Category Archives: Westchester NY

NYC apartment sales drop 57% | South Salem Real Estate

a garden in front of a house: Photo of home for sale in Huntington, New York on August 5, 2020. New York City suburbs are seeing a huge increase in real estate demand amid the pandemic. Thomas A. Ferrara/Newsday RM via Getty ImagesNewsday RM via Getty Images Photo of home for sale in Huntington, New York on August 5, 2020. New York City suburbs are seeing a huge increase in real estate demand amid the pandemic.

  • New York City apartment sales plunged in July, according to a report from the real-estate firm Douglas Elliman.
  • But in neighboring suburbs, home sales are surging as wealthy New Yorkers seek greener pastures. 
  • For Connecticut — which has struggled to rebound even from the last recession — the migration could be a boon for its struggling finances. 

Only one Manhattan condo sold for more than $10 million in July, according to a new report, as many wealthy New Yorkers continue to flee the city for greener pastures.

Overall apartment sales fell 57% in July compared to the same month in 2019 as for-sale listing soar, real estate firm Douglas Elliman said in its monthly report, a highly-watched data source for the nation’s largest housing market.

As the US largely fails to stop the spread of the coronavirus, short-term escapes appear to be turning in to long-term moves, potentially fueling a rebirth for struggling suburbs. In Westchester County, directly north of the five boroughs, overall single-family sales were up 112% over last year, with those over $2 million more than quadrupling.

And in Connecticut, the areas closest to New York City saw a similar uptick in-step with Westchester. The state was hit hard by the housing crisis more than a decade ago, and has struggled to recover in the years since. Connecticut is one of just two states in the country where gross domestic product has yet to recover from the previous recession and its employment numbers have lagged neighboring states, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

“We are going to market ourselves more to those individuals as opposed to marketing ourselves to the company,” a state economic-development official told The Wall Street Journal, assuming that the days of commuting to an office in Manhattan’s core or corporate parks are on the skids for now. People working from home in Connecticut could be a much-needed boost to the state’s income tax base — and its lawn-laden towns and countryside feel all the more attractive in the middle of a pandemic.

But while the shift in high-end housing is shaping up to be a boon for some towns and brokers, investors are circling distressed assets at depressed prices as unemployment remains above 10% and out-of-work Americans struggle to pay rent.

“Real-estate investors — when you take the emotion out of it — many of them have been waiting for this for a decade,” David Schechtman, a broker with Meridian Capital Group, told The Wall Street Journal in April. The economy has seen little improvement in the months since.

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https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/

Best US mountain towns | Waccabuc Real Estate

Magnificent natural beauty and unbeatable scenery abounds in America’s legendary mountain ranges. But if you’re not into backcountry camping or roughing it, accessing this country’s towering terrain can be puzzling. Lucky for you, there are plenty of mountain towns chock-full of character and class that make visiting some of the United States’ most stunning regions a breeze.

From the obvious to the underrated, these are the best mountain towns in America.

Telluride, Colorado

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Boasting world-class ski slopes sprawling across more than 2,000 acres, it’s no wonder Telluride and its ski resort top our list of best mountain towns in America. It was also ranked as the number one Best Small Town to Visit according to U.S. News and World Report. The town of roughly 2,500 residents is nestled in a steep valley dominated by the San Juan Mountains. Come in winter and choose from nearly 150 uncrowded ski trails. Visit in summer and the same terrain becomes an epic hiking range. History buffs will enjoy poking around this former gold mining town and visiting the Telluride Historical Museum and even non-skiers will love soaking up the atmospheric Mountain Village.

McCall, Idaho

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Lesser known, but no less enticing, McCall is a perfectly-situated resort town offering a host of activities in every season. Payette Lake, a glassy glacier lake framed by the snow-dusted peaks of the Payette National Forest, booms in the summertime. Brundage Mountain’s mixture of groomed trails and backcountry terrain draws skiers and snowboarders throughout the long winters. Top off a chilly day on the slope with a dip in the Gold Fork Hot Springs, just 30 miles south of town. And if you visit in winter, the renowned McCall Winter Carnival is a must.

Taos, New Mexico

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It’s usually deserts, not mountains, that come to mind when you think of the American Southwest. But you can find the best of both worlds in Taos, a spirited town full of culture and tradition that also happens to be wrapped in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Taos is best known for Taos Ski Valley, a rugged and untamed resort with beginner to advanced trails. But the town also houses the only Native American community that’s designated both a UNESCO site and National Historic Landmark. Taos Pueblo showcases 1,000 years of history in its iconic mud and straw dwellings. Combine the slopes and the deep-rooted history with the town’s natural beauty and its appeal becomes undeniably clear.

