According to the U.S. Department of Energy – Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average monthly residential electricity bill in the U.S. stood at $111.67 in 2017. Electricity is one of the biggest household expenses, as it accounted for 55 percent of total utility costs and 9 percent of total housing costs in 2017, according to the American Housing Survey (AHS).
The average monthly residential electricity bill varies widely across states (Figure 1). Hawaii had the highest average monthly electricity bill at $149, while New Mexico had the lowest ($79). Behind Hawaii, states in the Southeast region generally had higher electricity bills, including Alabama ($143) and South Carolina ($141). States contiguous to New Mexico — Colorado and Utah — also had low electricity bills (both at $82).
Electricity bills are a function of price and consumption. The average monthly retail price of electricity was $12.89 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2017. At $29.50 cents/kWh, Hawaii had the highest retail price. Other states with high electricity prices include Alaska, states in New England, and California. Washington State had the lowest electricity price among the states, followed by Louisiana, and Idaho (Figure 2).
High residential electricity bills in Hawaii are driven almost entirely by price as its residents, on average, consume the least amount of electricity among the states. The island lacks natural resources and relies on costly imports of petroleum to meets its needs, thus driving up its retail price. New England also lacks natural resources: unlike most parts of the country, it does not have natural gas reserves, nor does it have a solid network of gas pipelines. New England residents pay 50 percent more ($19.41 c/kWh) than the typical US resident ($12.89 c/kWh). It is important to note that in many states, regulatory environments, aging and inefficient infrastructure, and policies discouraging carbon-emitting fuels in favor of renewable energy also impact electricity supply and price.
Figure 2: Top Ten States with Highest (Lowest) Average Monthly Electricity Price (cents/kWh)
States with Highest Electricity Retail Price
States with Lowest Electricity Retail Price
Hawaii (29.50 ¢/kWh)
Washington (9.66 ¢/kWh)
Alaska (21.27 ¢/kWh)
Louisiana (9.74 ¢/kWh)
Connecticut (20.29 ¢/kWh)
Idaho (10.04 ¢/kWh)
Massachusetts (20.06 ¢/kWh)
Arkansas (10.28 ¢/kWh)
New Hampshire (19.21 ¢/kWh)
North Dakota (10.29 ¢/kWh)
Rhode Island (18.32 ¢/kWh)
Oklahoma (10.61 ¢/kWh)
California (18.31 ¢/kWh)
Oregon (10.66 ¢/kWh)
New York (18.03 ¢/kWh)
Tennessee (10.72 ¢/kWh)
Vermont (17.68 ¢/kWh)
Kentucky (10.85 ¢/kWh)
Maine (15.97 ¢/kWh)
North Carolina (10.94 ¢/kWh)
Nationwide, average monthly consumption of electricity stood at 867 kWh in 2017. States in the Southeast region of the country had the highest average monthly residential consumption rates. Louisiana had the highest rate at 1,187 kWh, followed by Tennessee (1,150 kWh), and Alabama (1,136 kWh). States with the lowest consumption rates include Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, California, and New York (Figure 3).
Residential electricity consumption is generally higher in the Southeast region because of high demand for air-conditioning to combat hot and humid summer weather. Although the Southeast has moderate winters, it still consumes a measurable amount of electricity during this season because of the widespread use of heat pumps to generate heat. Colder regions of the country, like the Northeast and Midwest, typically use oil- or gas-burning furnaces to heat homes. States with lower rates of electricity consumption are in regions with mild summers, such as New England. It is also important to point out that some states, such as California for example, have robust energy efficiency programs that help to reduce electricity consumption.
Figure 3: Top Ten States with Highest (Lowest) Average Monthly Electricity Consumption (kWh)
States with Highest Electricity Consumption
States with Lowest Electricity Consumption
Louisiana (1186.81 kWh)
Hawaii (506.15 kWh)
Tennessee (1149.83 kWh)
Vermont (537.57 kWh)
Alabama (1136.20 kWh)
Maine (546.13 kWh)
Mississippi (1131.63 kWh)
California (554.33 kWh)
Texas (1112.00 kWh)
New York (572.48 kWh)
Florida (1089.35 kWh)
Rhode Island (577.31 kWh)
South Carolina (1081.66 kWh)
Massachusetts (582.57 kWh)
Virginia (1078.47 kWh)
New Hampshire (598.56 kWh)
North Dakota (1062.94 kWh)
Alaska (600.97 kWh)
Georgia (1062.21 kWh)
New Mexico (614.66 kWh)
Just as geography is an important factor impacting electricity costs, so is the age of the housing stock. NAHB analysis shows that newer homes are more energy efficient on a square foot basis than existing homes. For example, single-family detached homes built prior to 1950 consume 135.4 BTUs/square foot, compared to 100.1 BTUs/square foot among single-family detached homes built between 2000 and 2009. Builders are continually incorporating new technologies into the homes they build, such as better insulation and energy efficient appliances, that help to reduce energy costs for households.
Student debt has impacted the housing decisions of young Americans, the Federal Reserve said, delaying homeownership and prompting a significant number of college grads to move away from rural areas.
In two papers published Wednesday, the Fed said homeownership for adults ages 24 to 32 fell 9% from 2005 to 2014, landing at 36%.
The Fed said that while a number of factors are at play, it attributes 2 percentage points of this 9% decline to student debt, meaning that 400,000 borrowers could have purchased a house but didn’t because of their debt.
Outstanding student loan balances have more than doubled to about $1.5 trillion in the last decade, according to the Fed, with the average debt per student in the 24 to 32 set rising from $5,000 to $10,000 from 2005 to 2014.
The paper points out that increased student debt heightens the likelihood of default, therefore impacting an individual’s credit score and, with a weak credit score, it may be more difficult to obtain a mortgage.close dialogStay ahead of the market withDaily UpdateAround the clock coverage and information about the US mortgage and housing industrySign UpNo thanks
“While investing in postsecondary education continues to yield, on average, positive and substantial returns, burdensome student loan debt levels may be lessening these benefits,” the researchers wrote.
But the Fed declined to say that the impact of student debt on homeownership is entirely negative, instead calling it “complex.”
“On the one hand, student loan payments may reduce an individual’s ability to save for a down payment or qualify for a mortgage. On the other hand, investments in higher education also, on average, result in higher earnings and lower rates of unemployment,” the researchers wrote.
Fed researchers also analyzed the causal relationship between student debt and a noted migration of debt holders away from rural areas.
More than half of student-loan borrowers moved out of rural areas to urban areas within six years of incurring their debt, researchers wrote in a second paper.
“The loss of college educated young people could have important effects on the economic vitality of rural areas and raises questions about what rural policymakers could do to retain a larger share of these individuals,” the researchers wrote. “As more college students borrow to finance their educations, this question becomes even more pressing.”
NEW POSTS Highlights of the January 3, 2019 Town Board AgendaOrganizational Meeting As I mentioned last week, the Town Board at its first meeting in each year, holds an organizational meeting to make appointments; approve contracts and agreements with consultants, contractors, vendors and other third parties and adopt certain financial policies on recommendation of the Town Comptroller; and designate the official newspapers for the Town. Specifically, the Town Board took the following action:1. Designated the Town’s official newspapers: The Record Review andThe Journal News2. Appointment of Town Board as Audit Committee 3. Approval of Town Membership in the Association of Townsa. Approved payment of 2019 dues in the amount of $1,650b. Authorized Supervisor to vote on behalf of the Townc. Authorized Deputy Supervisor as alternate to vote on behalf ofthe Town. 4. Authorize Supervisor to approve attendance of Town officials atseminars and training in accordance with the 2019 Budget 5. Upon recommendation of the Comptroller adopted/approved thefollowing:a. Investment Policyb. Designation of Depositoriesc. Authorize Supervisor to transact business with designated depositoriesand sign necessary paperworkd. Transfer Policye. Payments prior to auditf. Mileage Reimbursement— (approved IRS rate of 54.5 cents per mile). g. Designation of Town Credit Cards 6. Established standard hours for positions within the Town of Bedford 7. Proposed rates/fee schedule for contractors, consultants and otherthird parties 8. Upon recommendation of the Supervisor, made the followingappointmentsa. John Stockbridge as Town Historian for a one-year termcommencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2019.b. Hahn Engineering as Consulting Engineers for a one-year termcommencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2019.c. James J. Hahn as Stormwater Management Officer for a one-year termcommencing January 1,2019 and ending December 31, 2019.d. Kevin Winn as Illegal Discharge Officer for a one-year term commencingJanuary 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2019. 9. Authorized the Supervisor to enter into agreements with contractors,consultants and other third parties in accordance with rate/fee schedule asfollows:a. Town Engineer Hahn Engineeringb. Carl R. Anderson Court Reporterc. Environmental Planning & Managementd. Evans Associates Environmental Consultinge. Horsley Wittenf. North East Westchester Special Recreation, Inc.g. Precise Translations (Court Interpreter).h. Spring Hill Kennelsi. Sullivan Data Management 10. Authorized Supervisor to sign the Tri Town Agreement to fund the DrugAbuse Prevention Council (Bedford, Lewisboro and Pound Ridge) andContractor Agreement ($22,000.) (Pending Town of Lewisboro and PoundRidge agreement) 11. Authorized Supervisor to sign 2019 funding agreements for Bedford,Bedford Hills and Katonah libraries.
