TAB News Briefs
Feb. 28, 2013

Builders selling well
New home sales surged forward in January and inventories dipped to their lowest in 8 years as housing demand continues to return. On an annual seasonally-adjusted basis, new homes sold at a 437,000 pace in January, up 15.6 percent from December and 28.9 percent from a year ago. The improvement was broad based in all four regions. The surge in sales and already low inventories reduced the month's supply to 4.1 months, the lowest since March 2005.More

Supreme Court to decide future of Voting Rights Act
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
The politically charged issue of race was before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday in a case that will determine the future of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. In an ominous note for supporters of the key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged the measure's vital role in fighting discrimination, but suggested that important laws in U.S. history can run their course. "Times change," Kennedy said during the fast-paced, 70-minute argument.More

After Abbott ruling, Austin poised to loosen environmental rules for some development
Austin American-Statesman
Earlier this year, after hearing city staff's conclusion that a proposed Southwest Austin condominium development would violate city environmental rules, the City Council was poised to reject the project. Then the council delayed the vote at the last minute and, two weeks later, the city staff dropped its objection and the council gave the go-ahead. What changed?More

New home sales jump
The Associated Press via FOX 34 News
U.S. new home sales jumped in January from the previous month to the highest level since July 2008, a sign that the housing recovery is accelerating. The Commerce Department says new-home sales rose nearly 16 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000. The percentage increase was the largest in nearly 20 years.More

E-Verify an important component of immigration reform, builders tell Congress
Salt Lake City home builder and developer Christopher Gamvroulas told Congress that the E-Verify program is an effective system and offered proposals put forth by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to improve it and to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. Testifying on behalf of NAHB before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, Gamvroulas said that a viable, mandatory E-Verify program for all U.S. employers is an important step to address the illegal immigration issue.More

Tight credit, flawed appraisals and erratic supply chain hurt jobs, housing
The budding housing revival driven by pent-up consumer demand still faces a number of obstacles, including tight credit for builders along with a stretched lot and building supply system in many markets that are barely keeping up with demand. The precarious support system to housing could threaten the fragile housing and economic recovery now under way, according to the National Association of Home Builders.More

Apartment project with affordable rents planned for South Austin Goodwill site
Austin American-Statesman
Amid a sea of luxury apartments under construction on South Lamar Boulevard, Foundation Communities is planning an oasis of affordability — 109 inexpensive rentals in a pioneering project with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas. Foundation Communities, a local nonprofit provider of affordable housing and support services, hopes to receive $10 million in federal tax credits to build the $15 million Skyview Studios at 2800 S. Lamar Blvd.More

Retrofitting historic home for zero water consumption
Sustainable Cities Collective
Matt Grocoff is a proven zero energy master. Now the Ann Arbor, Mich., homeowner and a team of engineering students from the University of Michigan are continuing a quest towards zero. These individuals have plans to retrofit Grocoff's century-old Victorian house so it can capture and treat its own water. The Grocoff home has already achieved recognition as one of the country's first net zero energy homes, producing more energy through the use of solar panels and geothermal than it consumes.More

Builders find US investors eager to finance housing
Bloomberg Businessweek
Joel Shine, chief executive officer of Woodside Homes, raised $228 million in a debt and equity recapitalization in October, two years after the Salt Lake City-based builder exited bankruptcy. Investment bankers now are pushing closely held Woodside to sell stock publicly or issue debt as the home-construction industry bounces back from the real estate crash, he said. "I hope the housing market is as good as the capital market seems to think it is," Shine, who builds in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah, said in a telephone interview. "Right now, housing is the pretty girl at the bar."More

The time is right for Texans to live the American dream
The Texas Association of Builders (TAB) held their 83rd Legislative Session with local, state and national policy-makers last week in Austin, Texas. Adam Bakir, General Manager of Incredible Renovations, LLC, Houston attended the meeting and said, "This year's meeting was the shot in the arm the home building industry needed." More

Nueces County Commissioners Court votes to seek state approval for septic tank amendments
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
The Nueces County Commissioners Court voted Wednesday to ask the state for permission to tighten regulations for installing and maintaining septic tanks in rural areas. If approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the public, the amendments would require landowners to obtain a permit for future on-site sewage facilities and submit a site plan to the county, regardless of property size. Installation and maintenance would have to be done by a licensed professional.More

In hunt for roads funds, Texas won't model Virginia
The Texas Tribune
The Virginia Legislature drew national headlines this week after lawmakers there passed the state’s first overhaul of transportation funding in more than 25 years. The measure cuts the state's taxes on gas and raises sales taxes. Texas legislators are working on their own fix to the state's transportation budget woes, but the similarities with their Virginia counterparts ends there. Lawmakers and transportation advocates involved in the discussions say Texas is likely to leave both its 20-cent gas tax and 8.25 percent sales tax rate alone and hunt for money from other sources instead.More

El Paso leaders assert easing bridge traffic trumps border security
El Paso Times
"The border is secure; let's move on." That's the message about 100 border residents, including several elected leaders from El Paso, delivered to lawmakers in Washington, D.C. "We asked them to start focusing resources where they really need to go, such as toward improving the ports of entry so we can reduce the wait times at the crossings," El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said during a telephone interview from Washington.More

Waco economic index posts another strong month
Waco Tribune-Herald
Employment and spending are intertwined, and the Waco area is experiencing improvement in both, said Amarillo-based economist Karr Ingham. His report showed Waco recorded its 12th straight monthly GWEI increase, rising to 107.8 in January from 101.7 in January last year. The numbers indicate Waco continues to pull out of recession and even is showing signs of growth, said Ingham, whose report is sponsored by the First National Bank of Central Texas and the Tribune-Herald.More

San Antonio condos to hit auction block
San Antonio Express-News
After several years of trying to sell out the Vidorra condo tower downtown, its developers may have lost patience. Their last 30 units will be sold at auction April 14. Opening bids are expected to start at half the original asking price per condominium, according to Sheldon Good & Co., the New York-based firm that will conduct the auction.More