Homeowners in Italy are seeing many of their bills suspended – including mortgages – as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic, and now other European nations are considering similar moves.
Is a “mortgage holiday” coming to America?
The short answer is: probably not. Most American mortgages are packaged into bonds with legal terms that dictate what the servicers who handle the billing can and can’t do. There are ways servicers can offer forbearance – an agreement to let borrowers either pay at a lower interest rate or suspend payments temporarily because of a hardship. But it’s on a case-by-case basis.
“Somebody owns those bonds,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo. “Who is going to make those interest payments?”
Any missed or reduced payments typically have to be repaid, with interest. Sometimes, that means the loan will be re-amortized, so whatever you don’t pay now, you’ll be paying off over the remaining years of your loan, with interest.
America’s mortgage market is much bigger than Italy’s $423 billion of outstanding home-loan debt. The U.S. has about $11 trillion of mortgages on one- to four-family homes, according to Federal Reserve data. More than half of that is contained in bonds compiled and backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees those government-controlled mortgage securitizers, issued a directive last week urging servicers to offer help to people who fall behind on mortgage payments because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“To meet the needs of borrowers who may be impacted by the coronavirus, last week Fannie Mae and FreddieMac reminded mortgage servicers that hardship forbearance is an option for borrowers who are unable to make their monthly mortgage payment,” said FHFA Director Mark Calabria. “For borrowers that may be experiencing a hardship, I encourage you to reach out to your servicer.”
In addition, regulators such as the Federal Reserve on Tuesday urged U.S. banks such as Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase to work “constructively” with borrowers affected by the coronavirus outbreak, promising they won’t get dinged by examiners as long as the measures show good judgment.
Italy has been the nation with the biggest outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, outside of China. Italy has more than 15,000 cases, and more than 1,000 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
While Italy is the only government to introduce a plan to suspend mortgage payments for people affected by the lockdown – and so far it’s only for the worst-hit areas of the nation – other European countries may follow suit, according to an S&P report.
“New monetary and fiscal stimulus measures are currently being launched daily and the Italian government is contemplating broadening the mortgage payment suspension scheme nationwide,” S&P said.
“Some banks and governments in other countries, including France, Spain, and the U.K., have mooted similar measures, although the potential scale of eligibility and level of uptake among borrowers could vary widely and are not yet known,” the report said.
The minority homeownership rate increased to 48.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, up 0.8 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a new data release from the Census Bureau’s Housing Vacancies and Homeownership survey (CPS/HVS) (Figure 1). This is the highest it has been since the third quarter of 2011 (48.9 percent). This year-over-year gain is higher than the gain in the overall U.S. homeownership rate, which rose 0.3 percentage points to 65.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (a six-year high). A separate Eyeonhousing.org post covers the U.S. homeownership rate in more detail.
Breaking down the minority homeownership rate shows that the Hispanic homeownership rate gained the most in the fourth quarter, with a 1.2 percentage point increase to 48.1 percent (from 46.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018).
The black homeownership rate posted the second largest gain of 1.0 percentage points to reach 44.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 (from 43.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018). This is the largest quarter gain in the black homeownership rate since the first quarter of 2017.
Meanwhile, Other households (Asian, Pacific-Islander, Native American, and other race households) experienced a decline in their homeownership rate, dropping 1.0 percentage points to 57.1 percent (from 58.1 percent in the third quarter of 2019). The Other homeownership rate has now declined for four consecutive quarters (year-over-year declines), which is in contrast to strong gains seen for this group between the second quarter of 2017 and the third quarter of 2018.
The white homeownership grew by only 0.1 percentage points to 73.7 percent in the fourth quarter (from 73.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018). The white homeownership rate has not declined year-over-year since the first quarter of 2017 (Figure 2).
Mortgage rates are still relatively low, and a healthy job market has helped to make homeownership more affordable. In fact, housing affordability was at a three-year high in the third quarter of 2019, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Opportunity Index (HOI). These factors are most likely contributing to the recent upticks in the overall and minority homeownership rates.
“Rates fell to the lowest level in three months and are about a quarter point above all-time lows,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist. “The very low rate environment has clearly had an impact on the housing market as both new construction and home sales have surged in response to the decline in rates, the rebound in the economy and improving financial market sentiment.”
