real estate transactions. Included in the most recent numbers are the most expensive house sold in Erie County ($2.03 million), the average home price in Erie ($182,186) and Niagara ($114,169) Counties, and the number of sales in each (361 in Erie County, 66 in Niagara County).



From MoneySmart:


As students gear up for the fall college semester, MoneySmart compiled tips to help students save money during those typically lean years. Included among them are ways to save on technology, books, money, food, dining, transportation, entertainment and shopping.



Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

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