Friday, July 17, 2015

Water Conservation

Water is at a premium throughout drought-stricken California, and home buyers will no longer be able to  “go with the flow” as residents are tasked with conserving more. Typical U.S. households use approximately 260 gallons of water every day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  And as mandatory water restrictions require residents to reduce their water usage by 25 percent, a water-efficient home can help play a large role. 

Here are some common features of new construction that can help conserve our “liquid gold":

1. “Green” landscaping:  The average suburban lawn consumes a whopping 10,000 gallons of non-rain water each year.  That’s why some of today’s most coveted gardens utilize the principles of “xeric” or drought-tolerant landscaping. Native plants, such as lavender, ice plant and succulents are well-suited to drought-like conditions and drier soil, thereby helping to reduce water usage. Also, consider a smart “weather-sensing” irrigation system to automatically adjust the water schedule based on weather, seasonality and even zone type. After all, no one wants to see sprinklers running during an unexpected rain.
2. Efficient plumbing lines:  New homes generally employ efficient plumbing lines including pressure-regulating valves, which can limit water usage to 60 pounds per square inch (psi). This reduction helps with leaks, saves water and money, and can lessen the possibility of pipes bursting. New homes may also include well-insulated hot water pipes, which speed hot water to the user, reducing the amount of water wasted in warming it up.
3. Improved water heaters:  New choices including tankless heaters, heat pumps, or solar hot water heaters save both water and energy.
4. Low-flow plumbing fixtures:  Faucets and showers account for 15 and 17 percent of household water use respectively.  Improved low-flow options save water (about 30 percent for sinks and 25 to 60 percent for showerheads) without sacrificing quality, appearance or functionality.
5. Dual-flush toilets:  Toilets are the number one source of water usage in the home, accounting for nearly 30 percent of residential indoor water consumption. Low-flow models are a step in the right direction, but dual-flush options are even better, offering a full flush volume for solids and a reduced flush for liquids.
6. Energy-efficient dishwashers:  On average, dishwashers earning the ENERGY STAR label are 15 percent more water efficient than standard models. These newer-model dishwashers can save up to 1,600 gallons of water over the lifetime of the appliance.
7. Updated washing machines:  Take a brand new washing machine for a spin and save on the second-highest water demand in the house. Models manufactured and sold since March 7 are required to use even less water than previous energy-saving models. Even as capacities have expanded, maximum water usage has decreased, helping to save as much as eight gallons more per cycle than older models.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Market Matters

Think California's housing crisis is tough in LA? Try Coachella.
Source: KPCC

Bob Soloman, head of UC Irvine Law School’s Community and Economic Development Clinic, commented the following about the housing crisis in the Coachella Valley: “Really, the housing shortage is abysmal. It’s worse than anything I’ve seen. […] Mobile home parks are springing up. But they’re springing up in fairly haphazard ways, they’re not well maintained. They’re often un-permitted." Many areas where working class families are living lack adequate electrical systems and waters systems, such as the trailer parks cited by Soloman. Blown fuses and dirty water in115 degree weather has made for poor living conditions for such residents, but due to a lack of housing options, poor families have been forced to make due.
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Do Home Builders Understand What Buyers Want? 
Source: Wall St. Journal
Are home builders doing a good job of determining what home buyers want? Not according to Nela Richardson, chief economist for brokerage Redfin Corp., and Selma Hepp, chief economist for Zillow Group’s Trulia real-estate website. Richardson and Hepp noted that builders aren’t constructing enough entry-level housing to meet demand; instead, they are tailoring construction toward luxury buyers with ample credit. While builders may not be so sure about the financial prospects of entry-level buyers, the economists say this demographic has demand that is adequate and increasing.
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HUD Secretary Op-Ed: Make Sure Every Child in America Can Chase Their Dreams
Source: Quartz
Juli├ín Castro, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is calling for greater investment in public schools, infrastructure, and housing in order to ensure that every child – no matter where they live or how much they earn – can make it in America. Castro notes, “We must promote smart, inclusive planning in every community. We can’t have one plan for the suburbs and another for cities. Instead, we must view our communities as connected, because they are.” The HUD secretary touts a new initiative that HUD is launching in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Energy and Education called “STEM, Energy, and Economic Development” or “SEED.” SEED will leverage federal investments and partnerships to connect public housing residents to energy-sector training and jobs.
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Bay Area Housing: Pay $900 a month to live in a tent near Google
Source: SF Gate
In a sign of just how bad the housing market has gotten in the Bay Area, a man has offered a tent to rent in his backyard for $900 due to the lack of available rental options in the region. The owner stated, “It kind of is (outrageous). But maybe they should build more affordable housing in Mountain View." As a way to lure a renter for the tent, the owner advertised it as a "safe and friendly" neighborhood, "very close to Caltrain," and "in a beautiful garden." 
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Poll: Housing Scarcity Concerns Surpass Water Worries in San Francisco
Source: KQEDSan Francisco is the epicenter of housing concern for the whole Bay Area, as finding an affordable place to live ranked higher than worries about California’s extreme drought in the 2015 Bay Area Council Poll. More than three-quarters of Bay Area residents support building more low- to middle-income housing, and a growing number of people favor greater density in their neighborhoods if it would create more places to live. Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman commented, “Water isn’t the only thing that’s in short supply in the Bay Area. We need a bold regional response to our historic housing crisis that is on par with the aggressive and immediate action we’re taking to combat the drought.”
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Renting: Awful for just about everyone right now
Source: Atlantic
 Apartment vacancy rates are very low, thereby pushing up prices. Construction in many cities is still slow, as new tenants move in but few move out, which has resulted in high rental prices. For those who live in major metro areas, it’s become virtually impossible not to have one’s housing costs exceed about one-third of a person’s pay. As prices rise, even those who make median incomes are finding that their rent eats away at a more significant portion of their pay than it once did for those in the middle class. Complicating the problem is the fact that fewer households are making the transition from renting to owning, which means more competition for limited inventory.
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