Sewer Project The Town Board held a Work Session to review with the Town’s consulting engineers, Woodard & Curran, design engineers for the sewer project, a report on the next steps in providing sewers for Bedford Hills and Katonah. Yesterday, I received a memo from the Westchester County Planning Commissioner Norma Drummond inviting northern Westchester municipalities in the NYC watershed to submit by January 14 requests for East of Hudson funds (also known as Water Quality Improvement Program funds) for water quality projects noting that there are some $31 million in unencumbered funds remaining in the funds, which the County administers. The Town has accessed $10 million in such funds under two separate Inter-municipal Agreements with the County; one of which provides for $3.5 million in funds for the Town’s Septic System Repair and Replacement Program and up to $6.5 million toward the Town’s sewer project. The Board first reviewed with Woodard & Curran its Phase II report then, prompted by Commissioner Drummond’s invitation to request funds, discussed a much broader sewer project for a great portion of the more densely populated areas of Bedford Hills and Katonah. I spoke yesterday with Commissioner Drummond and explained that it would be a large request and she confirmed that the Town should proceed. As such, on recommendation of Woodard & Curran and staff, the Board at the regular meeting following the work session adopted a resolution to authorize me to submit a request for $52,350,000 for such a sewer project click to view mapsThe Board also authorized me to submit a request for $650,000 for engineer services, bond counsel, legal counsel and other soft costs associated with prepared a Map, Plan & Report for the project.
Implementation of Capital Plan Comptroller Abraham Zambrano will be presenting to the Town Board proposed bond resolutions to implement the 2019 portion of the Town’s ten year Capital Plan, which runs from 2018-2027. Please see Comptroller Abraham Zambrano’s memo to the Town Board for a discussion of the plan.
Collaboration with the County on Upgrades toEmergency Service Communications;Collaboration with Cell Tower Developer I have been writing in this space on the need to upgrade the Town’s emergency communications capabilities. ESS which supplies radio communication equipment to the Police Department has recommended the need to improve its equipment and broadcast capabilities. Over the last several years, the County Department of Emergency Services and Department of Public Safety has launched an ambitious, long-term project for major upgrades in the County’s emergency facilities at various tower sites throughout the County including a tower off of Guard Hill road (few know the site exists as it is atop a high point and in the woods). The proposal for the Guard Hill tower would be for a 40’ extension on the County’s tower. The upgrades will provide significantly improved capabilities not only for the County’s own communications but also for those of all three fire departments and KBHVAC whose equipment also is on the County tower (the Town also has broadcasting equipment for the Highway and Recreation and Parks Department on the tower). On a parallel course Homeland Towers, a tower developer, with which the Town is having discussions regarding a possible tower at or near the Town’s office building at 425 Cherry Street (in lieu of a tower Homeland has proposed for the Petre Glass site down the street on Haines Road) has approached the Town for constructing a tower at the Guard Hill site for cell carriers such as AT&T, Verizon and Spring. At a meeting I hosted in November with representatives of the County, the fire departments and our police department, Homeland Towers offered to construct at its expense a tower to replace the County’s tower which would accommodate the County, all of the public safety agencies described, the Town’s departments described as well as the cell carriers. The County has stated that it agrees in principal to the Homeland proposal provided the tower is constructed in accordance with County specifications. The Town Board adopted a resolution to authorize Homeland to inspect the Guard Hill site and conduct a balloon test for a proposed new tower.
Vacancies on Blue Mountain Housing Development Board The Board is accepting applications for two vacancies on the Blue Mountain Housing Development Board and Bedford Housing Agency. Background in residential real estate construction, planning and design, architecture or engineering is sought. We also are seeking an individual with an accounting or financial background who might serve as Treasurer of the corporation. To provide greater geographic diversity on the Board, we encourage residents of Bedford Hills and Bedford Village to consider applying. If you are interested in serving, please e-mail your resume with a cover letter to email@example.com. You also may mail it to me at Supervisor, 321 Bedford Road, Bedford Hills, New York 10507.
A New Year’s Resolution thatwe can carry with us all year:
PRIOR POSTS OF CONTINUED RELEVANCE On December 18, the Town Board held its last meeting of 2018at which we took the following action. New Wireless Telecommunications Law – Adopted Following a further public hearing, which was in addition to the public hearing we head on December 4, we replaced the Town’s existing 19 year old law. Read the Adopted Law and its provisions. The new law now will enable the Town better to respond to applications for new wireless facilities, both large (such as cell towers) and small (such as DAS and other relatively new technologies). The new law also provides additional tools to the Planning Board to help protect residential neighborhoods with a siting priority or ranking which requires applicants to consider municipal, industrial and other non-residential sites before residential properties. I wish to thank members of the Communications Committee, the Town’s counsel, as well as members of the public who provided valuable comments to the proposed law much of which we incorporated into the new law. The Town’s counsel prepared a memorandum dated December 14 which summarizes the law and changes since the version considered at the December 4 public hearing. Here’s the link for the memorandum.
Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreementwith the Bedford Police Benefit Association The existing contract with the PBA expires on December 31, 2018. Earlier this year, the Town Board appointed a negotiating team comprised of Town Labor Counsel, Stephanie Roebuck, Police Chief Melvin Padilla, Personnel Director Joan Gallagher and Comptroller Abraham Zambrano.The Board approved the recommendation of the negotiating team to adopt a Memorandum of Understanding for the new contract. Attorney Roebuck summarized the provisions of the agreement as follows:“I am pleased to report that the negotiation teams for the Town of Bedford and the Bedford PBA have come to an agreement regarding the successor agreement to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) between the parties. The basic terms of the agreement are as follows: A three year contract duration Wage increases for each year: 2019 – 2.75%; 2020 – 2.5%; 2021 – 2.5% Health insurance contribution increases:-Unit members hired before July 1, 2015 shall contribute 2.5% of firstgrade patrolman’s salary for family coverage (up from 2%) and 1.5% offirst grade patrolman’s salary for individual coverage (up from 1%) -Unit members hired on or after July 1, 2015 shall contribute 15% ofthe applicable premium (up from 13%) A steady tour work schedule will be instituted in 2019, which shall be reviewed annually and, also, sunset at the end of the CBA term – The terms of the steady tour agreement states specifically, “Night Differential: Officers shall not receive any night differential compensation for working any tour pursuant to this Agreement.” The right for a required independent medical examination, at the discretion of the Chief, after reaching an absence threshold. This IME provision is tied to the steady tour provisions, so it will be eliminated if the steady tour provision is either eliminated or sunsets An agreement to provide a set time frame of 20 business days for the Chief to make any initial 207-c determinations An agreement to change the language in the maternity and paternity clauses to recognize births that happen outside of the institution of marriage and make the clauses gender neutral. An agreement to change the way a shift will be filled when the shortage occurs immediately prior to when the shift is to come on duty. An agreement to pro-rate paid holidays and the uniform and cleaning allowance for officers out on extended sick leave or 207-c An agreement for unit members to provide prior notice that they will be eligible for the educational allowance to allow for budgeting of these amounts-Comptroller Abraham Zambrano
Amendments to 2018 through 2027 Capital Plan Following a Work Session on December 4, amendments to the Capital Plan were further revised. The December 4 session followed a work session in November. The Board adopted on December 18 the amendments to the Capital Plan which resulted in a lesser increase than the version considered in November. The change responds to suggestions made by Deputy Supervisor Lee Roberts and Councilman Don Scott and does not affect the total amount. It is to combine the proposed capital expenditures for Zema at $100,000 and Indian Hill at $328,000 and apply the combined amount of $428,000 funds to be available for Indian Hills, Leatherman’s Ridge, Vernon Hills and Zema. Open Space reserves would provide $214,000 of the $428,000. The priorities would be addressing the pervasive invasive plants in Zema (and to some extent Vernon Hills); clean-up of rubbish and debris (all areas except Indian Hills, which presently is not easily accessible); and planning, engineering and, if possible, creation of an access drive off of Indian Hill Road. The Recreation and Parks Department would be responsible for the work and would engage neighbors, the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, Conservation Board, Wetlands Control Commission, neighbors and other stakeholders. In addition, Bill Heidepriem will consult with Kevin Winn and Jeff Osterman in planning and carrying out the work. The Board plans on taking action on Tuesday with the adoption of the amendments to the Capital Plan together with corresponding bond resolutions. The Board will not authorize the actual expenditure of funds until it has followed its required process of seeking quotes or bids, reviewing contracts and deciding whether or not then to proceed. Read the Adopted Amendments here.
