Old buildings, green retrofits, no tax dollars
An ambitious plan to retrofit and upgrade buildings with no tax dollars and no up-front costs to owners is gaining momentum, according to an article in the New York Times.
British entrepreneur and Virgin Records founder Richard Branson played a key role in putting together the business group that plans to retrofit buildings — commercial buildings at first — and charge owners over time. The idea is that the charges, which will be tacked on to property-tax bills, will be less than the energy savings, according to the article.
The Ygrene Energy Fund of Santa Rosa, Calif., is at the helm of the business consortium. Others involved in the consortium are Lockheed Martin and Barclays. The initial activity of the project will take place in buildings in Miami and Sacramento.
The new approach to financing the retrofits is called PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy.
The newspaper quoted James D. Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund. "It’s a big deal," he said. "We’re talking about tens of billions of dollars in investments, and energy savings that are 10 times that amount. If you do this correctly, you would be able to shut down a third of the coal plants in the country.”
PACE financing has been applied to residential housing, but the practice slowed considerably when it was deemed to add risk to mortgages, according to the article.
Considering the fact that in
Considering the fact that in the long term, the energy savings are considerable and the potential benefit to the environment is quite significant, I look forward to this plan being put into place. I believe that Richard Branson is once again onto something, and perhaps he is the one that can fill the cavity that is present in the green efforts in Europe. Alex - cavalok
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States, IRS join home builder investigation
A probe of the hiring and wage practices of some of the nation’s largest home builders has widened to include the Internal Revenue Services and labor officials from nearly a dozen states, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.
The investigation, launched in August by the U.S. Department of Labor, is looking at whether home builders and some of the companies they do business with routinely misclassify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Another area of inquiry is possible violations of labor laws that guarantee minimum wage, overtime pay and benefits.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, and top labor officials from almost a dozen states have agreed to share information and work together on enforcement efforts. Businesses can then be subject to multiple fines because they can be charged with state and federal violations. States that have agreed to work with the Labor Department so far include Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Washington. Labor officials from New York and Illinois plan to sign up in the near future.
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Builder confidence dips
Builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes dipped by a single point in September to 14 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). The index has now held between 13 and 16 for six consecutive months.
"Very little has changed in terms of housing market conditions so far this year," said NAHB chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev. "Builders continue to confront the same challenges in accessing construction credit, obtaining accurate appraisal values for new homes and competing against foreclosed properties that they have seen for some time. Beyond this, both builder and consumer confidence took a hit in recent weeks, with the market disruptions caused by the S&P downgrade and congressional gridlock on the budget deficit."
NAHB chief economist David Crowe said: "The fact that the HMI continues to hover within such a narrow, low range reflects builders’ awareness that many consumers are simply unwilling or unable to move forward with a home purchase in today’s uncertain economic climate. While some bright spots are beginning to emerge in about a dozen select metro areas, the broader picture remains fairly bleak due to the weak economy and job market."
The NAHB has been conducting its monthly builder confidence survey for more than 20 years, asking builders of single-family homes to rate their sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to gauge traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." The index is then calculated and seasonally adjusted. Any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.
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