Helen, Georgia

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Sitting on the cusp of the Blue Ridge Mountains (a segment of the Appalachians) in northeast Georgia, Helen oozes charm. With cobblestone streets, mountain cabins for purchase, and painted buildings, you’ll feel like you stepped out of Georgia and into a European alpine village. Its location makes it a desirable year-round destination. The Chattahoochee National Forest flows right into Helen’s state parks, veiling numerous waterfalls, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, multiple beaches, and countless fishing spots. Designated Georgia’s Outdoor Adventure Destination, Helen also offers tubing in the Chattahoochee River, camping, mountain biking and kayaking. In between adventures, dive into the dozens of specialty shops packed into the town’s two square miles. Helen’s got everything you might want – and more.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Located on the southern border of two heavy-hitting national parks and surrounded by the almighty Teton Mountain Range, Jackson Hole is far from an unknown mountain town. The town’s claim to fame is undoubtedly the world-renowned Jackson Hole Mountain Resort which is more like its own self-operating village. Hotels and restaurants pepper Rendezvous Mountain, but it’s the world-class ski slopes spread over 2,500 acres and the 400 inches of annual snowfall that make the resort a destination in itself. Not being a snow bunny isn’t an excuse to avoid Jackson Hole. There are still plenty of other activities to enjoy, like exploring Grand Teton National Park, catching a show at the historic Jackson Hole Playhouse and taking a dip in the exquisite Granite Hot Springs.

Asheville, North Carolina

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Asheville marches to the beat of its own drum (literally) and offers no apologies. Littered with breweries, hipster hang-outs, and live music venues, Asheville is a quirky mountain town with a ton of flair. Tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville sits a mere 130 miles northeast of our Helen, Georgia but embodies its own drastically-different character. Scenic drives, hiking and picnicking top our list of favorite pastimes in Asheville. When it’s time to let loose, hit up the downtown for a generous helping of live music bars, worldly cuisine, craft breweries and off-beat entertainment options – dinner and a belly dance, anyone?

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https://www.thediscoverer.com/blog/the-best-mountain-towns-in-america/

NY housing courts reopen | Waccabuc Real Estate

“I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff, and I’m just waiting for a push to send me over.”

Daniella Vega has called every tenant hotline she could find, but she still doesn’t know if she’s on the cusp of being evicted. The 27-year-old artist shared a three-bedroom apartment with in Bushwick with two roommates, but they both moved out due to the pandemic, saddling the freelancer with the $3,200 rent. She’s paid what she can from her savings but now owes two months in back rent, and her landlord has been distressingly unresponsive to recent emails. The fear of eviction, Vega says, is ever present.

“I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff, and I’m just waiting for a push to send me over,” she says. Vega is among the tens of thousands of New York renters struggling to understand the labyrinth of state orders and court guidance, issued at the beginning of the pandemic and continually updated over the past few months, that are dictating what can already be an opaque evictions process. Now, with housing courts partially reopened in New York City, push may soon come to shove for many renters like Vega who are behind on rent, or who haven’t paid at all since March.

Vega has yet to receive a notice from her landlord, but she is bracing for the possibility that she may be among the proverbial “tidal wave” of new eviction cases — at least 50,000 — that housing advocates estimate New York landlords will file in the coming weeks.

A blanket moratorium on evictions, ordered by Governor Andrew Cuomo, prevented New York renters from losing their homes over the past three months. But as of June 20, protections under that order narrowed. Instead, the current safeguards only apply to tenants who are eligible for unemployment or who have experienced a “financial hardship” related to COVID-19. People who meet those requirements cannot be evicted before August 20. How precisely the courts will decide who is protected under the extended moratorium has created confusion for tenant and landlord attorneys alike.

It’s a determination that could have far-reaching consequences for renters and property owners. But new guidance from the Office of Court Administration has temporarily put a pin in the issue by pausing all new eviction cases and the execution of warrants until at least July 6. Cases can be filed by mail, but those will be adjourned.

The bewildering complexity of the situation has added to the uncertainty for renters and their advocates. For months, tenant-rights groups, including the statewide Housing Justice for All coalition, have urged the governor to extend the blanket eviction moratorium, and on Monday, they took that message to the courts, with hundreds gathering outside of courthouses across the boroughs.