Post March Storm Actions Regarding Utilities On September 4, the Town Board adopted a resolution asking the Public Service Commission for an independent assessment of NYSEG’s performance NYSEG’s record of poor service, inadequate storm preparedness, and inadequate storm response prompted the Town Board in September to call upon the Public Service Commission (PSC) to open an investigation on NYSEG’s service quality and other issues which the Town Board raised in its resolution. I received a letter from the PSC on October 30 notifying me that the PSC agreed to open a proceeding (Case 18-E-0650) to investigate these matters. Though I can’t say for certain, it does appear that our action has gotten NYSEG’s attention. Two weeks ago Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn and I met with a senior official at NYSEG who acknowledged the need to “harden” its infrastructure in Bedford including three circuits whose performance has been poor. In addition, NYSEG is weighing our request (as supported by other Town supervisors) to accelerate NYSEG’s tree trimming cycle from five years to three years (tree trimming is one of the most effective measures to reduce storm-related outages). I should note that Con Edison has a three year tree trimming cycle and at the property owner’s request, will remove the wood. NYSEG’s representative identified other actions regarding its Bedford infrastructure that will be addressed. He also acknowledged that NYSEG’s communication with the community during the March power outage left much to be desired and pledged to significantly improve communication.Be assured that we will continue to press NYSEG on these points. We have been having parallel conversations with Con Edison
Update on Property Tax Cap Freeze Rebatesand Other Credits Some residents have asked me the status of rebates and credits. Tax Assessor Harold Girdlestone explains as follows: The property tax Freeze check for municipalities (and special districts) started in 2015 and ended in 2016 and used 2014 tax year as baseline. The municipality must be in compliance with the tax cap (which we were in both years) and property owners must meet the following criteria to receive a freeze check: – Received and Meet STAR exemption requirements- On their primary residence only- Income under $500,000 (fyi – schools also had a freeze check in 2014 and ended in 2015 using tax year baseline of 2013/2014) The property tax freeze credit check fully reimbursed eligible homeowners for increases to their taxes imposed by all taxing jurisdictions that comply with the eligibility requirements and tax cap compliance. The freeze credit check amount was the greater of: the actual increase in the homeowner’s tax bill as compared to the baseline year, or the previous year’s tax bill multiplied by an inflation factor (the lesser of 2% or inflation) Homeowners whose tax bills go down, stay the same, or increase less than the inflation factor will receive a credit equal to the previous year’s tax bill multiplied by the inflation factor. (See attachment Property tax freeze) There is also a Property Tax Relief Credit Check that was implemented in 2016 and continues thru 2019. In summary, in 2016 all eligible owners receiving a Star exemption (BASIC OR ENHANCED) received a flat check amount of $185 dollars. In 2017, all eligible BASIC STAR recipients received a percentage our their STAR savings based on their income. In each subsequent year thru 2019, the percentage used to calculate the Tax relief Check is incrementally increased. For Enhanced STAR recipients (65 and older), an incremental percentage of their Enhanced Star saving is used to calculate their property relief check. If you have questions please contact Harry Girdlestone at hgirdlestone@ bedfordny.gov or at 914-864-3831
Update on Town’s Work withBedford Loves Horses I wish to thank Bedford Loves Horses for their advocacy for property owners with horses or those property owners who wish to bring horses to their property. The Town recognizes that horse ownership, trails and properties are a key component of the history and character of our community and we support the horse community and promote the work of the community. Working with Bedford Loves Horses, this past Spring the Town Board revised the Zoning Code based on the group’s recommendations. We now are working with Bedford Loves Horses to address other concerns including safety of riders crossing roads – this is a matter of enforcement, engineering and education, including signage, enforcement of traffic laws and educating the public on the need to share the road with riders. I will be providing updates in this space from time to time in the coming weeks on our partnership with Bedford Loves Horses.
Update from the Traffic Safety Working Group The Traffic Safety Working Group (TSWG) held its last meeting of 2018 on Wednesday, December 12. As some residents have requested, I prepared with the help of staff a summary of actions the Town has taken on traffic, passenger and pedestrian safety in 2018:Police Department Enforcement Actions – The Police Department has issued 3371 summonses for moving violations (including 511 commercial vehicle, 739 speeding, 467 Seatbelt, 152 Cell Phone/texting, 56 Stop sign violations, and 12 DWI arrests. January –November 2018).Child Safety Seats– 81 Seats were installed and/or inspected I-684 The Town Board has been working with our elected officials and with the Regional Office of the New York State Department of Transportation to secure the repaving of the concrete portion of I-684 running through Bedford. Planned Reconfiguration of Intersection of Harris and Babbitt Roads the Town has applied to Westchester County for a Community Development Block Grant which would fund in part improvements to this intersection, which would be designed to improve safety exiting Babbitt Road onto Harris Road. Variable Message Boards Upon recommendation of Police Chief Melvin Padilla the Town Board authorized the purchase of two additional variable message speed boards. With the purchase, the Town now owns and deploys 10 variable message boards to announce events affecting traffic flows and to calm traffic. Sidewalks To improve pedestrian safety, the Town installed new sidewalks along Valley Road between Cottage Place and New Street, and along Church Street near Babbitt Road. We also modified the sidewalk near the Katonah Elementary School in order to install a new crosswalk. Emergency Backup Power for Traffic Lights The Town Board has authorized in its Capital Plan the purchase of emergency backup power systems to automatically start in the event of a power outage which cuts the power for the traffic lights at the intersection of Route 35 and Route 22 and at Route 35 and I-684 overpass. Pedestrian Activated Lights – Route 117 and Haines On petition from the Town, the NYS Department of Transportation has agreed to install pedestrian activated signaling for the cross walk near Haines Road over Route 117 in Bedford Hills. This portion of the road is four lanes in width and poses pedestrian hazards. Raised Cross Walk and Speed Humps – Cherry Street The Town replaced the crosswalk in front of 425 Cherry Street with a raised crosswalk and installed a speed table at Kelly Circle near the stop line and a speed table near Quicks Lane. LED Light Conversion The Town is proceeding with the conversion of 571 street lights in NYSEG service area to LED lamps. LED saves energy and reduces electricity costs. It also provides more uniform lighting for greater safety for pedestrians and motorists, and has much less frequent equipment failures than the lighting which is being replaced.
Increase in Shredder Events in 2019 One of the services which we hear the community uses a good deal is the shredder events at the Recycling Center and in May at the Crusher Road Highway Facility during Clean Up weekend. The Town Board included additional funding in the 2019 Town budget to enable the Public Works Department to increase shredder events from quarterly to monthly. The following is the schedule: Saturdays1/5, 2/2, 4/6, 6/1, 7/6, 8/3, 10/5, 11/2, 12/7 Town Recycling Center343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills 1050711:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Tuesday3/5Town Recycling Center343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills 1050711:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Thursday9/5Town Recycling Center343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills 1050711:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Saturday5/4Crusher Road Highway Yard1 Crusher Road Bedford Village 105069:00 to 12:00.
Further Update on Route 117 As I mentioned last week, Con Edison’s resurfacing of the Route 117 south of Green Lane and on Green Lane will not occur before winter, but rather in the Spring of 2019. The reason is that the precipitous drop in temperature and sustained low temperatures over the past few weeks has not made the work feasible. Very low road surface temperatures imperil the durability of the resurfacing. On a positive note, as we’ve requested, DOT is requiring Con Edison to perform a curb to curb resurfacing as early as practicable in the Spring of 2019 and also to repair unsafe surfaces. The Town is requiring the same with respect to Green Lane between Route 117 and the tracks.
2019 Town Budget Adopted The Board held a public hearing on the 2019 Town budget following which we adopted the budget. The budget is within the New York State Property Tax Cap with approximately a 2.8% tax increase and continues to provide for a high level of services. Comptroller Abraham Zambrano forecasts an increase in fund balances (reserves) for 2018 which will add to already strong balances. Read the budget here, including the Comptroller’s budget message andmy budget message (portions of which are excerpted below). The following are key features of the budget: The final budget is the same as the Preliminary Budget which the Town Board adopted last month and provides as follows: The appropriations for all funds is $39,076,643 and the projected non-tax revenues total $13,825,511, leaving an amount of $25,251,132 to be levied as taxes; this amount is $12,308 below the calculated allowable tax cap of $25,263,440. The total General Fund’s Preliminary budget is $22,530,845 which requires $13,012,139 to be raised by taxes at a tax rate of $22.0477 per $1000 of assessed valuation. The proposed rate is $0.60 higher than the rate for 2018, which represents a 2.81% tax rate increase. The General Fund Appropriations will increase $1,143,030 or 5.34% higher than for 2018. The budget includes the following increases: Personnel expense: $119,444 Health insurance and dental: $726,753; note that we do not have the final percentage increase for our health insurance plan. There is some possibility that the increase may be lower than we used for purposes of adopting the budget. To the extent it is lower, any decrease in funds required will be added to contingency.Contingency of approximately $458,000 – as noted above, this amount may increase.NYS retirement system in the amount of $132,494The restoration of a maintenance position in the Building Department at an estimated annual cost including benefits of $90,000Recreation & Parks Programs of $81,450Paving budget: $75,000 to $1.3 million.Hiring of a part time Parking Enforcement Officer: $22,000.Open Space Fund in the amount of $59,454 (the first year of the one-quarter percent increase authorized by voter referendum and capped at a total of 2.0% in 2022)Recycling center: $32,000Libraries in the amount of $33,000 ($11,000 per library)Senior Advocate Program: $16,000 for full fundingI wish to thank Comptroller Abraham Zambrano and our department heads for their diligence and prudent fiscal management.
