TAB News Briefs
Sep. 8, 2015

Counties try new approaches to lure voters
San Antonio Express-News
Just in time for the November election, Galveston County has launched the first mobile app of its kind in the state, called "Galveston Votes." It will use GPS to direct people with lightning speed to the closest voting center. Fort Bend County in November will make its first foray into using "voting centers" that are open to all voters countywide on Election Day, rather than restricting them to their neighborhood precinct. These efforts are part of a growing trend to counter Texas' low voter turnout — ranked third from the bottom nationally in 2014.More

EPA water rule applies to Texas after all
The Texas Tribune
The Obama administration's controversial new clean water regulations apply in Texas after all. Clarifying an injunction he issued last week, a federal judge in North Dakota says he blocked the federal Waters of the U.S. rule — aimed at better defining the scope of bodies of water protected under the federal Clean Water Act — from taking effect in only 13 states suing in his court. Texas is not one of them.More

Abbott in Mexico: Let's grow our trade ties
Houston Chronicle
While Most Texans were ramping up their Labor Day holiday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was in Mexico working on developing new trade alliances with the Lone Star State's southern neighbor. Read that: New jobs. Abbott lunched with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas and several border governors and economic development officials, and was to meet later in the day with CEOs and business leaders across Mexico to discuss ways to promote and expand economic opportunity on both sides of the border.More

Texas Legislature stresses importance of data collection and transparency
StateTech Magazine
During Texas' 2015 legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law 10 bills that expand the capability and reach of the Department of Information Resources. One of the bills empowers the agency to make an important new hire, while the other forms a collective that improves on data collection and transparency. According to StateScoop, HB1912 created the statewide data coordinator position.More

Banks starting to loosen purse strings on home builder loans
Construction Dive
Builders have consistently complained of a dearth of available AD&C loans in recent years, which they say is hindering stronger construction industry growth. The steady increase in loans reflects banks' improving confidence in the industry, and could mean good news for builders frustrated by the restrictions. Still, residential AD&C lending is significantly lower than before the housing bubble's peak. During the first quarter of 2008, home building loans totaled $203.8 billion — 72.5 percent higher than in the second quarter of 2015. More

International buyers pump $8.32B into Texas housing
Texas home sales purchased by international homebuyers added $8.32 billion to the state's economy between April 2014 and March 2015, according to the most recent 2015 Texas International Homebuyers Report by the Texas Association of Realtors. What's noteworthy is that the demographic pull of buyers is starting to veer away from the usual trends. For the first time in the report's history, homebuyers from Latin America (including Mexico) were not a clear majority of international homebuyers in Texas — comprising only 41 percent of international buyers.More

Labor hits and misses during 2015 session
In 100 years since Congress established Labor Day to recognize and reward the American worker, the U.S. established the minimum wage, eight-hour workday and 40-hour work week. Common issues on the workplace wish list these days include more vacation time, shorter days and longer weekends. The Eighty-fourth Texas Legislature passed hundreds of new laws in 2015, including a handful which affected the working conditions of everyday Texans.More

Tin city: The magic of metal wins over Houston homebuyers
Metal is hot in Houston. The New York Times and Chicago Tribune has called it "the most important architectural movement ever born in Houston." Once loved only by the city's avant-garde, "Tin Houses" are winning over all kinds of home buyers in Houston now. "It used to be I couldn't talk anyone into this. Now they are so popular I can't talk anyone out of it," says Cameron Armstrong, an award-winning architect who has designed dozens of metal homes in Houston and across the nation. "There are more metal houses here in Houston than anywhere else in the America."More

Has industry consolidation held back home construction?
The Wall Street Journal
The housing sector isn’t dragging on the economy anymore and has begun to provide a modest boost. But housing continues to punch below its traditional weight because home construction is a shell of its old self. Economists cite several reasons, from weak household formation that has held back entry-level demand to rising land costs. Both factors have made construction of starter homes in the outer suburbs, where land is cheaper, a riskier proposition. Instead, builders have deemphasized volume and shifted towards selling a smaller number of more expensive homes with big floor plans.More

The for-sale, for-rent model
Builder Magazine
George Casey writes: Over the past several years, I have watched companies such as Waypoint Homes (now Starwood Waypoint), American Homes 4 Rent, and other deep-pocketed investors move from just acquiring foreclosed existing single-family homes to figuring out how to do neighborhoods of new single-family homes for rent. Builders said it wouldn't work long-term. But it did. The group-think of home builders blinded them to a new opportunity that was there and actually fell into their wheelhouse.More

Housing market shows signs it's slowing down
Houston Chronicle
More new homes are sitting vacant and unsold across the Houston area, the possible leading edge of a real estate slowdown triggered by crude oil's price collapse. The trend is evident in higher-end homes in the region's northern reaches, especially in and around The Woodlands, where the expected surge of homes sold to Exxon Mobil transplants never fully materialized. Many of those upper-income workers brought to the oil giant's massive campus off Interstate 45 and the Grand Parkway are perhaps opting to rent instead.More

Reduce your risk through better visibility
By Nate Budde
Construction payment is complex and full of challenges. The credit-heavy nature of construction projects and the lack of visibility throughout a project can give rise to critical payment problems that can reverberate up and down the payment chain. Sometimes, what seems to be deep-seated payment problems turns out to be visibility issues, so setting up a culture of correcting those particular issues can reduce risk for all parties, and result in faster and more structured payment. More