30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.60 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending January 23, 2020, down from last week when it averaged 3.65 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.45 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.04 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.09 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.88 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.
Freddie Mac makes home possible for millions of families and individuals by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Since our creation by Congress in 1970, we’ve made housing more accessible and affordable for homebuyers and renters in communities nationwide. We are building a better housing finance system for homebuyers, renters, lenders, investors and taxpayers.
“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” penned poet and activist Audre Lorde. Pulled from a 1984 essay, the quote summarizes her larger argument that mainstream academic frameworks are incapable of permitting the disruption of their own status quo. “They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change,” wrote Lorde.
Over the last few months, several Democratic presidential hopefuls—namely Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg—have released housing proposals that utilize a curious vector to implement their respective remedies for historical discrimination: redlining maps.
Redlining was the practice of outlining areas with sizable Black populations in red ink on maps as a warning to mortgage lenders, effectively isolating Black people in areas that would suffer lower levels of investment than their white counterparts. The Democratic candidates hope that the contours of these old maps—once used by the government-sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) from 1933 to 1977—offer the blueprint for closing the racial homeownership gap and increasing prosperity among largely Black and Brown Americans who were robbed of wealth for generations under redlining’s legal discriminatory policy.
Redlining was the practice of outlining areas with sizable Black populations in red ink on maps as a warning to mortgage lenders, effectively isolating Black people in areas that would suffer lower levels of investment than their white counterparts.
In each plan, redlining maps are used to determine eligibility for beneficiaries, to differing degrees:
Harris’s plan would invest $100 billion in assistance for down payments and closing costs, to be made available to those who have lived in government or rental housing for 10 or more preceding years in a formerly redlined area that is low-to-moderate income today. Grantees must also earn less than a maximum annual family income.
Warren’s plan would offer down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers in formerly redlined areas or low-income areas that experienced other forms of legal segregation, qualifying them for a grant applicable to a home anywhere in the country. The proposal is billed as a “first step towards closing the racial wealth gap,” and would be paid for by an estate tax.
Mayor Buttigieg’s plan proposes the Community Homestead Act, which would purchase abandoned properties in select cities and allow residents to acquire them. Eligible grantees include residents who earned less than the area median income over the last five years and either have resided in the area for at least three years, or have resided in any historically redlined or racially segregated area for at least three years.
However, based on our analysis of who lives in these formerly redlined districts today, Lorde’s quote should be considered when it comes to these proposed remedies.
The University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality project has digitized scans of the HOLC redlining maps held in the National Archives. Examination of the maps, numbering over 200, reveals that approximately 11 million Americans (10,852,727) live in once-redlined areas, according to the latest population data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2017). This population is majority-minority but not majority-Black, and, contrary to conventional perceptions, Black residents also do not form a plurality in these areas overall. The Black population share is approximately 28%, ranking third among the racial groups who live in formerly redlined areas, behind white and Latino or Hispanic residents.
While still a tremendously large population, the approximately 3 million Black residents in redlined areas account for just 8% of all non-Latino or Hispanic Black Americans. Given the demographic shifts that have occurred since the federal government started using color-coded maps to assess mortgage risk, and the relatively small share of the Black population currently living in these areas, proposals that center on these past tools to redress discrimination probably won’t “dismantle the master’s house.”
THE PAST STILL HAUNTS US
Together with racially restrictive housing covenants that prohibited Black Americans from buying certain properties, redlining prevented generations of families from gaining equity in homeownership or making improvements to homes already owned. These unjust practices form part of a long history of discrimination, which has contributed to the disparities in homeownership and wealth still observed between the Black and white populations of the country today.
Redlined neighborhoods are generally located near the center of urban areas, where Black people were concentrated when the government generated the maps used today for the Harris, Warren, and Buttigieg proposals. But since then, transformational demographic shifts have spread different populations throughout metropolitan areas and increased the size of those areas overall. To assess the relative residual social patterns across redlined communities today, we compare the aggregate of the census block groups that fall within the redlined areas of each city to the remaining non-redlined areas in the same cities, and measure ways the two areas differ.
These localized comparisons show that in cities with a history of redlining, the redlined areas today generally remain more segregated and more economically disadvantaged, with higher Black and minority shares of population than the remainder of the city. Additionally, they have lower median household income, lower home values, older housing stock, and rents which are lower in absolute terms (but often higher as a percentage of income). Similar studies have confirmed these trends for other social characteristics, as well as a clear correlation showing more positive current-day outcomes for areas that were “greenlined.”