Reusable Bags The Reusable Bag law provisions become effective on April 1 when for large retailers (Shop Rite, DeCiccos, Key Foods, Kohls and CVS) will be required to charge 10c for paper or plastic check out bags where the customer does not his/her own bag. Ellen Calves of the Reusable Bag Task Force presented an update on the work of the Reusable Bag Task Force. She reported that the Task Force has completed its surveys to establish baselines of present reusable bag use. The Task Force also is working with smaller retailers regarding their use of reusable bags with the goal for greater use among all merchants.
LED Project Moving Ahead We are delighted that the Town’s LED project is underway with the conversion of some 571 street lamps in NYSEG service area to energy efficient (and cost efficient) LED. $250,000 of the project cost is funded through a grant from NYSERDA. The following is further information from Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn regarding the project: BEDFORD STREET LIGHT UPGRADE PROJECTPUBLIC INFORMATION NOVEMBER 2018 The Town of Bedford has purchased from New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) and intends to convert all of the existing 571 utility pole mounted streetlights to light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures. The purpose of the project is to improve the quality of street lighting in our lighting districts while utilizing less energy, reducing the Town’s carbon footprint, and reducing the Town’s annual electricity cost. LED fixtures provide a better quality of light, enhancing safety and visibility at night. The existing street lighting infrastructure, consisting of high pressure sodium and mercury vapor lights, is inefficient in terms of power usage per lumen, poorly focuses the light, and has much shorter bulb life, leading to more frequent light outrages. Installation of efficient streetlights is also a demonstration of the Town’s commitment to resource conservation that can be seen and emulated by Town residents and business owners. The proposed streetlights will be a warm white color, on the yellow side rather than blue side of the color spectrum, in order to avoid the glaring aspect that can be associated with some LED lights. Light output levels are being selected to provide uniform, appropriate levels of light in both residential and commercial areas in the lighting districts. The new fixtures are designed to focus light on roads and sidewalks, and will result in much less stray light than the current fixtures. The Town intends to complete the majority of this project between December 2018 and April 2019. The project is funded through a $250,000 grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and through the cost savings that will occur from reduced energy use. There will be no cost increase to properties within the lighting districts. Please contact Kevin Winn at Bedford Department of Public Works at 914-666-7669 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments on this project.
Possible Cell Tower at Town Propertyat 425 Cherry Street Homeland Towers, a company which builds towers for wireless providers, including Verizon, has submitted to the Planning Board an application to erect a cell tower on property on Haines Road (past Dunkin Donuts) owned by Petre Glass & Mirror. Homeland has stated that the tower is required to provide needed capacity for the provision of personal cellular service. The Town has also had discussions with Homeland for an alternative site, which would be to construct a cell tower at the Town’s property at 425 Cherry Street. As such, only one of these locations will be necessary to address the providers’ concerns. Each application provides for collocating up to four carriers, obviating need for another tower in the area. The Planning Board will be responsible for reviewing the application for the Petre Glass site and the Town Board will review the alternate site at 425 Cherry Street. We will ask Homeland to provide balloon tests for both sites and will notify the community when these tests are going to be performed. In the event the Tower is located at 425 Cherry Street it would allow the Town to significantly improve police and other first responder communications and equipment. The next steps are the Town coordinating the review process between the Town Board and the Planning Board to allow sufficient due diligence while also avoiding duplication of effort.
Update on Westchester Power Program Jenna Amundsen of Sustainable Westchester provided an update on the Westchester Power Program Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). The Town of Bedford is a member of the not-for-profit Sustainable Westchester and has participated with other Westchester County municipalities in the CCA bulk purchasing program. As you may have read in this space, Bedford was the first municipality to renew its participation in CCA for the Con Edison service area in town. We did so based on the new fixed rates for a second contract term beginning January 2019 and ending December 31, 2020. The new rates, effective January 1, are 7.96 cents/kwh for 100% renewable energy, with standard supply a fraction of a penny less at 7.71 cents/kwh.To learn more read here. Ms. Amundsen reported that the results for NYSEG service area customers have been favorable with both cost savings over the NYSEG rates since the inception of the program while promoting renewable energy. Early next year Westchester Power will be seeking bids for the renewal of the CCA program in the NYSEG service area. The same requirements will hold: Bids must be lower than the NYSEG benchmarkBids must include separate rate quote for renewable energy produced in New York State. No “teaser rates”, but rather a fixed rate for the entire periodCustomers may opt out at any time without penalty or premium. Please click here for Ms. Amundsen’s presentation.
Pickup Trucks for Police Department A resident recently asked me why the Town Board authorized the purchase of pickup trucks for the Police Department, understandably concerned that the vehicles might be unnecessary and an extravagance. I thought I might share with you the following e-mail which Police Chief Melvin Padilla provided to the resident: Hello [name deleted] Supervisor Burdick brought to my attention that you expressed some concerns about current vehicles in the Police Department fleet. Specifically pickup trucks and the cost associated. You may be surprised to learn that the State Contract (pre-negotiated pricing for municipal purchases) cost for a 4×4 Crew Cab (4 door) pickup from Ford, Dodge, or Chevy averages approximately Five thousand dollars less than a comparably equipped 4×4 Chevy Tahoe. The Department has always maintained at least three 4×4 Chevy Tahoes for their towing, cargo, and severe inclement weather capabilities (prior to 2002 the department purchased the larger Suburban). The Department owns two large enclosed trailers and also borrows a large open platform trailer from Parks and Recreation Department to tow our Police Motorcycle and/or Utility Terrain Vehicle(UTV). Our current Tahoes are 8 years old and have approximately 150,000 miles on them. With repair and maintenance costs rising, fleet wide, using those older, high mileage vehicles for towing or 24 hour use is not the best idea. All three major manufacturers of police vehicles have released Police versions of their pickups (Ford, Dodge, and Chevy). As a cost saving measure to maintain the capabilities and durability of the Tahoe at a price within budget, I decided to give the pickup trucks a try as a replacement for the Tahoes. The Ford Explorer which is the predominate vehicle in our fleet is NOT rated to tow the types of trailers we own or use and does not perform very well on many of the unpaved, rough terrain back roads (nor does the explorer have the same cargo capacity, versatility, true 4×4, or durability as the pickups, or Tahoes for that matter). At this point I am happy with the choice as it has proven to be a far more versatile vehicle than the Tahoe (for cheaper price and within budget) and has been useful for our needs as a department countless times already in the short time we’ve had them. My goal is to have the mix of vehicles in our police fleet to be as diverse as the calls for service that we respond to. Thanks for your inquiry, and please feel free to contact me directly if you have any further questions. Melvin Padilla Chief of PoliceBedford Police Department307 Bedford RdBedford Hills, NY 10507(914)241-3111
Cherry Street Speed Tables The Town Board took action regarding the temporary speed tables which had been installed over the summer. The Board took action because the temporary speed tables cannot remain over the winter as the plows will damage them, they may damage the plows and the damaged speed tables could pose a danger to cars. As such, they must be removed before winter. The November 8 meeting was the last meeting at which the Board could take action such that any permanent tables may be installed prior to winter. By way of background concerns about the rate of speed of traffic on Cherry Street have been raised for several years. In 2014 the Town received a report from traffic consultant VHB which included speed tables among options for consideration. Earlier this year, following staff review and recommendation and Town Board meetings reviewing the options, the Board directed installation of three removable speed tables on a trial basis: one a bit south of the intersection with the northern leg of Reyburn Drive (just north of the driveway to 46 Cherry Street), the second just south of the intersection with Kelly Circle; and the third south of the intersection with Quicks Lane (just north of the driveway to 147 Cherry Street).In addition the Board decided upon the installation of a raised crosswalk to replace the existing crosswalk in front of the Town Offices at 425 Cherry Street. The Town Board has asked staff to review the efficacy of the speed tables. We also wanted to hear from the public. We sent out letters to residents of Cherry Street and side streets, numerous e-mail updates and postings to the website so there has been ample attention and notification to the community. As mentioned, the Town Board has received and reviewed the comments both from the 359 surveys received as well as e-mails, telephone calls and hearing from you as we see you in town. Police Chief Melvin Padilla, Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn and Planning Director Jeff Osterman have reviewed the speed study data, other information received and the tabulated questionnaire results and are recommending the following: 1. Do not replace the temporary speed table just south of Reyburn.2. Replace the speed hump at Kelly Circle with a permanent speed table located closer to the stop sign.3. Replace the speed table near Quicks Lane with a permanent speed table. Click here for the memorandum to the Town Board setting out the recommendations and the rationale for them. Although the Town Board’s consideration of the matter was not a public hearing, we nearly treated it as such and about 13 residents expressed their views. Following the public comments, the Board approved the recommendations of the staff and also affirmed that the raised crosswalk on Cherry Street in front of the Town Offices at 425 Cherry Street will remain in place.
