By Iris Richmond E-Casa

Prudential Atlanta/Georgia Realty's revised Web site has a new link for Spanish-speaking prospects. Visitors can obtain a list of bilingual sales associates and check out special promotions. The company wants to connect with the rising number of Hispanics in the metro-Atlanta area, which will soon surpass a quarter of a million people, according to the Census Bureau. Prudential says the hits on the site, live since early January, have been anything but weak. The firm will need more time to compile data. Log on:

Certified Mature

More than 2,300 sales professionals have earned the Century 21 MatureMoves specialist designation, since the company launched the program nearly a year ago. The plan, created by a licensed gerontologist, instructs sales associates on how to provide real estate services to older home buyers and sellers 65 and older, a rapidly growing population segment.

Century 21 is also evaluating the potential for other audience-focused programs.

Greenpoint Bows Out

Manufactured housing's second-largest lender is leaving the industry. According to a company spokesperson who asked not to be identified, Greenpoint (NYSE: GPT) wanted to slash its credit risks and to remove a "negative perception" associated with HUD-code housing. A decline in loan volume (originations of a $3 billion peak in 1999 fell to $919 million in 2001) and no clear end in sight to the manufactured housing slide were the two main contributors to Greenpoint Financial's decision to pay a $663 million charge to exit.

This move reportedly leaves the company's other two subsidiaries, traditional mortgage lending and banking, poised for greater profitability. The $850 million of on-balance sheet MH loans have been sold to undisclosed Wall Street firms.

Other industry players, such as Conseco (NYSE: CNC) and Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp. (NYSE: CMMC) will have to step up their credit availability if the demands of the industry are to be met.

Industry Movers and Shakers

After 27 years with J.F. Shea Co., industry leader Roy Humphreys is retiring. Former president of Shea Homes, the country's largest privately held home builder, Humphreys helped establish the Malcolm Baldridge Award criteria that became the framework of the company. At Shea, Humphreys broke new ground in builder-trade partner relationships.

Champion Enterprises, the largest manufacturer of HUD-code housing, named Eric S. Belsky to its board of directors. Belsky serves as the executive director of the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University and directs research for the Millenial Housing Commission.

WL Homes's named area veteran William Rattazzi to Los Angeles division president. Rattazzi comes from SunCal Cos. and brings 30 years of experience to WL. He will be responsible for daily operations and strategic positioning for the region.

Richmond American Homes promoted Robert T. Shiota from division president of the Southern California division to regional president, a role that will put him in charge of further building activities in the Van Nuys#173;based Los Angeles/Ventura division, along with the general direction of business development in both areas.

Goodbye Phoenix

M/I Schottenstein has left the Phoenix market. Agreements reached early this year transfer ownership of the division to former division president Gary Carlson and former regional president Gary Haarer. Details of the transaction were not disclosed.

The trouble: Different operating strategies. CFO Phillip Creek says that in Arizona, Schottenstein diverged from its core $200,000 home, offering instead $750,000 homes. After six years in the market, the division produced fewer than 100 of the company's 4,000 units last year.

Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, and operating in 10 markets, the company is the country's 16th-largest builder.

The division was split into two new companies: Luxur Homes and Carlson Homes.

Tax for Space

In the wake of housing shortage, voters in Ventura County, Calif. seem intent on supporting legislation that would prevent development in the area. With polls showing that voters favor purchasing land to act as a buffer against runaway growth, Ventura County supervisors are preparing to ask voters to tax themselves to pay for the creation of a land-preservation district. A 38-member advisory committee was recently formed to finalize the details of Assembly Bill 1145. The district's formation is tentatively set for March 2004.

Beating Brownfields

Developers should wrestle less with Superfund penalties for pollution they didn't cause, if Congress approves President Bush's $200 million request dedicated to brownfields remediation. This amount more than doubles past governmental efforts spent on the clean up of the approximately 500,000 contaminated and abandoned industrial sites. The five-year EPA program will assess thousands of brownfields sites and create public records of the results.

Bush's allocation will generate an estimated 17,600 jobs and leverage more than $3 billion in economic development.

Year In Millions
1995 $2.2
1996 $9.8
1997 $38.0
1998 $88.3
1999 $91.0
2000 $92.2
2001 $92.6
2002 $97.6
2003 $200.0

eBay Play

The nation's biggest builders and its biggest online auction site are linking up to showcase an unprecedented volume of new homes on eBay's Web site. Via Builder Homesite, the builder consortium, eBay plans to quickly build a critical mass of homes to sell in various kinds of online events. As this issue went to press, three builders -- Beazer, David Weekley, and KB Home -- had signed on for the first sales event, scheduled to take place sometime in the second quarter. As many as eight more may participate. The partners expect to post 3,000 homes during this initial ramp-up year.

Low Income Step Up

Homeownership opportunities for lower income individuals stand to improve greatly thanks to the alliance struck between Fannie Mae and its longstanding customer, J.P. Morgan Chase and Co. The initiative, part of Fannie Mae's $2 trillion American Dream Commitment, combines flexible mortgage solutions with significant lending capability to boost mortgage access and to augment funding and construction activity in deprived areas, particularly for low-income minorities and immigrants.

This partnership comes at time when the Homeownership Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition dedicated to supporting the country's housing system, reports the homeownership gap remains wide, and the nation's shortage in housing is at its worst since the 1930s.

BIG BUILDER Magazine, March 2002