Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Median home prices up in 2Q in most US cities, but not in Boise

The median sales price for previously occupied homes rose from year-ago levels in 100 out of 155 metropolitan areas.

From the August 11, 2010 Idaho Statesman:

Home prices rose in nearly two-thirds of U.S. cities this spring as buyers took advantage of tax incentives that gave the struggling housing market a temporary jolt.
The median sales price for previously occupied homes rose compared with last year in 100 out of 155 metropolitan areas tracked in the April-to-June quarter, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. That compares with 91 out of 152 cities in the January-to-March quarter. Fourteen cities had double-digit price increases.
But the boost to the housing market in the second quarter faded shortly after tax credits expired at the end of April. Home sales fell in June and are expected to plunge further in July. Prices are expected to follow in the second half of the year.
The lowest mortgage rates in decades haven't been enough to energize buyers. Home loan applications were virtually flat last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.
The national median price in the second quarter was $176,900, up from $174,200 in the same quarter last year and up from $166,400 in the January-to-March period.
The median price is the midpoint, which means half of the homes sold for more and half for less. It typically falls in the winter and rises in the summer months. That's because families with children traditional move during the summer and buy larger homes.
Home sellers, meanwhile, are being forced to cut their asking prices as demand remains weak. Among sellers who listed homes for sale at the start of this month, 25 percent had dropped their prices at least once, according to real estate website, which collects data from around the country.
That percentage had fallen as low as 19 percent in March, when tax credit-fueled sales were booming. The biggest problem, said Pete Flint, CEO of Trulia, is the lack of jobs.
"Until the employment market stabilizes, we don't see stabilization in the housing market," he said.
In the Realtors report, the largest price gain was in Akron, Ohio. Prices there were up 36 percent from a year ago. The San Francisco and San Jose areas, which have mounted a strong rebound from the housing bust, also saw prices rebound by about 25 percent. Prices in the Riverside, Calif. metro area were up 18 percent from a year ago.
The biggest price drops were in Cumberland, Md., Tucson, Ariz., Ocala, Fla. and Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas. Prices in all of those cities were down at least 13 percent from last year.
If the broader economy sinks back into a recession, things will get a lot worse. Celia Chen, senior director of Moody's Analytics, projects that home prices could drop another 20 percent by early 2012 if there is another recession. If the economic recovery remains on track, she sees prices falling another 5 percent and hitting bottom early next year.

Here's a look which cities had the biggest yearly home price gains, and which ones had the largest declines:


1) Akron, Ohio, $119,700, up 36 percent
2) San Jose, Calif. $630,000, up 26 percent
3) San Francisco, Calif. $591,000, up 25 percent
4) Riverside, Calif. $190,200, up 18 percent
5) Elmira, N.Y., $99,200, up 17 percent
6) Lansing, Mich., $99,100, up 13 percent
7) San Diego, Calif., $392,600, up 13 percent
8) Palm Bay, Fla., $117,300, up 13 percent
9) Erie, Pa., $110,200, up 13 percent
10 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., $94,1000, up 12 percent


1) Cumberland, Md., $104,500, down 15 percent.
2) Tucson, Ariz., $150,200, down 14 percent
3) Ocala, Fla., $95,900, down 13 percent
4) Beaumont, Texas., $120,700, down 13 percent
5) Boise City, Idaho., $140,100, down 13 percent
6) Hagerstown, Md., $149,800, down 9.2 percent
7) Jacksonville, Fla., $139,000, down 9 percent
8) Daytona Beach, Fla., $117,000, down 8 percent
9) Salem, Ore., $176,800, down 7.5 percent
10) Biloxi, Miss., $128,500, down 7.4 percent

Read more:

Chip shortage could benefit Micron Technology | Micron Technology | Idaho Statesman

As back to school time sees an increase in demand for electronics such as laptops, flash drives, chip maker Micron could have something to celebrate. But that might not mean anything for Boise.