The selected characteristics in the group of the ten most populous redlined areas diverge less sharply than in the remaining smaller areas, suggesting that for smaller areas, the residual effects of redlining are perhaps felt more clearly.
This top-heavy slant of the population distribution poses an issue for policymakers who wish to use HOLC maps to address the legacy of past discrimination, as it is not the case that half of the homeownership and wealth gaps can be attributed to disparities among Black and white residents of those ten cities alone. Furthermore, Black-majority suburbs are on the rise, which are heavily underrepresented in HOLC maps due to their focus on urban centers.
WHO NOW LIVES IN ONCE-REDLINED AREAS?
In some places, redlined areas track with conventional perceptions. For example, in Birmingham, Ala., the redlined portion has a much higher concentration of Black residents than the rest of the city, as well as lower incomes and property values. Formerly redlined Birmingham is majority-Black, and a large share of the Black citizens of Birmingham reside in formerly redlined areas.
The racial history of Birmingham is one of sustained aggression against the Black population. The persistence of demographic patterns in formerly redlined Birmingham is a testament to informal and formal enforcement of spatial placement by local, state and private forces. In cities throughout the South with a similar demographic makeup and history of racial violence, policies of targeted assistance in redlined areas could prove useful in closing the local racial homeownership and wealth disparities. However, at the regional and city level across the country, we find wide variations in the demographic makeup of who lives in formerly redlined areas (both in absolute numbers and relative to the cities in which they are found).
Some redlined areas have a lower Black share of population than the rest of the city
Theoretically, if the effects of redlining had faded completely over time, demographics and socio-economic outcomes between redlined areas and the surrounding city would be indistinguishable. Of course, this is not the case, but the degree to which the Black versus non-Black population of a given redlined area matches the area around it varies greatly across cities. Of the 174 principal cities in the comparison, 114 showed a statistically significantly higher concentration of Black population in the redlined areas than the rest of the city. In 26 more, the concentration was higher but not statistically significant.
Six of the 34 cities which inverted this trend (a redlined area with a lower Black share of the population than the rest of the city) are among those 10 large cities which are home to half the redlined population: Detroit, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Boston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Each of the six have sizeable Black populations, and Black people form the largest racial group in Detroit, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. And despite a demographic shift, the redlined portions of these cities still exhibit negative economic outcomes.
Clearly, these areas have suffered from a legacy of divestment, and deserve attention from policymakers. But a strategy to close the racial wealth gap that focuses mainly on these now-diversified locations risks overlooking Black neighborhoods elsewhere.
Some redlined areas, especially in the West, have a small Black population relative to white or Latino or Hispanic residents
Los Angeles is home to the third-most populous formerly redlined area, encircling over 620,000 people. Today, 70% of this group is Latino or Hispanic, 12% is white, and 6% is Black.
In 1930, nine years before the HOLC map was produced, census data showed that the whole city’s population was 88% white, 8% Mexican (the closest proxy to the Latino or Hispanic population from the time), and 2% Black. Even so, language from the original HOLC map makes explicit reference to Black neighborhoods. An excerpt from a map encompassing today’s central Los Angeles neighborhood of Jefferson Park derisively writes:
This is the “melting pot” area of Los Angeles, and has long been thoroughly blighted. The Negro concentration is largely in the eastern two thirds of the area. Original construction was evidently of fair quality but lack of proper maintenance is notable. Population is uniformly of poor quality and many improvements are in a state of dilapidation. This area is a fit location for a slum clearance project. The area is accorded a “low red” grade.
While redlined areas in Los Angeles largely did and still do encompass far more Latino or Hispanic residents than Black residents, property appraisals and neighborhood assessments were constantly undertaken from a distinctly anti-Black point of view. However, the demographic reality of redlined Los Angeles today means that policies implemented here to close the Black homeownership gap would miss the target population. Of course, the country experiences a Latino or Hispanic homeownership gap as well, which merits intentional consideration from policymakers. But Latino or Hispanic Americans should not be merely an incidental benefactor of policy directed at addressing historic discrimination against Black people.
