The SAVE Act, is new bill being proposed in Congress, would create 83,000 jobs and generate $1.1 billion in annual energy bill savings. Officially known as the “Sensible Accounting to Value Energy” (SAVE) Act, it would require mortgage lenders to include expected energy-costs savings into the value of a home. Bill sponsors, Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), call the bill, ”A win-win for the economy and the environment.”
The Institute for Market Transformation notes that SAVE Act would help revitalize the hardest hit sectors of the economy by providing lower rate mortgage financing for cost effective energy improvements; allowing homebuilders and homeowners to recover the cost of efficiency investments; and enabling better federal mortgage underwriting while lowering utility bills for American households.
“It would allow folks to retrofit their homes and be rewarded for it over the life of the loan,” Senator Bennet enthused.
Let’s put the SAVE Act into action using a recently built home as our example. Most likely the newer home is as much as 75%-more energy-efficient than its older neighbors > saving the owner $1,500 a year. Under the SAVE Act, that savings would be factored into the value of the home and the borrower’s ability to make the mortgage payments.
Expected benefits include:
* Enable federal mortgage programs to improve the quality of mortgage underwriting and provide an accurate picture of repayment risk and the expected costs of homeownership
* Greatly accelerate the supply of and demand for energy-efficient new homes
* Quickly return any incremental cost for homebuyers due to home efficiency improvements
* Put people in the construction and manufacturing sectors back to work renovating and building energy-efficient homes and products
“It allows us to build and sell more energy-efficient houses, which is a win-win,” shared Randy Melvin of Winchester Homes. “It’s good for us, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the consumer, it’s good for our country’s energy independence.”
The average homeowner spends more than $2,000-a-year on energy, yet it is not factored into appraisals, unlike insurance or real estate taxes.
“Let’s say you install double-pane windows in your house that create energy efficiency, that’s a cost as homeowner, but it’s a savings that the lender can now recognize,” concludes Sen. Bennet.
by Jodi Summers
It’s a first for the U.S. > a national green building code. In development for more than two years, the International Green Construction Code (IgCC) applies to all new and renovated commercial buildings and residential buildings over three stories high.
“It represents a change in the standard of construction,” says Jessyca Henderson Director of Sustainability Advocacy at the American Institute of Architects. “It will affect everyone that touches buildings…it will be a big leap.”
To develop the code, the International Code Council collaborated with the American Institute of Architects, US Green Building Council, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), among other appropriate agencies.
The new code creates a mandatory “floor” – enforceable minimum standards on every aspect of building design and construction that now must be reached. These new minimum standards apply to all aspects of building design and construction, including energy and water efficiency, site impacts, building waste, and materials.
Here are some of the new rules of property development as set forth by the new ICC green building code:
Site Development, Land Use: In a big move toward environmental preservation, development on Greenfields (undeveloped land) is no longer acceptable, although there are exceptions based on existing infrastructure. There are new guidelines for site disturbance, irrigation, erosion control, transportation, heat island mitigation, graywater systems, habitat protection, and site restoration…so you too can help save the Round-tailed Ground Squirrel.
Materials: As with California codes, the ICC code requires a minimum of 50% of construction waste must be diverted from landfills, and at least 55% of building materials must be salvaged, recycled-content, recyclable, biobased, or indigenous. Buildings must be designed for at least 60 years of life, and must have a service plan that justifies that. If 600 years ago they built properties that have lasted 600 years, using modern technology for new construction to last 1/10th that time should be easy.
Energy Efficiency: total efficiency must be “51% of the energy allowable in the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code” (IECC), and building envelope performance must exceed that by 10%. It sets minimum standards for lighting and mechanical systems, and requires certain levels of submetering and demand-response automation.
Water Efficiency: The ICC code establishes maximum consumption of fixtures and appliances and sets standards for rainwater storage and graywater systems.
Indoor Air Quality: As you would expect, the new code addresses radon, asbestos, VOCs, sound transmission, and daylight.