In Brooklyn, protesters railed outside the borough’s civil courts before marching through the streets of Downtown, chanting “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Evictions have got to go!” Demonstrators in Manhattan participated in a die-in while holding signs that read “People Over Property.” And in Queens and the Bronx, dozens more shouted their outrage over megaphones, calling on Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to offer greater relief to renters and pleading for the housing courts to remain closed.jason wu, esq. #FreeThemAll4PublicHealth@CriticalRace

We are outside Manhattan Court to tell @NYGovCuomo: No to evictions. No to reopening housing courts. No to profits over people. #EvictionFreeNY and #CancelRent now.
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321 · New York City Housing CourtTwitter Ads info and privacy177 people are talking about this

“While the government has told us to stay in our homes, they’re now refusing to protect our ability to actually do that,” Kim Statuto told the crowd outside the Bronx courts. Statuto, a tenant leader with Community Action for Safe Apartments, is on a rent strike in her Claremont Village apartment building, where she has lived with her two adult children — who were both laid off from their jobs in March — for 26 years. “It’s not our fault we can’t pay, but when the courts reopen, we’re the ones that are going to suffer,” Statuto added.

Patrick Tyrrell, a tenant attorney with Mobilization for Justice who joined protesters in Brooklyn, says the issue of restarting evictions has become a “political hot potato” that has led to shaky leadership from the governor and the courts. “No one wants to be the person that says we’re going to evict people,” says Tyrrell. “But at the same time, they’re giving landlords these pinhole opportunities to protect their interests. It shows how politics can create a horrible process.”

That process is one that attorneys are still trying to piece together. Uncertainty lingers over the exact criteria tenants must meet to qualify for protection under the governor’s second executive order.

And that creates a harrowing situation for tenants like Vega who, as a freelancer, wasn’t laid off because of the pandemic, but her income did take a hit with several canceled commissions. “How do I prove that was directly related to the pandemic?” she questions. “It clearly was, but I have no idea how I’d even prove that. It’s terrifying that no one can tell me.”

Vega has already begun reaching out to clients, asking them to pen letters explaining why they reneged on commissions. “I’m trying to arm myself with something,” she says.#CANCELRENT Housing Justice For All@housing4allNY

Try and take our homes? We’ll take over the streets. @NYGovCuomo, extend the real eviction moratorium and #cancelrent now! #EvictionFreeNY

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Landlords who do choose to mail in new eviction cases will also have to provide an affidavit confirming that they have reviewed all existing state and federal restrictions on evictions and believe “in good faith” that the case is “consistent with those proceedings and qualifications,” according to guidance issued by New York State chief administrative judge Lawrence Marks.

But that order, landlord attorneys argue, may be overly burdensome for property owners, who have their own bills to pay, to pursue new cases.

Landlords also run the risk of potentially subjecting themselves to penalties if they wrongfully interpret those directives. Furthermore, they would have to attest that they have reason to believe a tenant is not eligible for unemployment benefits or is not otherwise facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 — but again, neither the governor nor the courts have concretely defined what constitutes such a hardship.

“I don’t say this lightly, but the New York City Housing Court has essentially ceased to function,” says landlord attorney Nativ Winiarsky, partner with Kucker Marino Winiarsky & Bittens, LLP.

according to real estate lead generation companies, landlords looking for relief may try to pursue eviction cases in the Supreme Court or through other nonhousing civil-court channels, but that’s a laborious process that could prove too costly for some landlords to pursue. “All of this, I believe, is effectively and severely unfairly impacting a landlord’s property and due-process rights,” adds Winiarsky.

This has left Vega feeling like she’s caught between two worlds, and without greater relief from the state or city, she expects to remain stuck. “Everyone is trying to squeeze whatever they can get out of everyone right now, and that’s because the government has failed us,” says Vega. “We need to cancel rent. We need to cancel mortgages. And if we don’t, I am the one who will suffer.”

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ny.curbed.com/2020

Amazon has tiny houses to buy for your backyard | Waccabuc Real Estate

Going down an Amazon product rabbit hole, you can find just about anything. There’s some weird stuff out there, like this Nicolas Cage sequin pillow and this wine bra. But deep into the patio and outdoor category, you’ll find one major (OK, huge) item that you probably didn’t know existed on Amazon: tiny houses.

If you can’t get enough of the TV shows that are all about tiny house-living, you can actually live out your own tiny home dreams by purchasing one from Amazon. There’s one caveat however — the tiny houses come as a kit that you then have to build yourself. But if you’ve been looking for your next backyard DIY project, we’ve found it.

While you’d expect tiny homes to be a bit of a splurge purchase, Allwood’s 172-sqaure foot Solvalla Studio got so popular after customers found it on the site in May 2019 that it sold out in less than a week.