Some redlined areas are too small to be a useful target for policy
Dallas is a city with a long history of intense discrimination. Today, Dallas remains segregated along lines of race and income, but the HOLC map is surprisingly small. In the 80 years since the map was drawn, the city has grown five-fold. Today, the city of Dallas hosts over 1.3 million residents (including roughly 300,000 Black residents) but has a redlined population of just over 28,000. Policies to address redlining specifically would have little effect on racial homeownership and wealth disparities in Dallas.
Washington, D.C. is noticeably absent from discussions of redlining. The reason is simple, and reveals one of the most intractable problems with using these maps to guide policy implementation: We simply do not have any record of a redlining map drawn for 1930s Washington. While it is difficult to imagine the District—long known as “Chocolate City”—being spared from a nationwide effort targeting Black residents, it is not hard to find examples of place-based discrimination that happened in the nation’s capital in the 20th century and continue today. Discriminatory lending at the local level does not require a federally commissioned map, but it helps.
If the 2020 presidential candidates and other federal policymakers wish to close the homeownership and wealth gaps, efforts cannot be considered complete without including the city of Washington. Without a map to guide them, a new system must be devised for implementing policy there. And if that can be accomplished for Washington, then it can be accomplished nationwide.
Other places which display this pattern: all but some 200 cities nationwide, including nearly every suburb and rural area.
ONCE-REDLINED AREAS ARE NO LONGER A PROXY FOR BLACK AMERICA
Redlining was a federally created—but locally implemented—form of discrimination. As such, redlined areas, and the cities in which they are located, vary widely in size, demographics, and location. Moreover, the racial makeup of the population in redlined areas has grown and evolved dramatically over the last eight decades, and the effects of the practice have spread beyond the confines of the original maps.
The practice of redlining was explicit in its targeting of Black Americans. While Latino or Hispanic residents, low-income white residents, noncitizens, communists, and other populations the federal government deemed “risky” were often included in redlining, they were not targeted in the same manner as Black residents. Today, neighborhoods that fall within once-redlined areas are more likely to have a higher concentration of Black residents, as well as lower incomes, lower home values, and other negative economic characteristics relative to the rest of their cities.
However, proposals that base their remedies primarily on formerly redlined areas paradoxically do not redress the main racial group that was explicitly targeted, exclude important Black neighborhoods and communities, and would skew impact toward a handful of large cities. Place-based discrimination—the practice of divesting in neighborhoods wholesale on the basis of race—has had adverse effects on both people and place. Policymakers should be intentional in ensuring that their proposed solutions can address both.
Consequently, redlining—the master’s tool—will prove to be insufficient in dismantling the legacy of racial inequities in homeownership and wealth in the United States.
We define formerly redlined areas as those geographies marked “Hazardous” or “Fourth Grade” and thus outlined in red via the University of Richmond’s Mapping Inequality project. We define cities as census “Places” and choose principal cities as our unit of comparison, rather than metropolitan areas, to better account for the general centrality of redlined areas around urban cores. Principal cities are defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Population totals and characteristics are tabulated by aggregating all census block groups whose population-weighted centroids fall within any redlined area (including those areas outside of contemporary principal city limits), estimating aggregated medians and margins of error by linear interpolation. Block groups are the smallest geography for which the American Community Survey provides estimates for the latest dissemination period (2017). However, not all socio-economic characteristics which are available in the ACS at the census tract level are available for block groups. Block groups offer a finer approximation of the irregular geographies of redlined areas, at the expense of accessing fewer ACS estimates. As this analysis is based largely on demographic totals, which are available at the block group level, we choose to make the best possible geographic approximation instead of a broader socio-economic snapshot. Because we examine whether the complicated boundaries of these geographies should be followed closely today, we therefore deem it necessary to estimate the most accurate interpretation of those boundaries possible. At time of writing, 2010 population totals for census blocks are available (and would provide a finer resolution of irregular redlining geographies than block groups), but these figures are nine years old and do not include any socio-economic characteristics. After the 2020 census, block level population data will allow for finer demographic analysis of redlined areas using up-to-date figures. All margins of error and significance tests are calculated at a 90% confidence interval.