DRIVERS: A SAFETY REMINDER Pull over for emergency vehicles
This reminder came from our Bedford Fire Chief, Shawn Carmody, who has noticed that the disregard for the rules of the road regarding emergency vehicles has gotten worse since school has started. Please be mindful: “We have seen many drivers lately not pull over for emergency vehicles. We’re not sure of the reason, whether they are distracted, don’t hear or see the emergency vehicle or just feel they can stay ahead of the emergency vehicle at their current speed. State laws — and common sense — dictate that vehicles yield to emergency vehicles that are operating their emergency lights and siren. Emergency vehicle drivers are taught to pass on the left whenever possible and safe to do so when responding in an emergency mode. When it’s safe, drivers should slow down, pull over to the right and come to a complete stop, no coast or ride the shoulder. However, there are circumstances where that may not be possible: If your car is already stopped, and you don’t have anywhere to pull over, simply stay put until the emergency vehicle goes around you If you are blocking the route of the emergency vehicle, and you are able to pull ahead and over into a clear area, use your turn signal to indicate your intentions and proceed at a safe speed If you are on the crest of a hill or a bend of a curve, proceed through until oncoming traffic is visible for the emergency vehicle behind you
Other considerations: Never slam on the brakes and stop in the middle of the road when you see apparatus approaching Make no sudden moves If an emergency vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction, you should pull over and come to a full stop You have no idea if the emergency vehicle is proceeding down the road or are planning on turning into a driveway or intersection right in front of you Do not tailgate, “draft,” or follow a responding apparatus closely, not only is this illegal, you run the risk of a collision as vehicles pull back out into traffic after the emergency vehicle goes by You are not required to slow down or pull over for emergency vehicles that are responding in the opposite direction on a divided highway or interstate When a driver pulls over and then drives on the shoulder at a slower speed, they lengthen the distance in which the emergency vehicle must navigate before fully passing the vehicle. A vehicle travelling at 20mph on the shoulder is covering 29.3 feet every second and that adds to the passing corridor. This also provides less room for the emergency vehicle to pass and navigate oncoming traffic if they haven’t fully pulled over. When you see a personal vehicle operating a flashing blue or green light, those are volunteers responding to a call, they do not have the right of way like emergency vehicles do. These flashing lights are known as courtesy lights and we ask that people pull over if safe to do so, but you are not obligated to do so. These volunteers must stop for all traffic control devices and obey all traffic laws when responding. Please consider this the next time you encounter an emergency vehicle on the road. Help us get to our destination safely and efficiently. You never know, we may be heading to help someone you know.”
After Hours Rules for Commuter Lots Town of Bedford Residents that do not have a commuter parking permit are allowed to park for free in the commuter lots Monday to through Thursday from 6:00 pm to 5:00 provided that they have a resident parking decal. Parking is free on weekends to everyone starting on Fridays at 6:00 pm and on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Westchester Power ProgramSecures Rate Cuts & More Green Power for Customers Sustainable Westchester (SW) today announced its Westchester Power Program Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) has negotiated new fixed rates for a second contract term beginning January 2019 and ending December 31, 2020. The new rates, effective January 1, are 7.96 cents/kwh for 100% renewable energy, with standard supply a fraction of a penny less at 7.71 cents/kwh.To learn more read here.
Rules of the Road for Cyclists;Safety Tips for Walkers;Tips for Crossing the Street First, thanks for the comments on Facebook regarding last week’s post regarding road etiquette. Let’s all be safe and be mindful and considerate of others sharing the road – whether we’re motorists, cyclists, walkers or joggers. Motorists: please be patient – with Fall offering wonderful riding opportunities for cyclists, we’ll see cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads and lanes. Yes, many of the roads are narrow. And yes, some cyclists are riding three abreast, but most understand and observe the rules of the road. That said, some motorists are not considerate (or worse). (My guess is it’s not you who are reading this). Cyclists – please observe the rules of the road. While you are permitted to ride two abreast, oftentimes, it’s not safe and results in stacking of traffic behind you and, as may apply, your riding group. (My guess is it’s not you who are reading this). The information below re-publishes and re-orders prior posts which certainly continue to be relevant. Thanks to all for helping us all be safe and sound.
Motorists – Sharing the Road Sharing the road with bicyclists. When parked on the street, check for bicyclists approaching from behind you before opening your car door. Always exercise due care to avoid colliding with any person walking or bicycling. Always be vigilant when pedestrians are present, especially those with visual or physical impairments. Bicyclists are fully entitled to use the road and have the right to “take the lane” by positioning themselves at or near the center of the lane when needed to avoid hazards or if the lane is too narrow to safely travel side by side with motorists. Pass bicycles only when necessary and safe: pass to the left of the bicycle at a safe distance until safely clear. When in doubt, wait until you can pass at a safe speed. Before making a right turn, let bicyclists clear the intersection. When turning left or entering a roadway, yield to oncoming bicyclists as you would to any vehicle. Some of you may have heard of the tragic death earlier this year of a cyclist in Stony Point. We also are concerned about the safety of walkers and pedestrians. While we implore drivers to observe speed limits and other rules of the road, we also wish to share with you rules and tips for cyclists and pedestrians some of which a Bedford resident compiled and sent to me.
Cyclists – Sharing the RoadNew York State law mandates the following related to cyclists: Travel WITH traffic (i.e. on the same side of the road) and obey all vehicle laws (stop at stop lights, etc.) Are not allowed on sidewalks Helmets (protective head gear) are required No headphones, ear buds, or other noise cancelling devices are allowed in more than 1 ear Horn/bell audible for 100 feet Lighting required a half hour before dusk until a half hour after dawn Cyclists are required to use appropriate hand signals.
Safety Tips for Walkers Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk always walk facing traffic.Dress to be seen. Brightly colored clothing makes it easier for drivers to see you during the daytime. At night, wear special reflective material on your shoes, cap or jacket to reflect the headlights of cars coming towards you.
Tips for Crossing the Street Cross only at corners or marked crosswalks. Stop at the curb, or the edge of the road. Stop and look left, then right, then left again, before you step into the street. If you see a car, wait until it goes by. Then look left, right and left again until no cars are coming. Keep looking for cars while you are crossing, and remember, walk, don’t run. If a car is parked where you are crossing, make sure there is no driver in the car. Then go to the edge of the car and look left-right- left again until no cars are coming.
Stop the Bleed Paramedics are trained and prepared to operate with law enforcement in active shooter situations. This additional stop the bleed program is intended to provide a level of basic quick action from the public before help arrives.We have certified trainers in this program and want to start offering it up to various public institutions such as schools. Click here for the booklet.
After Hours Rules for Commuter Lots Town of Bedford Residents that do not have a commuter parking permit are allowed to park for free in the commuter lots Monday to through Thursday from 6:00 pm to 5:00 provided that they have a resident parking decal. Parking is free on weekends to everyone starting on Fridays at 6:00 pm and on the following holidays: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Single Stream Recycling Bedford 2020 has been enormously successful in promoting Single Stream recycling having advocated its establishment and helped the community embrace it. As noted below under “Further News on Recycling”, Westchester County awarded Bedford its “Eco Award” for Bedford’s having the highest recycling rate in the County. We strive to further increase recycling rates. To that end representatives of Bedford 2020 and I met earlier this week with representatives of the carters serving Bedford. We are pleased to enjoy a strong partnership with the carters, without whom Single Stream would not be successful. We discussed various strategies for making further progress. I also explained that some residents had contacted me about disturbance from very early morning collections in residential neighborhoods. The carters are amenable to a simple change to the Town’s law providing that there be no pick-ups on Sundays and federal holidays and that pick up in residential neighbors be limited to Monday through Saturday between the hour of 7 AM and 7 PM. I will propose this change to the Town Board. Town Facilities for recycling, yard waste and E-wasteMost of the following services are free to Town residents: The Railroad Avenue Recycling Center is located at343 Railroad Avenue, Bedford Hills, NY 10507.Hours are 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Carters are obligated to collect single stream recyclablesat your property along with trash for all customers. For those who wish to drop off recyclable materials,the Railroad Avenue Recycling Center accepts single stream recyclables(metal, plastic, glass, cardboard and paper).