Right now, Allwood is the primary brand that’s selling these tiny house kits on Amazon, and unsurprisingly, they aren’t cheap. One the most affordable options is one that’s 113-square feet going for a mere $5,350. There’s one that’s even selling for more than $64,000!

But what’s interesting about these kits if you read the product description is that they can be built by two people in just eight hours. Each “cabin kit” also comes with all the building materials and directions you would need. There’s even a kit that can make two-room tiny house! Plus, all of the options are less than 250 square feet too, in case your space is limited.

While these tiny cabins could act as little backyard getaway, they don’t come with electricity or utilities, which is an added expense. And if you’re wondering exactly what you could do in this tiny home exactly, well the product description mentions that they are ideal as a “backyard recreation lounge, guest house or even a home office.”

Oddly enough, these tiny homes are one of Amazon’s most sought-out products right now. So if you have the space, the time and the money, it might be worth investing in, to finally live out those tiny house dreams of yours. By the way, if you hop over to this website you’ll find a discount code that may get you a discount.

Below, we’ve rounded up the top six more ~affordable~ options to browse before they might sell out.

Shop: Allwood Solvalla 172 SQF Studio Cabin Kit, $7,290

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Shop: Allwood Mayflower 117 SQF Garden House Cabin Kit, $7,290

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Shop: Allwood Palma 3 176 SQF 2 Room Studio Cabin Kit, $9,695

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Shop: Allwood Escape 113 SQF Cabin Kit, $5,350

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Shop: Allwood Estelle 5 157 SQF Cabin Kit, Garden House, $6,395 (Orig. $8,299)

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Shop: Allwood Arlanda XL 227 SQF Studio Cabin Garden House Kit, $9,990

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Shop: Allwood Sommersby 174 SQF Garden House Kit, $6,395.00 (Orig. $8,299)

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Mortgage rates average 3.3% | Waccabuc Real Estate

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.33 percent.

“Mortgage rates have drifted down for two weeks in a row and that drop reflects improvements in market liquidity and sentiment,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “While the market has stabilized relative to prior weeks, homebuyer demand has declined in response to current economic conditions. The good news is that the pending economic stimulus is on the way and will provide support for both consumers and businesses.”

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.33 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 2, 2020, down from last week when it averaged 3.50 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.08 percent. 
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.82 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.92 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.56 percent. 
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.40 percent with an average 0.3 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.34 percent. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.66 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Mortgage Delinquencies Reach Historic Low | Waccabuc Real Estate

In the fourth quarter of 2019, the delinquency rate for mortgage loans on single-family homes1 decreased to 3.8% of all loans outstanding, according to the latest iteration of the Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Delinquency Survey. This is the lowest it has been since the series started in 1979. The delinquency rate includes loans that are at least one payment past due but does not include loans in the process of foreclosure. Additionally, the “seriously delinquent” rate, the percentage of loans that are 90 days or more past due or are in the process of foreclosure decreased to 1.8%, the lowest it has been since 2005.

The above figure shows the serious delinquency rate of all loans and its components, FHA and VA loans, which are government-insured mortgages, and conventional loans. The seriously delinquent rates of FHA and VA loans increased from the previous quarter. For the fourth quarter of 2019, the five states with the lowest seriously delinquent rates were Colorado, California, Washington, Arizona, and Oregon and the five states with the highest seriously delinquent rates were Puerto Rico, New York, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine.


Notes:

  1. For simplicity, the term “single-family” is used but denotes one- to four-unit residential properties.

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Tax the rich and the rich leave | Waccabuc Real Estate

Trump’s SALT Cap Fuels a Wealth Exodus From High-Tax States

Some of the hardest evidence yet indicates that the 2017 Republican tax law is pushing money and people from high-tax U.S. states like New York and New Jersey and into low-tax states including Florida.

In 2018, low- and lower-tax states gained $32 billion more in adjusted gross income than higher tax states, according to a Bank of America Global Research analysis of income migration data. The net gain — almost $2 billion more than in 2017 — was nearly twice the average over the last 13 years. The Republican overhaul capped state and local deductions at $10,000, making it harder for people to shield as much income from taxes as they could before.

At the same time, states like Florida and Texas, which don’t have an income tax, are seeing more and more people move there. New York, California, Connecticut and New Jersey — the states that had the highest average SALT deductions, lost about 455,000 people between July 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019, compared with 408,500 the prior year, according to U.S. Census data. Most of the increase came from people leaving California.

“The implication would be at the very least, people are sensitive to large changes in federal tax policy,” said Ian Rogow, a municipal strategist at Bank of America who analyzed the data.

