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NAHB sees demand for rentals

BY Ken Clark

The National Association of Home Builders sees multi-family as the force behind housing statistics.

Soaring production of multi-family apartments pushed nationwide housing starts beyond the million-unit mark for the first time since 2008 in March, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. The data show that total starts activity rose 7.0% for the month due entirely to a 31.1% increase on the multifamily side, while single-family production slipped 4.8% from a number that was revised strongly upward for the previous month. 

Yesterday’s housing starts report "is a reflection of the solid demand that many areas are seeing for rental apartments as young people take that first step into the housing market, which is a very positive development,” noted Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “The numbers are also in keeping with our latest surveys that show single-family builders are experiencing some difficulties in keeping up with rising demand for new homes due to increasing construction costs and other factors.”

Calling the latest data a “mixed bag” due to the opposite direction of single- and multi-family starts and a somewhat weaker amount of permit issuance, NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe said that nevertheless, the numbers indicate “a continuation of the slow, methodical march forward” that characterizes the housing recovery. He also noted that “The three-month moving average for single-family starts remained unchanged at 628,000 units in March — which is right on pace with NAHB’s forecast for a 25% gain in new-home production in 2013.”

While single-family starts declined 4.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 619,000 units in March, this was entirely due to a substantial upward revision to the previous month’s data, without which virtually no change would have been recorded. At the same time, multi-family housing starts surged 31.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000 units — their fastest pace since January 2006.

Three out of four regions posted gains in combined single- and multi-family housing production in March, with the Midwest registering a 9.6% increase, the South posting a 10.9% gain and the West noting a 2.7% rise. The Northeast was the lone exception to the rule, with a 5.8% decline.

Following a large gain in the previous month, total permit issuance fell 3.9% to a 902,000-unit rate in March. That decline reflected a 0.5% reduction to 595,000 units on the single-family side and a 10% reduction to 307,000 units on the multi-family side.

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Euro-Pro points to new cleaning technology

BY Ken Clark

Euro-Pro introduced the Shark brand Sonic Duo cleaning system for hard floors and carpets.

The Newton, Mass.-based company described the product as a breakthrough two-part cleaning system specially engineered with Trap & Remove Technology and dual-scrubbing action that scrubs more than 1,000 times per minute to remove stuck-on dirt and grime that vacuum cleaning cannot remove. 

“Sonic Duo is the new generation of cleaning. The all-in-one system tackles stuck-on dirt on carpets and hard floors with the combined power of the unit, the washable pad, and our powerful, yet gentle cleaning solutions,” said Mark Rosenzweig, CEO of Euro-Pro. “Floors are freed from trapped dirt, and restored and rejuvenated without using any toxic cleaners so your home is clean and safe.” 

The product is safe for all floor surfaces including carpets, area rugs, hardwood, tile, marble, stone, laminate and linoleum.

The Sonic Duo comes with reusable bottles and cleaning concentrates for both hard floors and carpets, reusable Carpet/Rug Cleaning Pads, Hard Floor Cleaning Pads, Hard Floor Polish Pads and Carpet Scrub ‘n Stain Pad that can last up to 20 washes and a storage tray.

The Shark Sonic Duo sells for $249.99 MSRP.

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Walmart unveils sustainable commitments in global meeting

BY HBSDEALER Staff

In its Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting on Monday, Walmart announced new commitments the retailer says will dramatically increase energy efficiency and renewables, and hasten its path toward being 100% supplied by renewable energy.

Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke outlined specific goals the company said it intends to achieve by Dec. 31, 2020:

  • Drive the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy globally every year, a 600% increase over 2010 levels; and
  • Reduce the kWh/sq. ft. energy intensity required to power Walmart’s buildings globally by 20% compared to 2010 levels.

"More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100% by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful," said Duke. "The math adds up pretty quickly – when we use less energy that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they’re great for our communities and the environment."

Walmart’s six-fold increase in renewable energy projects is expected to be equal to eliminating the need for roughly two U.S. fossil fuel power plants. Based on external estimates of projected energy costs and other factors, the two new commitments are anticipated to generate more than $1 billion annually in energy savings once fully implemented.

The company said it will also avoid 9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road, in effect halting the growth of GHG emissions from the company’s largest GHG source — energy used to power buildings — by 2020.

For the first time, the company is projecting this GHG decrease even with significant anticipated growth in stores and sales.

"When I look at the future, energy costs may grow as much as twice as fast as our anticipated store and club growth," Duke said. "Finding cleaner and more affordable energy is important to our every day low cost business model and that makes it important to our customers’ pocketbooks. Our leadership in this area is something our customers can feel good about because the result is a cleaner environment. And savings we can pass on to them."

In 2012, Walmart added nearly 100 renewable energy projects, bringing the total number of projects in operation worldwide to nearly 300 today. According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, it has more solar power capacity and number of systems than any other company in America.

In the U.S. alone, Walmart said it hopes to install solar power on at least 1,000 rooftops and facilities by 2020, a significant increase from just over 200 solar projects in operation or under development currently. In addition to onsite solar, the company will continue to develop projects in wind, fuel cells and other technologies. It will also procure offsite renewable energy from utility-scale projects, such as large wind projects, micro-hydro projects and geothermal.

In order to meet its energy efficiency goal between now and 2020, Walmart projects to increase LED usage in sales floor lighting, parking lots and other applications. Walmart will also focus on market-relevant scalable technologies, including high efficiency HVAC and refrigeration systems and sophisticated energy/building control systems.

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