Ewaste, Metals, Textiles; Trash Drop Off for Seniors Residents may bring electronic waste to the Recycling Center, but please note that for CRTs (TVs and old monitors), residents first must obtain from the coupon from the Town Clerk after paying a modest fee (to cover the costs to the Town). In addition, the Railroad Avenue Recycling Center accepts e-waste of all kinds (see below for details), bulk metals of all kinds, textiles, and trash for seniors (60+) who purchase Senior Refuse Coupons (book of 5 for $25) at the Town Clerk’s office. Each coupon can be used for up to a 33-gallon trash bag of household refuse (do not include recyclables in the refuse bag). Town Clerk Hours8:30 AM to 4:30 PMMonday – Friday321 Bedford Road, Bedford Hills
Beaver Dam Yard Waste and Compost Facility The Town of Bedford Beaver Dam Compost Facility processes recyclable wood waste and leaves from the Town and provides beneficial reuse of the waste as compost and mulch. The facility provides an extremely cost effective method for this recycling as well as an environmental benefit of local recycling with minimal transportation requirements. It is open for residents to dispose of recyclable wood waste (logs and branches up to 6” diameter, brush, and leaves), as well as pick up wood mulch and leaf compost. This service is free to Town of Bedford residents between 7:30 AM and 3:00 PM Monday to Friday, excluding Town holidays.
Looking for an emergency volunteer opportunity butFire Fighting or Medical Tech not your thing? Emergency communications might be for you.Click here for the flyer
Katonah Fire Department under-18 Recruitment Program Are you interested in a terrific community service opportunity? Would you like to receive state-of-the art lifesaving and firefighting training?Katonah Fire Department eagerly welcomes applications from 16-year-olds for its Under 18 Program. Interested candidates can fulfill their John Jay High School Community Service obligation, as well as service hours required for other organizations, such as Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Membership in the department as a firefighter is a great way to have your college application stand out as well! Any person who is between the ages of 16 and 18, who is physically fit, morally and mentally sound, and who, having met with the membership committee and satisfactorily passed the committee’s investigation (as established in the Katonah Fire Department, Inc. Constitution and By-Laws), may be selected for membership status. The goal of this program is to carefully instill, enforce, and monitor the practices that lead to well trained, respectful, hardworking members once they reach their 18th birthdays and/or the conclusion of their first year of membership. In addition, it creates a culture in which these members both realize their age- and experience-related limitations, but also feel as though they are learning and being prepared for taking on the duties of full-fledged, non-probationary members of the Katonah Fire Department. An oversight committee and a training coordinator act as a resource to these members – in all aspects of KFD membership: firefighting, training, rules and regulations, etc. – and set example for the types of behaviors expected from our entire membership. Applicants who join receive all training and equipment at no expense to them. They also become eligible for various scholarship opportunities. If you’re interested in finding out more, please sent an e-mail to email@example.com
The Town’s Website is now available in Spanish We have added a plug-in allowing for the website’s automatic translation to Spanish. Please note that this does not apply to linked PDF documents. http://www.bedfordny.gov/
A regular reader of this weekly newsletter asked why I repeat certain posts from week to week. I do so because not everyone reads my newsletter on a weekly basis, much information provided remains relevant and I wish to continue to alert the community about it. In response to the comment, however, you will see that I’ve divided the newsletter into two sections “New Posts” and “Continuing Posts”. Both sections are relevant and, I believe, worthy of review. I wish to thank readers for making suggestions and comments; over the years, I’ve not only changed format but added content based on them (for example, why the flags are flown at half-staff.
Apartments are getting smaller in much of the U.S., even as rents are rising.
The average size of newly built apartments in 2018 is 941 square feet, which is 5 percent smaller than it was a decade ago. For studio apartments, the change is more pronounced — they’re 10 percent smaller. Rents, on the other hand, have jumped 28 percent during the same time period, according to RENTCafe, a nationwide apartment search website.
“Changes in renters’ living habits are literally redrawing floor plans,” wrote Nadia Balint, senior marketing writer for RENTCafe. “The largest share of apartment dwellers, millennials, prefer living in locations close to restaurants and entertainment, rather than having a large kitchen or living room to cook or entertain at home.”
Higher rental costs today, however, have millennials looking for savings by renting smaller units, and developers are clearly responding. Micro-units are becoming more popular, following on the tiny-house trend, as millennials tend to be more environmentally conscious than previous generations. Apartment developers are supplementing the smaller units by adding more common spaces to their buildings, in which residents can both work and entertain.
“Across our 72,000-unit portfolio we have seen an increasing demand for relatively smaller units,” said Toby Bozzuto, CEO of apartment developer the Bozzuto Group. “We attribute this to a lifestyle shift that is based on our residents’ desire to be less encumbered by things. Our residents value flexibility and convenience, and appreciate a thoughtful approach to unit design.”
Despite an apartment construction boom in the last several years, occupancies remain high, and rents are still gaining. Yet rents are rising fastest for those who can afford it least. Rents for low-end properties, defined as those with rents less than 75 percent of the regional median, are gaining faster than luxury rentals, according to CoreLogic.
“We’ve seen a slight uptick in rent prices over the past few months as strong employment growth continues,” said Molly Boesel, principal economist at CoreLogic. “The strength stems from the low-to-middle price tier, which has seen monthly average growth of 3.2 percent since January 2018.”
All real estate is local, and so are size trends, apparently. Overall, including old and new apartments, the Southeast has the largest units in the nation, while California has the smallest. The average apartment size in California is 837 square feet, compared with 975 square feet in the Southeast.
California saw the biggest size decrease for newly built apartments, an average decline of 12 percent over the past decade. The Pacific Northwest as well as the Northeast are next, seeing 10 percent decreases. Only in the Midwest, where rents and demand are lowest, are apartment sizes increasing, up 1 percent in that time.
Of the nation’s largest cities, Seattle has the smallest apartment units, with an average size of 711 square feet. Manhattan and Chicago are second- and third-smallest. Tallahassee, Florida, boasts the largest units on average at 1,038 square feet. Marietta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina, come in second- and third-largest.
While all types of floor plans are shrinking, new studio apartments are minimizing most at an average of just 514 square feet this year. Studios also represent a shrinking share of the rental market, just 5 percent of all units nationwide. One-bedrooms lead at 43 percent of the market, but their size is down 4 percent over the last decade. Two-bedroom apartments have not changed much, just 0.5 percent smaller on average.
From the largest publicly traded production firms to small local companies, home builders are at the epicenter of many of today’s most pressing political issues. Across the U.S., residential building pros deal with some of the country’s biggest challenges and opportunities: immigration, taxes, environmental regulations, banking, and Wall Street reform, to name just a few.
Home building’s reach into so many aspects of the nation’s economic health makes the industry a powerful force in U.S. political affairs, and housing issues impact the country in myriad ways, says Jim Tobin, the NAHB’s executive vice president for government affairs and chief lobbyist. “There are home builders in every district in every state. We’re important to the tax base. We offer jobs,” he says. “And our members are community leaders who aren’t just providing shelter, they’re providing stability and community leadership.” (Click here for a list of the top political issues facing builders this year.)
November’s midterm elections will help to shape these issues, and the stakes are high: Up for grabs is the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and 36 governorships. In what many political insiders consider a bellwether year for U.S. politics, home builders plan to make their voices heard. A recent BUILDER poll found that nearly 99% of respondents said they plan to vote in the upcoming elections, and more than three-quarters of them said home building–related issues will play a large role in their decisionmaking.
Before U.S. builders hit the polls they’ll have to sort through the current political climate, with its rampant party extremism, constantly changing balances of power, robust regulatory environment, and Supreme Court upheaval. In such uncertain times, many will look for guidance from the NAHB, which has long lobbied on behalf of the industry and, in 2016, began to support and endorse political candidates for Congress. (It does not endorse candidates at local or presidential levels).
Tracking the Industry Founded in 1942, the NAHB’s mission is “to protect the American dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.” The association’s members construct about 80% of the new homes built in the U.S. every year, and the federation has more than 800 state and local associations throughout the country.
NAHB lobbies on topics from forest management to energy policy, and it issues statements on initiatives from tariffs and codes to Supreme Court justice changes. Staff members also keep tabs on what’s going on in government agencies that deal with housing—a total of 160 federal housing programs administered by 20 different entities at a cost of over $160 million each year, according to independent educational nonprofit Restore Accountability.
The association has a seat at the table at nearly every level of the legislative process, all the way up to the executive office. For instance, when President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order telling the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to rescind or revise the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, then-NAHB chairman of the board Granger MacDonald was by his side. In fact, it’s said that politicians ignore the home building industry at their peril; one Fox News announcer recently quipped that he’d rather have the NAHB with him than against him.