Almost half of income taxes paid to California, New York and New Jersey come from the wealthiest 1% of households. If they were to move in large enough numbers, those states could be in trouble. So far, however, the federal tax overhaul — which broadened the tax base — and steady economy growth has led to higher-tax state revenue overall. States collected $327.7 billion in income tax revenue in the first three quarters of 2019, about 6% more than the same period in 2018, according to the Census Bureau.

To be sure, people move for a variety of reasons: jobs, housing costs and the weather among them. Despite having the third-highest personal income tax rate, Oregon was the second-most popular moving destination in the U.S., according to United Van Lines Annual Movers Study. The survey found that job changes and retirement were the two biggest reasons for leaving the northeast.

Related: Florida, Trump’s New Home, Leads U.S. in the Migration of Money

The Republicans’ 2017 tax law capped the SALT deduction as a way to help pay for $1.5 trillion in corporate and personal income tax cuts. Governors in Democratic-led states most affected by the new limit, including New York and New Jersey, accused Republicans of targeting them to pay for the cut. In October a federal judge ruled against New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland, which had sued to overturn the cap, arguing it was unconstitutional. The states are appealing.

The SALT limit significantly raised the effective taxes for wealthy residents of blue states. In 2017, about 140,000 tax filers in Manhattan with adjusted gross income of $200,000 or more paid $21 billion in state and local income taxes, or $150,000 on average, according to IRS data. About 83,000 of these filers paid an average $25,000 in property taxes. In Westchester, home to the nation’s highest property taxes, the wealthiest residents paid about an average $65,000 in state and local income taxes and $28,000 in real estate taxes.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, Westchester homeowners cut an average of 4.1% from their last asking price to sell their homes, according to a report last week, a sign that sellers have to slash prices to attract to buyers. The price cuts were the most for any three-month period since the end of 2014, according to a the report by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who has called the SALT limits “politically diabolical,” has warned that capping the deduction encourages high-income New Yorkers to leave.

“Tax the rich, tax the rich, tax the rich. We did. Now, God forbid the rich leave,” Cuomo said last year.

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bloomberg.net

Leftist Utopia: San Francisco banning gas stoves | Waccbuc Real Estate

No more fire in the kitchen: Cities are banning natural gas in homes to save the planet

SAN FRANCISCO – Fix global warming or cook dinner on a gas stove?

That’s the choice for people in 13 cities and one county in California that have enacted new zoning codes encouraging or requiring all-electric new construction.  

The codes, most of them passed since June, are meant to keep builders from running natural gas lines to new homes and apartments, with an eye toward creating fewer legacy gas hookups as the nation shifts to carbon-neutral energy sources.

For proponents, it’s a change that must be made to fight climate change. For natural gas companies, it’s a threat to their existence. And for some cooks who love to prepare food with flame, it’s an unthinkable loss.

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, mostly methane, and produces 33% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas causing climate change.

“There’s no pathway to stabilizing the climate without phasing gas out of our homes and buildings. This is a must-do for the climate and a livable planet,” said Rachel Golden of the Sierra Club’s building electrification campaign.

These new building codes come as local governments work to speed the transition from natural gas and other fossil fuels and toward the use of electricity from renewables, said Robert Jackson, a professor of energy and the environment at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

it’s important to check your house for air flow indoors or add a gas fitter chelmer to avoid allergies at home.

“Every house, every high-rise that’s built with gas, may be in place for decades. We’re establishing infrastructure that may be in place for 50 years,” he said.

These “reach” or “stretch” building codes, as they are known, have so far all been passed in California. The first was in Berkeley in July, then more in Northern California and recently Santa Monica in Southern California. Other cities in Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington state are contemplating them, according to the Sierra Club.

Some of the cities ban natural gas hookups to new construction. Others offer builders incentives if they go all-electric, much the same as they might get to take up more space on a lot if a house is extra energy-efficient. In April, Sunnyvale, a town in Silicon Valley, changed its building code to offer a density bonus to all-electric developments.

No more gas stoves?

The building codes apply only to new construction beginning in 2020, so they aren’t an issue for anyone in an already-built home.

Probably the biggest stumbling block for most pondering an all-electric home is the prospect of not having a gas stove.

“It’s the only thing that people ever ask about,” said Bruce Nilles, who directs the building electrification program of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based think tank that focuses on energy and resource efficiency.

Roughly 35% of U.S. households have a gas stove, while 55%have electric, according to a 2017 kitchen audit by the NPD Group, a global information company based in Port Washington, New York. 

For at least a quarter of Americans, it doesn’t matter either way. They already live in houses that are all-electric, and their numbers are rising, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s especially true in the Southeast, where close to 45% of homes are all-electric.