Here’s a cute perk…every project is also required to choose an additional “elective,” which pushes the envelope for the developer further. There’s a sexy menu of elective choices, like whole-building life-cycle assessment to more stringent recycled-content.
Local governments and states have the choice of adopting the code – many California cities like West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Berkeley have already implemented their own codes. But, once a city chooses the ICC codes – which require no additional budget – it’s enforceable…but does allow for flexibility within the rules depending upon location and size of building. Also, it’s customizable. Municipalities can add their own requirements on top of the code that address local concerns such as stormwater management or lighting pollution control.
No information was shared on how these new rules will affect cost…we await that information with bated checkbooks. Expect the final code to reach the public late in 1Q 2012.
Bill Gunderson knows what rich people own. What they buy and sell. And what they pay in property taxes. As one of America’s top wealth managers, he’s seen it all.
And without a doubt, he says the easiest way for property owners to make money is to reassess the value of their homes to reduce property taxes.
“People all over America are paying way too much in property taxes,” Gunderson said. “And it is easy to see why: Property values have crashed, in many cases by 50% and more. But many are still paying taxes on the former value of their homes.”
The owner of a commercial building in Southern California, for example, recently received a property tax bill based on an assessed value of $2.6 million, But the property has been listed for half of that for almost a year — and still no takers.
“That person is paying tens of thousands a year too much,” Gunderson says. “In many states more.”
Many do not notice that because their property taxes are paid automatically as part of their mortgage payment. “It is the most expensive and common mistake I see,” Gunderson said. “And the most important and easiest to fix.”
Examples are easy to find. And easy to understand. But Gunderson says the real challenge is filing the application to have your assessment reduced. It is not that hard.
Some companies will charge you a few hundred dollars to perform this service, and that can be the most productive investment you will make all year.
In Utah, the deadline is 45 days after receipt of your assessment, which is mailed out in July. In California you have from Apil through the deadline of November 30.
But usually that is for taxes due next year. So if you have a bill based on an unrealistic assessment, you still have to pay that. Fair or not.
“That is ridiculous,” Gunderson said. “These property tax bills should go down automatically. But they don’t. So you have to pay attention and present evidence from comparable values or recent appraisals that show you property is over-valued.”
“It’s not that hard to do. You just download a form from your local tax assessor’s office then send it in.”
Even some of the big shot accountants for very wealthy people do not pay enough attention to this, Gunderson said. And it is not just for homes, it is also for commercial properties, rentals, and other tax-paying entities.
Gunderson is a frequent guest on national news and financial shows, including America Live with Megyn Kelly, America’s Nighty Scoreboard with David Asman, Bloomberg News, Barron’s, and dozens of others.
He is also the author of the Best Stocks Now app. “It is good to know all about earnings and stock reports and new products and other things that are important to an investment portfolio,” Gunderson said. “But making sure the county assessor has the correct value for your property is for many people found money, free money. But first you have to read your property tax bill and compare it to what your property is worth. The rest is easy.”
by Jodi Summers
Japan, New Zealand, Chile – three points on the Pacific Ring of Fire have been active in the last year…but nothing grand has happened on the Pacific coast of North America. Kind of makes you wonder when then next disaster will hit us?
As a refresher, the Ring of Fire is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. Los Angeles is part of the ring.
At home in Los Angeles, we’ve grown comfortable since the 1994 tragedy of the Northridge Earthquake. But, in the back of our minds, we all know another one can strike as stealthfully as the magnitude 6.3 quake did in Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb 22, 2011. Collectively, as a city, we pray that nothing as horrible as the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that occurred off the coast of the Maule and Biobío regions of Chile on February 27, 2010; or the devastating 9.0 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear melt down that struck northern Japan on March 11th; will ever happen here.
But, when we have the next disaster in Los Angeles, are you ready?
Statistics show 82% of you just said no.
You can be.
The Red Cross advises that there are two stages involved in disaster preparedness.
This first stage requires three blocks of time for putting keepsakes and documents together. The second stage of disaster prep and maintenance will require one day a month to check on everything.