Tobin and his team of 10 lobbyists and 20 government affairs staffers are the soldiers who navigate the tricky terrain in the nation’s capital, working with regulatory agencies such as HUD and the EPA, the White House, and the judiciary on behalf of NAHB’s members. Keeping track of so many issues is no small task, Tobin says. “So many things impact the ability to develop housing in America,” he says.
Tobin starts his day by absorbing what’s driving the news cycle—sometimes a statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, often a presidential tweet. After internal strategy meetings at the NAHB’s National Housing Center in downtown D.C., just a few blocks from the K Street hub where Beltway lobby shops have traditionally clustered, Tobin treks over to Capitol Hill or the White House for meetings with members of Congress who could either sign or block legislation on everything from banking regulations to environmental protection. On any given day, Tobin’s team can be tracking 100 different bills.
“Everything is almost a No. 1 priority when it comes up,” Tobin says. NAHB staff looks at every piece of legislation and change in regulations as soon as it is released and takes immediate action, no matter how unlikely it is to become law. If a bill were introduced to cut the mortgage-interest deduction in half, for example, Tobin’s team would be on it. “There’s no way that bill would make it through Congress, but we will take that bill with one co-sponsor, send a letter, lobby against it, and make sure there are several nails in that coffin so it never sees the light of day,” Tobin explains.
Although many might imagine Tobin having lunch or dinner meetings with members of Congress, those haven’t really been a thing since the 1990s, when a wave of reforms prohibited lobbyists from buying a senator or representative lunch—or anything else, for that matter. Meals at Capitol Hill meeting place Charlie Palmer Steak have been replaced by fundraising events, where Tobin says he can “access members of Congress to talk about current events, what you’re working on, in a smaller setting.”
These days, texts and messages are most congressional staffers’ preferred method of communication, Tobin says, and it better be quick. “You have to boil it down to a page, or a half page. People are busier and attention spans are shorter today,” he says. “Nothing will ever replace shoe-leather lobbying and relationships, but with the fast pace of Capitol Hill and a greater flow of information, Hill staff may not have the time to take a meeting, so you need to know how to get your points across.”
Every two years, Tobin and his staff prepare for shifting sands in Washington, D.C. If Democrats take over the House in the upcoming elections as some predict, Tobin’s staff will need to know the priorities of the new leadership and discern how they fit in with the NAHB’s agenda. “We’re always war gaming what the next two years are going to be based on what the current situation looks like,” he notes.
NAHB works closely with the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors—a trifecta that Tobin calls “the big three of housing”—and sometimes with the National Multifamily Housing Council, the Associated General Contractors of America, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (the latter being the biggest spender on federal lobbying, paying out $22.9 million in the first quarter of 2018, according to Roll Call). “Sometimes we’re opposite them,” Tobin says. “But at the end of the day, if we can find like-minded associations to join the coalition, the more the merrier.”
Grassroots Efforts NAHB’s lobbying efforts are determined by senior officers who represent the nearly 2,500 members who serve on the association’s board of directors, in turn representing NAHB’s 140,000 members. NAHB relies on its members to provide relationships with elected officials, which is why it created the Bringing Housing Home program to develop opportunities for its members to meet with congressional delegations. Local NAHB leaders are encouraged to schedule meetings with their senators and representatives during congressional recesses. NAHB members held hundreds of these meetings across the nation this spring and summer.
“There’s an old saying that most people don’t approve of Congress, but they approve of their member of Congress,” says Michael Everngam, vice president of BUILD-PAC, NAHB’s political action committee that serves to raise and distribute funds for pro-housing candidates. “I think that saying goes a long way. When we do have major issues come up, members are more likely to get involved and talk to their member of Congress because they’ve been involved along the way.”
Home builder Kevin Woodward has seen the importance of one-on-one political involvement. Early in his career, the managing partner for Legacy Homes in Nashvillerealized that laws and regulations could make or break his industry and saw that the only way to have any control over them was to get involved in the political process. For decades, Woodward has been part of lobbying efforts, serving twice as state president of the NAHB in Nebraska and three times in Tennessee. He has also been on numerous NAHB committees and is currently the third vice chair of the NAHB’s BUILD-PAC, meaning he will be chair in two years.
If Woodward has learned anything during his experience, it’s that nurturing relationships in the cities and districts where he lives is his most important contribution. “If we don’t participate at a local level, we’re never going to get anything done at a national level,” Woodward says. “What I have done and encourage others to do is meet with local officials, state legislators, and national legislators. Build relationships that will eventually blossom into the ability to reach out to them, so when you call them, they’ll actually answer.”
NAHB offers an advocacy app with an interactive congressional directory to keep members informed of housing news, statistics, and talking points on key issues, but most use “the old-fashioned way of communication—texts, phone calls, and emails—for our calls to action,” Woodward says. When issues come up, NAHB Board of Trustees members send a directive to state leaders, who disseminate the information and enlist help from members.
“They’re just a phenomenal government affairs staff at NAHB,” Woodward says. “They may send us a directive, and we’ll say, ‘Well, why?’ But they’re the experts in the field, and if they send us down a path, they have a reason. They’re in it 24/7/365. We’re involved much less. My job is to build houses.”
For example, when the NAHB asked local leaders in the spring to recruit members of Congress to sign a letter urging the Trump administration to restart lumber trade talks with Canada, Woodward sprang to action. He called all nine of Tennessee’s U.S. representatives and its two senators, then he called local members around the state who know key legislators, asking them to make calls and report back. If they didn’t, he called again—and his tenacity paid off. Seven of Tennessee’s nine representatives, including politically invaluable House Ways and Means member Diane Black, signed the letter. “Two we knew would not,” Woodward says. “That’s just politics.”
Pro-Housing Outreach While NAHB’s government affairs office steers the ship in Washington, members back home truly drive the organization, says vice president for intergovernmental affairs Karl Eckhart, who oversees NAHB’s grassroots efforts. When members asked for more ways to support pro-housing candidates aside from BUILD-PAC, the association delivered. In 2016, NAHB made its first endorsements of 139 congressional candidates—94% of whom won their races—and launched the Defender of Housing Award for U.S. senators and representatives who have offered unwavering support for the housing sector. NAHB members have given 268 awards so far.
“We want our endorsements and the award to be meaningful,” Tobin says. “We want members of Congress who don’t get an award or endorsement to come to us and say, ‘What do I have to do to get that award? Let’s find areas where we can work together.’”
The criteria for what constitutes a pro-housing candidate takes many factors into consideration, and the selection process is intense. Woodward and other state leaders spend hours scouring candidates’ records and talking with people about congressional members and candidates before they offer a Defender of Housing award, donation, or endorsement.
“When we examine the housing bona fides of a candidate or a member of Congress we look for people that, first and foremost, are supportive of housing and creating conditions for greater housing affordability,” Tobin explains. “We’re looking for people who have relationships with their local home builders and meet regularly to discuss housing issues back home in their communities. We back candidates that support and promote policies of increasing ownership and rental opportunities, reducing regulatory costs, and creating an economic environment where small businesses can be successful. Housing is a bipartisan, middle-of-the-political-spectrum issue. Candidates that work to advance common-sense, bipartisan solutions to complex issues tend to earn NAHB’s support.”
A candidate’s chance of being elected also comes into play, Woodward says, because you want funding to go to candidates who will be in a position to help advance the association’s agenda. “Our PAC money is not a secret,” he says. “Anybody can find out who we give it to. If you keep throwing money at the wrong place, you’re never going to be able to succeed.”
One politician who has earned NAHB’s support is Rep. Keith Rothfus, a PennsylvaniaRepublican who was recently named a Defender of Housing. In Rothfus’ district, the home building industry employs 130,000 people and drives other industries such as raw materials, design services, and furniture sales, and he’s fierce about making sure home builders can do business unencumbered. He’s a vocal opponent of over-regulation, particularly when it comes to community banks, and as vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit and a member of the Financial Services Committee, he has some sway.
Rothfus is constantly in touch with builders, real estate agents, community bankers, and other stakeholders in the home building industry in his district, and he consistently votes the pro-housing party line. “It’s very important that we continue to have feedback from the various players,” he says. “It’s very important for us to stay in touch and hear their pressure points as they continue to offer jobs to people.”
Beyond Party Lines As influential as the home building industry is in Washington, it’s not immune to the fact that money talks. Completely funded by donations from more than 2,700 members, the association’s BUILD-PAC has more than $3 million to spend this election cycle, and Tobin plans to use every dime. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks PAC spending, shows that as of Aug. 21, BUILD-PAC had contributed $979,000 to more than 300 candidates for the House and Senate, 86% of them Republican and 14% Democrat. The PAC has also contributed $240,000 to the national parties and $439,032 to committees, including $60,000 each to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Florida markets are dominating national price rankings this winter as demand remains strong for properties still priced far below their 2007 peaks.