For the rest of the nation, natural gas is used to heat buildings and water, dry clothes and cook food, according to the EIA. That represents 17% of national natural gas usage. 

But the number of natural gas customers is also rising. The American Gas Association, which represents more than 200 local energy companies, says an average of one new customer is added every minute. 

“That’s exactly the wrong direction,” Nilles said.

States weigh climate change solutions

The nudge toward all-electric buildings is the type of shift Americans will begin to experience more and more in coming years. Last year, California’s governor signed an executive order directing state agencies to work toward making the entire state economy carbon-neutral by 2045. 

California is not alone. New York, Hawaii, Colorado and Maine have economywide carbon-neutrality goals, and several more are debating them. More than 140 U.S. cities have committed to transitioning to carbon-neutral energy. 

The natural gas industry rejects the notion that it should not be part of the nation’s energy future.

“The idea that denying access to natural gas in new homes is necessary to meet emissions reduction goals is false. In fact, denying access to natural gas could make meeting emissions goals harder and more expensive,” said American Gas Association President and CEO Karen Harbert. 

The association calls the new zoning codes for new construction burdensome to consumers and to the economy. They also say it’s more expensive to run an all-electric home. A study by AGA released last year suggested that all-electric homes would pay $750 to $910 a year more for energy-related costs, as well as amortized appliance and upgrade costs.

But critics question AGA’s conclusions. 

Amanda Myers, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation, a research nonprofit group focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, said AGA presumed high electricity rates because of unrealistically large increases in expected electricity use and made unusual assumptions for how any anticipated electric load growth might be met. 

An analysis last year by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that in locations as diverse as Chicago, Houston and Providence, Rhode Island, all-electric new homes over a 15-year time frame could save residents as much as $260 a year compared with new homes with air conditioners powered by electricity and natural gas. 

You’ll pry my cold, dead hands off my gas range

The selling point for getting away from natural gas may come from a type of electric range that, according to chefs, is just as good if not better than gas. As fundamentally attached as people might be to cooking with fire, induction stoves are making headway.

Long popular in Europe and increasingly trendy in the United States, induction cooktops are different from the kind of traditional electric range where coils become red-hot. Induction ranges use electromagnetic energy to directly heat pots and pans.

They are fast, energy-efficient and safe because there’s no open flame, and they are cool to the touch unless you’re a piece of metal. 

As Reviewed.com puts it, they’re “gentle enough to melt butter and chocolate, but powerful enough to bring 48 ounces of water to a boil in under three minutes.”

The downsides are that induction cooktops are more expensive than traditional electric stoves, generally a third to half more. They also work only with pans with steel or iron bottoms.

Professional chefs say modern induction ranges are comparable to gas. The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, America’s preeminent cooking school, trains its chefs on both induction and gas stoves because they will encounter both types and must know how to use them.

“Some of the finest restaurants in Europe are often out in mountainous areas or places where there isn’t gas. They cook on induction and that works just fine,” said Mark Erickson, a certified master chef at the institute. 

Regular electric stoves aren’t a deal-breaker either, said Erickson, who lives in a townhouse with one and cooks on it every night.

“If I were given the chance and if it were a choice of gas or electric, I would choose gas because it’s what I’m used to,” he said. “But in all honesty, it’s not the end of the world.” 

Read more…

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/11/10/climate-change-solutions-more-cities-banning-natural-gas-homes/4008346002/

Reducing California homelessness | Waccabuc Real Estate

Ben Carson leaves Union Rescue Mission on skid row

President Trump’s big idea for fixing California’s homelessness crisis should look familiar to many prominent Democrats: Eliminate layers of regulation to make it easier and cheaper to build more housing.

On the eve of a two-day swing through the state this week, Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report blaming “decades of misguided and faulty policies” for putting too many restrictions on development and causing home prices to rise to unaffordable levels. It’s a continuation of a strategy that the president began in June, when he signed an executive order to establish a White House council to “confront the regulatory barriers to affordable housing development.”

“Harmful local government policies in select cities, along with ineffective federal government policies of prior administrations, have exaggerated the homelessness problem,” Tom Philipson, acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers,told reporters Monday.

But while the administration’s argument broadly mirrors what some Democratic lawmakers have been trying to do in California, easing rules on development, allowing fourplexes on land currently zoned for single-family homes or cutting some state environmental rules that restrict building, it’s too simple to link Trump’s approach with that of his liberal antagonists, several state lawmakers said.

Instead, they said, the president’s positions on homelessness are more about trolling California than attempting to find actual solutions. Some also argue that the administration’s report takes a common Republican tactic — deregulation — that often benefits the party’s deep-pocketed donors and slaps it on yet another subject — homelessness.