Read more here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Idaho has a big labor pool, but a small talent pool |

What I've been saying all along...

Idaho's unemployment is at a record level, yet Clearwater Analytics and other local high-tech companies are having a difficult time finding people for key positions. The area's labor pool may be big, but it lacks depth - experienced or specialized high-tech workers. And that could hinder the state's ability to compete nationally and globally in the high-tech industries.
"Without a doubt the prevailing opinion on the coastal states is you probably cannot grow a tech company very big in the state of Idaho because the talent pool isn't there," said Bob Lokken at a business innovation conference last week. Lokken founded ProClarity, which was acquired by Microsoft; he recently launched WhiteCloud Analytics.

Read full article here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Idaho in the top 5 in 2009 for number of new startups | Idaho Economy | Idaho Statesman

Hundreds of business start-ups in 2009 put Idaho in the top five states on the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. The index calculated that about 450 out of 100,000 adults in Idaho started businesses each month in 2009.
Idaho also is making high marks on other lists recently. The state jumped to No. 7 from No. 14 on the American Legislative Exchange Council's Best Economic Outlook list. Boise came in at No. 16 on Forbes' America's Most Innovative Cities, which rates patents, funding, jobs and technology. The Economist praised Boise and Idaho's open space as "the final frontier in the Internet age."

Read full article here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Boise school leaders protest change to school day | Local News | Idaho Statesman

From today's ID Statesman: A real-world look into the complexities of urban public policy, with density issues, service levels and impact areas at the center of the argument. Just like we discuss in class!

While the majority of Boise School District trustees voted to start and end the school day later at nine elementary schools this fall, two trustees lodged protest votes against the state mandate that forced the decision.
"Nobody squawks more about federal mandates and federal control than the Idaho Legislature, but they do the same thing to the School District," said trustee Rory Jones, who voted against changing the school day to 9:15 a.m.-3:45 p.m. The current hours are 8:45 a.m.-3:25 p.m.
If the district did not make the change, the state would have withheld the $385,000 it says the district will save in busing.
"The sad part for me is the burden falls on a limited number of families who don't deserve this," Jones said.
About 20 percent of the kids in the district, or about 2,295 students and their families, will be affected, he said.
In an audit mandated by the state, the district's bus contractor, First Student, said these nine schools were close enough to the ending locations of other bus routes that merging the routes could save miles.
The state pays for the majority of school districts' transportation costs, but so far, the Boise School District has been the only one in the state affected by legislation that triggers an audit when the cost to transport students exceeds a cap set by the state.
"The Legislature wanted to look at districts with high population density to see if they were operating their transportation efficiency," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. "When you're saving money on transportation, $400,000 is money that can go in to other education programs."

But the formula the state used to calculate the cap is flawed, said Boise School Board President A.J. Balukoff.
The state used the cost per mile and the cost per rider to calculate efficiency, but 85 percent of transportation costs are fixed, he said.
Many kids in the Boise School District walk to school, and many don't qualify for busing because they live within 1.5 miles of their school, he said.
That makes the cost per rider high because there are fewer riders, he said.
Inner city transportation also has its own hitches. A bus that starts and stops every three blocks is going to have low miles, compared to a bus that goes out to Orchard Ranch and back, which is a 50-mile trip, and will appear to cost less to operate, he said.
"What does that tell you about your efficiency? Nothing," Balukoff said.

Read full article here.

Good news for Idaho's Future?

The future sure sounds promising, according to an ID Statesman article published today:

Idaho's green energy push is very different than that of other states and countries. It has offered few tax incentives and has never established so-called renewable energy portfolio standards - which require utilities to use so much green power- to promote the industry.

So what's Idaho got to sell?