Time One: Plan
Basic steps: “My No. 1 tip is to make a plan,” declared Keith Robertory, a preparedness expert with the American Red Cross. “If you’ve thought about it, you’ll be that much better prepared to act.” His suggestion – gather your household together to talk about these three questions. Put your answers on paper.
1. What types of emergencies could occur? Consider residential fires, as well as natural and man-made disasters.
2. Where would you go? The Red Cross says that residential fires are the most common disaster. Choose a meeting place outside and practice two evacuation routes from each room. Map the possible routes out of the neighborhood, and think about where you and your pets would stay if you had to leave your home. (Most emergency shelters do not accept pets. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions.) Next consider a “shelter-in-place” plan should a plague or an earthquake confines you to home – what supplies would you need and, depending on the emergency, which rooms would be safest?
3. Who would you contact? What would happen if an emergency occurred while you were at work or school? Agree on a preferred meeting place and identify two people to call if you can’t reach one another: one local contact and one out-of-state contact (long distance lines may be freer in times of crisis.) Everyone in your household should keep these names and phone numbers handy – say, in your cell phone and wallet. Additional steps: Every six months, review and update your plan and conduct an evacuation drill.
Time Two: Survival Kit
Basic steps: A basic survival kit should include enough nonperishable food and water for three days, a battery-operated radio and flashlight, and first aid supplies. Remember to include personal items (e.g., cash, prescription medications, diapers.). Choose a container like a backpack or a box that’s easy to carry. Additionally, you may want to put all of your important contact information for such assets as bank and investment accounts, credit cards, loan lenders, medical insurance, etc…
Additional steps: Every six months, re-evaluate your kit and update items. Be prepared; keep a kit in your car and at your workplace. Prepare a brief list – or even a box – of valuable or sentimental items you would grab if there were time.
Time Three: Review Your Insurance
Basic steps: Read your insurance policies; talk about potential emergencies with your insurance agent to make sure you understand what’s covered. You might need additional insurance. Typical homeowners or renters insurance policies don’t cover every calamity. For example, most policies in California don’t cover landslides, earthquakes, or floods. How much do you want to be insured for? What do you own? Take inventory of the items in your home. This will help you calculate how much coverage you might need for your personal possessions. Additionally, it will serve as a record should you file a claim. Try a room-by-room approach: For each item of value, note its brand, model, approximate date acquired, and estimated purchase and replacement costs. Videotape your contents and put the tape in your safe deposit box. Attach copies of receipts and other documents. This will keep you very, very busy.
May you never need to use your disaster preparedness kit. But, if there is a time when a lot of us are accessing them, you can bet there will be some fine values to be had in Los Angeles real estate.
Edited by Jodi Summers
It’s not that we’re having more disasters, it’s that the planet has more people. Experts now recommend that disaster survivors be prepared to be self-sufficient for up to 7 days. The U.S. Geological Survey, City of Los Angeles Fire Department, California Office of Emergency Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross have come up with the supplies you should have at home, at work and in your car, so that you can best survive a disaster.
• Dry food, such as candy bars, dried fruit, jerky & crackers
• Water or orange juice
• Tennis shoes or walking shoes
• First aid kit, flashlight & portable radio with extra batteries, matches
• Small & large plastic bags, toiletries
• Entertainment pack of family photos, notebooks, reading material & games
• Nonperishable packaged or canned food
• A gallon of water per person per day (replace every 6 months & count pets)
• Manuel can opener, fire extinguisher
• First aid kit & handbook
• Clothing, rain gear and sturdy shoes
• Blankets, portable radio, flashlight & spare batteries
• Essential medications & list of family physicians and the style & serial number of medical devices such as a pacemaker
• Extra eyeglasses, Extra set of house & car keys
• Toilet paper, toiletries
• Pet food, water & leash or carrier
• Cash & small change
• Any special foods & supplies for babies, the disabled or elderly
• Plastic eating utensils, paper cups, plates & paper towels
• Heavy duty aluminum foil, matches in waterproof container
• Knife, razor blades, Candles & light sticks
• Work gloves, broom, hammer & nails, coils of rope & wire
• Ax, crow bar & shovel, Small tool kit
• Cheesecloth (to strain water), Large & small plastic bags
• Two tarps, 8ft by 10 feet
• Local street map & compass, paper, pens & stamps
• Entertainment pack of family photos, notebooks, reading material & games
• Nylon tote or day pack, first aid kit, gloves
• Bottled water, nonperishable food, manual can opener
• Transistor radio, flashlight & extra batteries, blankets
• Sealable plastic bags, matches & lighter, small tool kit
• Walking shoes, extra socks, change of clothes
• Cash (small bills, coins), Local street map
Sources: USGS, City of Los Angeles Fire Department, California Office of Emergency Services, Federal Emergency Management Agency and American Red Cross
By Jodi Summers
Santa Monica has decided to take their Recovery money to build a park, a $46.1 million park. While none of the teams working on the project are located in Santa Monica, they promise the new Palisades Garden Walk will be green.