Florida and New York led gains among the states with 0.8 percent month-over-month appreciation I the Black Knight HPI December index and Florida accounted for every one of the top 10 best performing metro areas in December, with Sarasota leading the way at 1.4 percent month-over-month growth. The state has seen recent changes to the florida landlord tenant law‘s.
Nationally, Black Knight reported home prices were up 0.1 percent for the month, and have gained 5.5 percent from one year ago. At $253,000, the national level HPI remains 5.3 percent off its June 2006 peak of $268K, and up 27 percent from the market’s bottom in January 2012
Separately, the Florida Association of Realtors announced today that nearly half of the Realtors in U.S. and Canada – some 500,000 real estate professionals – now have access to its Tech Helpline service that provides technical support services for a wide range of software and hardware, from smartphones and tablets to desktops, laptops, email problems, virus issues and more.
The lasting legacy of the US housing crash has ranked at the top of the so-called “headwinds” that Federal Reserve policy makers such asJanet Yellen cite when discussing America’s economic prospects.
A host of indicators are suggesting now that, even if the property market remains well below its boom-time highs, it is firmly in recovery mode.
The Case-Shiller index of home values in 20 cities rose 4.9 per cent from a year earlier in April, according to data released Tuesday, with values in Denver and San Francisco rising around 10 per cent from a year earlier. That came after the National Association of Realtors index of pending home sales hit its highest level since April 2006.
The problem with the recovery is that it is, in the words of Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, a lopsided one.
An acute lack of construction at the lower end of the market is creating a tight supply of housing, driving up rents and pushing up prices of affordable homes to levels reached in 2006.
With access to credit far more constricted than it was before the financial crisis and income growth depressed, home ownership rates have fallen to 20-year lows, as many younger Americans are locked out of property ownership.
Mr Khater said: “The property market is strengthening, but it’s a complex picture that’s by no means good news for all Americans.”
Back in 2013 US housing hit a setback associated with a 100 basis-point upward lurch in mortgage rates induced by the Fed’s so-called “taper tantrum”. In recent months it has seen renewed momentum, however. Existing home sales rose to an annual rate of 5.35m in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, the fastest pace since 2009.
Rising values are pushing up equity in the housing market, with low interest rates helping for those who can qualify for home loans. In addition, real disposable incomes have risen 4 per cent nationally over the past four quarters.
While an increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve could impact affordability, Tim Hopper, chief economist at TIAA-CREF, a financial services company, argued that US households are better positioned to weather higher borrowing costs. “The consumer is in much better shape than just a few years ago,” he said.
Nevertheless, there were still 5.1m mortgaged houses in negative equity in the first quarter, compared with 5.4m at the end of last year, according to CoreLogic data. Poorer neighbourhoods tend to have very high concentrations of negative equity, underlining the long shadow of the property crash and deeply divided fortunes now characterising the housing market.
Among the lasting legacies of the downturn have been tightening lending standards, a shift to renting, and a decline in rates of home ownership. The home ownership rate at the end of last year was at 64.5 per cent, erasing most of the increase over the previous two decades. Between 2006 and 2013, there was a 3m increase in single family home rentals.
With construction of housing remaining depressed, households are encountering a tight supply and surging rents — with the national vacancy rate near its lowest in 20 years. This is putting acute pressure on many people’s finances. In 2013 almost half of renters had housing cost burdens, including more than a quarter with “severe” burdens — paying more than 50 per cent of income for housing, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Freddia Mac today released its updated Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®) showing the U.S. housing market continuing to stabilize with the strongest markets realizing the greatest benefits from a spring homebuying season in full swing.
The national MiMi value stands at 78.7, indicating a weak housing market overall but showing an improvement (+0.14%) from March to April and a three-month improvement of (+2.10%). On a year-over-year basis, the national MiMi value has improved (+3.57%). Since its all-time low in October 2010, the national MiMi has rebounded 33 percent, but it’s still significantly off from its high of 121.7.
Twenty-six of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia have MiMi values in a stable range, with the District of Columbia (97.8), North Dakota (96.3), Montana (92), Hawaii (91), and Alaska (87.4) ranking in the top five.
Thirty-five of the 100 metro areas have MiMi values in a stable range, with Fresno (94.8), Honolulu (92.3), Austin (92.1), Los Angeles (89.1) and Salt Lake City, TX (88.9) ranking in the top five.
The most improving states month-over-month were Washington (+1.49%), Indiana (+1.32%), Tennessee (+1.03%), Oregon (+0.83%) and Mississippi (+0.82%). On a year-over-year basis, the most improving states were Florida (+10.89%), Nevada (+10.55%), Oregon (10.29%), Colorado (+8.72%), and Michigan (+8.31%).
The most improving metro areas month-over-month were Palm Bay, FL (+1.51%), Portland, OR (+1.32%), Indianapolis, IN (+1.22%), Oxnard, CA (+1.22%) and Lakeland, FL (+1.99%). On a year-over-year basis, the most improving metro areas were Orlando, FL (+12.6%), Palm Bay, FL (+12.14%), Miami, FL (+11.97%), Cape Coral, FL (+10.73%), and Las Vegas, NV (+11.54%).
In April, 43 of the 50 states and 92 of the 100 metros were showing an improving three month trend. The same time last year, all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and 99 of the top 100 metro areas were showing an improving three-month trend.
Quote attributable to Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer:
“We saw a significant improvement in housing markets nationwide, with ten more metro areas and nine more states moving within range of their benchmark, stable level of housing activity. The West and Southwest areas of the country continue to lead the way, especially Colorado, Oregon and Utah, and California is right there as well. Unlike a year ago, when the most improving markets were those hardest hit by the Great Recession, we’re now seeing stable markets among the most improving as well. So the strong housing markets are getting stronger, which reflects the better employment picture, rising home values and increased purchase activity in these markets with the spring homebuying season in full swing.”
The 2015 MiMi release calendar is available online.
MiMi monitors and measures the stability of the nation’s housing market, as well as the housing markets of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the top 100 metro markets. MiMi combines proprietary Freddie Mac data with current local market data to assess where each single-family housing market is relative to its own long-term stable range by looking at home purchase applications, payment-to-income ratios (changes in home purchasing power based on house prices, mortgage rates and household income), proportion of on-time mortgage payments in each market, and the local employment picture. The four indicators are combined to create a composite MiMi value for each market. Monthly, MiMi uses this data to show, at a glance, where each market stands relative to its own stable range of housing activity. MiMi also indicates how each market is trending, whether it is moving closer to, or further away from, its stable range. A market can fall outside its stable range by being too weak to generate enough demand for a well-balanced housing market or by overheating to an unsustainable level of activity.
Freddi Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates reaching new highs for 2015 with the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage above four percent for the first time since November 6, 2014 when it averaged 4.02 percent.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.04 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending June 11, 2015, up from last week when it averaged 3.87 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.20 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.25 percent with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.08 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.31 percent.
1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.53 percent this week with an average 0.2 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.59 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.40 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 links for theRegional and National Mortgage Rate Details and Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Quotes Attributed to Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“Mortgage rates rose above 4 percent for the first time since November 2014 as Treasury yields surged. Markets are responding to strong employment data. In May, the U.S. economy added 280,000 jobs. Moreover, job openings surged to 5.4 million in April, up over 20 percent from a year ago.”
Existing home sales declined 3.3% in April, despite the fact that almost half of April sales remained on the market less than one month. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported April 2015 total existing home sales at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.04 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from an upwardly revised 5.21 million units in March. April existing sales were up 6.1% from the same period a year ago, and have increased year-over-year for seven consecutive months.
Existing sales in the Midwest increased 1.7% from the previous month, but fell in the other regions, ranging from 1.7% in the West to 6.8% in the South. Year-over-year, all four regions increased, ranging from 13.0% in the Midwest to 1.6% in the Northeast.
The first-time buyer share remained unchanged at 30% in April, compared to 29% in February and 28% in January. The first-time buyer participation remains well below the historically typical 40% share.
Total housing inventory increased 10.0% in April to 2.21 million existing homes, which was still 0.9% below the 2.23 million level during the same month a year ago. At the current sales rate, the April unsold inventory represents a 5.3-month supply, up from a 4.6-month supply last month. NAR also reported that April homes sold in an average of 39 days compared to 52 days in March, and was the shortest time on the market since July 2013.
The distressed sales share remained unchanged at 10% in April, and was down from 15% during the same month a year ago. Distressed sales are defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. April all cash sales remained unchanged at 24% of transactions, down from 26% of transactions in February and 27% in January, and were down from 32% in April 2014. Individual investors purchased a 14% share of homes in April, unchanged from March, and down from 18% during the same month a year ago. Some 71% of investors paid in cash in April, compared to 70% in March, and 67% in February and January. The awaited withdrawal of cash investors will create more opportunity for first-time buyers.