Democratic state Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, who represents skid row and other neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles,is the author of recently passed legislation that would make it harder to use state environmental laws to block homeless housing and shelters in Los Angeles.

He said it was hard to take Trump’s ideas seriously when the president has also proposed cutting federal housing dollars and clawing back Obama-era rules that aimed to desegregate neighborhoods. Another proposed Trump administration policy would deny federal housing aid to households that include anyone living in the country illegally, even when other members are eligible for such aid as lawful residents or U.S. citizens.

“I think it’s politics at its worst where he is going to pick on a vulnerable community — no different than when he picked on immigrants — and he’s going to target them,” Santiago said. “We’re already hearing it: ‘Here’s West Coast liberals, not able to solve the problem.’ I think it’s a little cynical for someone who has done everything in their right mind to make it worse on the working poor.”

The Trump administration’s report says that the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas could see huge reductions in homelessness if they were to unwind restrictions on development, estimating that the population of people living on the streets and in shelters would go down by more than half and 40%, respectively.

The report doesn’t cite any specific regulations that are increasing housing costs, nor recommendations on what regulations should be eliminated.

State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who has made a name for himself arguing for the reduction of local zoning rules, said he disagreed with the Trump administration’s apparent pitch to cut back on all regulations and allow for more building of all types everywhere. Instead, his recently shelved Senate Bill 50 was designed to make it easier to build housing near existing job centers and mass transit specifically for affordability and environmental reasons.

Wiener also pointed to national Democrats, such as presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, and former President Obama, who have pushed for stripping away some development rules as part of their plans to make housing more affordable.

“I don’t agree with the president’s view that we should be like Arizona because that would lead to sprawl,” Wiener said. “But I do agree with Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Barack Obama that we should move away from restrictive housing policies because restrictive housing policies lead to more homelessness.”

In addition to deregulation, the Trump administration’s report also calls for using law enforcement to deal with homeless people and encampments, arguing that “more tolerable conditions for sleeping on the streets” increased the homeless population.

That argument has largely been panned by experts, who point to more complicated, intertwined causes of homelessness, including poverty, addiction and lack of affordable housing. Therefore, the recommendation to use police is wrongheaded as well, said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“The White House report on homelessness treats this crisis like fodder for a cable news debate,” Garcetti said in a statement. “We don’t have time for that. If the president really cares about solving this crisis, he wouldn’t be talking about criminalization over housing. He’d be making dramatic increases in funding for this country’s housing safety net.”

In the past week, Trump’s advisers have toured homeless encampments and public housing projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but offered few solutions.

On Wednesday morning, after meeting with LAPD Chief Michel Moore, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson visited skid row to tour the Union Rescue Mission. He didn’t offer much substance about the administration’s plans, but encouraged a greater focus on public-private partnerships.

Carson also indicated that HUD might start reserving housing grants to local governments that are willing to make changes to local zoning laws.

“We will get preference points to people who are willing to look at these things,” he said. “You know, we have so many archaic rules on the books all over the country.”

Later Wednesday, Carson rejected a request made earlier this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom and other elected officials for additional resources for homelessness, including 50,000 housing vouchers. In his written response, Carson echoed the report from Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“Your letter seeks more federal dollars for California from hardworking American taxpayers, but fails to admit that your state and local policies have played a major role in creating the current crisis,” he wrote. “If California’s homeless population had held in line with overall population trends, America’s homeless rate would have decreased. Instead, the opposite has happened, as California’s unsheltered homelessness population has skyrocketed as a result of the state’s overregulated housing market, its inefficient allocation of resources and its policies that have weakened law enforcement.”

Dan O’Flaherty, a Columbia University economics professor whose work is cited more than a half-dozen times in the Trump administration’s report, said he agreed that loosening local homebuilding rules would decrease costs and lessen homelessness. But he said that the report vastly overstates the potential impact of doing so.

And even if the report is correct that deregulation would reduce Los Angeles’ current homeless population by 40%, it would still take decades for that to happen.

“You do 40% over 40 years?” O’Flaherty said. “Big whoopie.”

Overall, O’Flaherty said the report ignored well-regarded research that shows public subsidies can help homeless people find new homes, and instead asserted without evidence that simply increasing mental health and drug treatment programs without housing assistance would decrease the homeless population.

Margot Kushel, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who recently received a $30-million grant from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and his wife to study solutions to homelessness, panned the Trump administration’s report as being out of line with most research on the subject.