The project site spans from Ocean Avenue on the west to City Hall on the east, and the Interstate 10 Freeway from the north to an extension of Olympic Drive on the south. Palisades Garden Walk will be located on 6-acres bounded by Main Street on the east. Town Square picks up on the east side of Main Street and is a 1-acre site directly in front of City Hall.
What’s so green about this park is the way Santa Monica is treating the area’s existing trees. 76 trees will be protected in their current location, including “Morty” a very large Moreton Bay Fig tree next to the I-10 freeway; 27 trees will be moved and replanted within the park; and 20 palm trees will be moved and replanted off-site out of the coastal zone. Two fichus trees will be removed and not relocated due to their poor condition.
City officials point out that the most challenging and dramatic of the tree transplantations will involve the “Three Amigos,” a trio of gigantic Ficus rubinginosa trees that sit directly in the way of the future extension of Olympic Drive between Main and Ocean. Moving trees of this scale requires the contractor to work in two phases. In the first phase of the work, each of the “Three Amigos” will be carefully root pruned and boxed. The “Amigos” will then sit in place for 60 days while their roots adjust and the initial shock wears off. After the 60 days, each tree will be carefully lifted, using a pneumatic lifting system similar to how homes are moved and placed onto a truck bed. They will then be driven about 550 feet from their current location, lowered again using the pneumatic lifting system and planted based on the approved park design.
Other trees on-site will be either pruned and boxed, or pruned and wrapped in burlap, and moved to final planting locations. 20 Washingtonia robusta palm trees will be transported to Woodlawn Cemetery and planted there as Coastal Commission policy prevents the City from replanting these anywhere within the coastal zone, including the park site.
In addition to the current collection of trees, foliage will include of a variety of drought-tolerant native grasses, perennials, bulbs and small shrubs as well as three forest types. Sycamores, oaks and pines along will be incorporated to create different canopies for a variety of shade experiences.
In addition to being green with their trees, Santa Monica spent green on the project. As always, the City went A-list on the project and chose the internationally-renowned James Corner Field Operations group to design the park. James Corner is internationally renowned as a Landscape Architect and theorist. He’s at the forefront of the landscape urbanism movement. His focus is on “developing innovative approaches toward landscape architectural design and urbanism.” Examples of his work include Fresh Kills Park on Staten Island and the High Line design in New York City.
After intensive study, the design team came up with a scheme they dub, “Arroyo Wash” for the 7-acre project. In contrast to the arroyo concept, they describe the design to be “fluid braided pathways appear to organically emerge from the entrance of City Hall extending outward and connecting neighborhoods with the Pier, the beach, and civic campus. Linear rolling topography reinforces the softness of the circulatory system and creates a series of “bluffs” that host overlooks and framed views of the city. Carved into the rolling topography are a variety of coves offering space for small events and performances, an outdoor café, gardens, play spaces, and bike kiosks.
Official jargon states the site is uniquely and advantageously situated to become a civic destination as well as the new heart and center for Santa Monica. But, as the new $46.1 million park is adjacent to city hall, was it designed and budgeted with city employees in mind?
Check for updates on the project’s progress @ www.smciviccenterparks.com.
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