17VIEW GALLERYLocation: Irvington, N.Y.Price: $4.5 millionSize: 11,653 square feet, 8 bedrooms, 10 full and 2 half bathrooms
Though it barely qualifies as what most financial mortals might consider downsizing, Hollywood veterans Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have slightly reduced their considerable residential footprint in New York State’s fancy-pants Bedford. Selling a more than 15,000 sq. ft. Bedford Corners mansion for almost $20.5 million and concurrently snapping up a not quite 12,000 sq. ft. Gatsby-esque manor house about 20 miles away, in Irvington, for exactly $4.5 million.
Douglas and Zeta-Jones bought the more than 13-acre Bedford Corners spread about five years ago for $11.25 million. They sold it in what appears to have been a clandestine, off-market deal to a mysterious corporate entity. It links back to the impossibly posh Sherry Netherland building on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. Situated in the coveted Guard Hill area, the palatial estate is anchored by a stately 26-room residence that dates to the late 1800s. At the time of their purchase, it offered eight bedrooms and 18 bathrooms plus an extensive spa facility with not just one but two indoor swimming pools. The property additionally included a two-unit cottage for guests or staff, a car collector’s garage and a full array of equestrian facilities.
The lavish living couple’s only somewhat smaller but far less expensive new digs, dubbed Long Meadow, meanders over 12 bucolic and largely wooded acres that roll down to the Hudson River. Just 25 miles outside Manhattan and built in the early 1930s, the 22-room stone-accented red brick Georgian mansion sits at the head of a long, gated driveway with eight bedrooms and 10 full and two half bathrooms. Listing details disclose the baronial three-story behemoth also has a total of seven fireplaces, an 11-zone heating and cooling system, a four-car garage and annual taxes that top $150,000.
An elegant columned portico leads to gracefully proportioned and intricately detailed living spaces that include a formal and living and dining rooms, both with an antique limestone fireplace and the latter sporting candy apple red lacquered walls that reflect light tossed off from a delicate crystal chandelier. There’s also double-height wood-paneled library flooded with natural light through massive arched windows, a casual lounge with wet bar and a fully updated center island kitchen with commercial-grade appliances and marble countertops. A stone-floored loggia opens to a massive stone-paved terrace that is partly shaded by a black and white striped awning and offers a stunning tree-framed view across the Hudson River, while the mansion’s eight bedrooms include a two-bedroom guest suite and a spacious owners suite that comprises a large bedroom and separate sitting room, a dressing room and a glitzy bathroom with a jetted tub next to a white marble fireplace.
The mansion’s lowest level opens the estate’s rolling grounds and contains an indoor swimming pool, fitness room, recreation/games lounge and, outside, a summer kitchen. Marketing materials indicate the estate offers “enormous untapped potential” to add an outdoor swimming pool and cabana, tennis court and guest cottage. As noted by The Hudson Independent, Houlihan Lawrence Realtors had both sides of the deal.
The Douglas-Zeta-Joneses have long and famously presided over an international portfolio of luxury homes that have made them regular fodder for property gossip columns around the globe. In addition to a sprawling co-operative apartment in a prestigious apartment house overlooking Central Park on New York City’s Central Park West and a large house in Zeta-Jones’ hometown of Swansea, Wales, the couple have long owned a walled compound in Bermuda that came up for sale earlier this year at $19 million but is no longer listed on the open market, although it’s unclear if it’s been sold. The couple’s 10-bedroom compound on the Spanish island of Majorca, which is co-owned by Douglas’s ex-wife Diandra Douglas, was also set out for sale earlier this year and is still available at a whopping $32.5 million.
Demand for apartments hit a high not seen in five years as a shortage of affordable homes has locked an increasing number of Americans out of the market.
According to recent data from RealPage, the national occupancy rate rose to 95.8% from 95.4% last year.
The increase in demand has sent rental prices upward, causing them to rise 3% from the same time last year.
Rental price increases varied across cities, with Las Vegas and Phoenix posting the greatest gains at 8.8% and 8.1%, respectively.
Of the cities that saw the most leasing activity, the Dallas-Fort Worth area takes the cake, with renters moving into 10,443 units in the second quarter of 2019, RealPage revealed.
“Apartment leasing activity accelerates during the warmer weather months, and demand is proving especially strong in this year’s primary leasing season,” according to RealPage chief economist Greg Willett.
“Solid economic growth is encouraging new household formation, and rentals are capturing a sizable share of the resulting housing demand,” Wlillet continued. “At the same time, loss of existing renters to home purchase remains limited relative to historical levels.”
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.