Earlier this month, Chinese-owned Hoku Scientific began producing polysilicon for use in solar panels at its new $390 millionplant in Pocatello. Economic development officials there say they have three other energy companies looking to build in eastern Idaho that could bring more than $100 million in investment. Officials could know by June whether one has committed to Idaho, and by the end of the year for the rest.
"Hoku just fired up the plant and they're off to the races," Little said.
Micron Technology recently forged a partnership with Australian power giant Origin Energy to develop solar power technologies that is expected to lead to commercialization within 18 months. The U.S. Department of Energy, through the Idaho Office of Energy Resources, awarded Micron a $5 million grant to help it enter into the light emitting diode (LED) high-efficiency lighting market that is expected to take off by 2012.

Read more here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Immigrants in work force contributing factor to urban growth: new study finds

From the New York Times, April 15, 2010:

In 14 of the 25 largest metropolitan areas, including Boston, New York and San Francisco, more immigrants are employed in white-collar occupations than in lower-wage work like construction, manufacturing or cleaning.

The data belie a common perception in the nation’s hard-fought debate over immigration — articulated by lawmakers, pundits and advocates on all sides of the issue — that the surge in immigration in the last two decades has overwhelmed the United States with low-wage foreign laborers.

Over all, the analysis showed, the 25 million immigrants who live in the country’s largest metropolitan areas (about two-thirds of all immigrants in the country) are nearly evenly distributed across the job and income spectrum.

“The United States is getting a more varied and economically important flow of immigrants than the public seems to realize,” said David Dyssegaard Kallick, director for immigration research at the Fiscal Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group in New York that conducted the data analysis for The New York Times.

The analysis suggests, moreover, that the immigrants played a central role in the cycle of the economic growth of cities over the last two decades.

Cities with thriving immigrant populations — with high-earning and lower-wage workers — tended to be those that prospered the most.

“Economic growth in urban areas has been clearly connected with an increase in immigrants’ share of the local labor force,” Mr. Kallick said.

Surprisingly, the analysis showed, the growing cities were not the ones, like St. Louis, that drew primarily high-earning foreigners. In fact, the St. Louis area had one of the slowest growing economies.

Rather, the fastest economic growth between 1990 and 2008 was in cities like Atlanta, Denver and Phoenix that received large influxes of immigrants with a mix of occupations — including many in lower-paid service and blue-collar jobs.

In metropolitan Denver, where the economy doubled between 1990 and 2008, 63 percent of immigrants worked in jobs on the lower end of the pay scale.

Denver “did a great job of attracting people from other places in the world,” said Rich Jones, director of policy and research at the Bell Policy Center, a nonpartisan group in that city that focuses on the impact of economic and fiscal policies in Colorado. “They are coming with a variety of skills,” Mr. Jones said. “They created demand for goods, services and housing that began a dynamic.”

Read full article here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Glaeser: "Anti-Urban Bias" in Federal Government Policies

In a recent Boston Globe Op-ed, Ed Glaeser writes:

Over the past 60 years, cities have been hit by a painful policy trifecta: subsidization of highways, subsidization of homeownership, and a school system that creates strong incentives for many parents to leave city borders. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, an economist at Brown University, has documented that each new federally-funded “highway passing through a central city reduces its population by about 18 percent.’’

Subsidizing transportation decreases the advantage of living close together in cities, which should make every urbanite worry about the Senate’s fondness for using highway spending to fight recession. The current Senate jobs bill calls for a more than $30 billion increase for transportation over the next two years.

It is a mistake to think that spending on trains balances the scales. Cities will always benefit far less than exurbs from transportation because dense areas already have good means of getting around, like walking. Urban advocates would do better to either reduce highway subsidies or to balance that spending with more funding for urban schools.

Political leaders have long championed homeownership, but subsidizing homeownership is also anti-urban. Sixty-two percent of Boston homes are rented; 78 percent of Wellesley homes are owner-occupied. Cities are defined by apartments, and more than 85 percent of homes in multi-unit structures are rented. Suburbs are known for their single-family detached houses, and more than 85 percent of such homes are owner-occupied. Subsidizing homeownership, through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the home mortgage interest deduction, lures people out of cities.