One notable lapse, she said, was that it argued permanent supportive housing, which attempts to house people who are chronically homeless and have disabilities in buildings that also have social services, was ineffectual. Multiple studies, she said, show that 85% or more of those receiving such housing stay there.

The success of permanent supportive housing, she said, “is not controversial and it has had broad bipartisan support because the evidence is so overwhelming.”

Like others, Heidi Marston, chief program officer for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, questioned whether some in the Trump administration, including Carson, really understood the best practices being used to help homeless people.

For example, during his visit to skid row on Wednesday, Carson offered a somewhat muddled answer to a question about “housing first,” the widely accepted national model that prioritizes getting people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing, regardless of their sobriety or health status.

“When we talk about something like housing first, housing first is a good idea because it gets people off the street and it actually costs less money when you get them off the street,” he said. “But you can’t stop with housing first. You have to go with housing second, which means you diagnose the reason that they were there in the first place and housing third, which means you try to fix it.”

Marston would love to see the federal government offer more help on homelessness, and she was among those who met with Trump officials last week.

“We focused on educating them,” she said, “trying to help them understand why we practice a low-barrier approach and what housing first really means.”

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https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-18/trump-housing-homeless-ben-carson-california-deregulation

Property Taxes by Congressional District | Waccabuc Real Estate

Earlier this year, NAHB released 2017 property taxes by state as a blog post and as a longer special study. However, in light of changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), further refining the statistics by congressional district is instructive to both members of Congress as well as their constituents.

Property Tax Payments, Effective Tax Rates, and Intrastate Comparisons

The highest average property tax bill was $11,389, paid by home owners residing in New York’s 17th district (Rockland County and portions of Westchester County). The smallest average annual real estate tax bill was $425, paid by home owners in Alabama’s fourth district (Franklin, Colbert, Marion, Lamar, Fayette, Walker, Winston, Cullman, Lawrence, Marshall, Etowah, and DeKalb Counties). The congressional districts in which homeowners pay the 20 largest and 20 smallest annual property tax bills are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

It is not surprising that many of the districts with the highest property tax rates are in states that impose the highest average property tax rates.  Figure 2 illustrates the geographic concentration of high- and low-tax congressional districts.

Figure 2

For example, 17 of the 20 congressional districts with the highest property tax rates are in three states: New Jersey, New York, and Illinois (Figure 3).

Figure 3

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey

Congressional districts in New York State exhibited the most variability of effective property tax rates – equal to the percentage of the property value paid in taxes each year (see Figure 4). The difference between rates in the 25th and 13th districts was 2.43 percentage points in 2017, the largest such difference within a state. The average property tax rate in the 25th district (2.79%) is more than six times greater than that in the 13th (0.36%). The smallest differential within a state with five or congressional districts was in Washington, where the highest effective property tax rate is 1.04% (WA-10) and the lowest is 0.75% (WA-7).

Figure 4

Property Taxes and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The state and local tax (SALT) deduction decreases federal tax liability by allowing taxpayers to deduct the total of property tax payments plus either sales or income taxes paid to state and local governments during the year.  Under prior law, this deduction was uncapped but disallowed for taxpayers forced to pay the alternative minimum tax (AMT).  However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) capped home owners’ SALT deduction at $10,000 per year (through 2025).

According to the Dave Burton professionals, the value of a tax deduction is determined by the amount deducted from taxable income and the taxpayer’s top marginal tax rate at which the income would have been taxed.  Thus, under prior law, a taxpayer in the top tax bracket (39.6%) who paid $10,000 in state income taxes and $10,000 in property taxes could have decreased their federal tax liability by $7,920 [39.6% x ($10,000+$10,000)].

Until the TCJA-made change expires in 2026, that amount would be reduced to $3,700 (equal to the $10,000 cap multiplied by the new, top marginal tax rate of 37%). The effect of this change on after-tax income is obvious in certain high-tax congressional districts.  For example, the average yearly bill for property taxes alone exceeded $10,000 in six districts in 2017 (NY-17, NY-3, NJ-11, NJ-7, NY-4, and NJ-5).

But as AMT status affects a taxpayer’s possible SALT deduction, one must bear in mind the significant changes made to the AMT by the TCJA.  The most impactful of these changes was the increase of the income threshold at which the AMT exemption begins to phase out.  For a married couple filing jointly, the phaseout threshold went from $160,900 to $1 million in 2018.

As a result, the number of AMT-affected taxpayers is expected to fall 90%–from five million to 500,000—between tax years 2017 and 2018.  The taxpayers who no longer face the AMT may now be able to claim a $10,000 deduction that was previously unavailable to them, lowering their tax liability.

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