Read full article here.

How Have Recent Rezonings in NYC Affected the City's Ability to Grow?

Examining the effects of Rezoning: Case of New York City

A new report by NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy examines the rezonings that took place between 2003 and 2007, and finds that of the 188,000 lots that were included in a City-initiated rezoning action, 23 percent were downzoned, 14 percent were upzoned, and almost 63 percent were subject to a contextual-only rezoning (a term for a rezoning that does not significantly change the buildable capacity but otherwise limits the kind of building allowed). Despite the small share of upzonings, on net, these actions increased the City's capacity for new residential building by 1.7 percent, or roughly 100 million square feet of residential capacity.

''Given the scale of rezoning activity during this time, it is critical to take a step back and ask: 'what is the net impact on the City’s capacity to accommodate new growth?''' said Vicki Been, faculty director of the Furman Center. ''While we find that on paper, the upzonings have added more capacity than the downzonings have taken away, we also find reason to doubt that all of this new capacity will be built out for residential use, and it remains unclear whether we are on track for creating enough new residential capacity to accommodate the one million new New Yorkers that are expected to live in the City by 2030.''

Click link below to access article.

Smart Growth Resource Library: How Have Recent Rezonings Affected the City's Ability to Grow?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Boise No. 10 for falling home prices | Business | Idaho Statesman

Sales of Valley homes increased 38 percent in February over a year ago, and the number of homes listed for sale decreased 22 percent. But median prices fell again in Ada County.

Sober sellers also are getting between 95 percent and 97 percent of their more realistic asking prices.

But the National Association of Realtors says the Valley's home-price declines this past year were the 10th worst among metro areas.

Read full story:

Boise No. 10 for falling home prices | Business | Idaho Statesman

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Treasure Valley home sales rise 50 percent; median prices mixed | Idaho Economy | Idaho Statesman

According to ID Statesman feature published on Mar 11, 2010:

The number of home sales in the Treasure Valley year over year in February were up 50 percent from 308 to 462, according to the latest data posted on the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service Web site.

Over all median sale prices in Ada County were down $4,400, or 2.6 percent, from $167,900 to $163,500, the MLS reported. Canyon County experienced a slight increase of 1 percent from $99,000 to $100,000.

In Ada County, existing home sale prices in February were close to the five-year low of 160,000 hit in October 2009. The median was down $3,000, or 2 percent, from $165,000 in January to $162,000 in February.

Median sales prices in new Ada County construction also went down $9,000 or 4.6 percent from $194,000 in January to $185,000 in February.

In Canyon County, existing home sales hit a new five-year low of $94,900, dropping $1,100 or 1.1 percent below $96,000 in January. However, new home median prices rose 8.4 percent from $125,000 in January to $135,500 in February.

Be careful when you interpret the median home prices though. It is not the same as average home prices in our area.

Treasure Valley home sales rise 50 percent; median prices mixed | Idaho Economy | Idaho Statesman

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Local Employment Dynamics data from US Census

Here's the ON THE MAP website for the local employment dynamics data for Boise, ID. This is the GIS mapping tool I showed you in class that is going to eventually replace Census Bureau's "journey to work" data.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Downtown Boise condo sales are looking up | Business | Idaho Statesman

Few if any condominiums in Downtown Boise were selling in August, but since then at least 25 sales have closed or are pending.

Lisa Lyons, director of sales for CitySide Lofts at Myrtle and 15th streets, where 10 units have sold since September and three sales are pending, said: "It seems we've hit a price, and with the combination of low interest rates and available FHA financing, we've found the market."

Units at CitySide Lofts sell from $159,900 to $350,000, down about 20 percent from prices of $199,000 to $450,000 two years ago.

Sales managers, agents and developers for five projects Downtown said most prices have dropped between 15 percent and 30 percent from 2007.

Read full story:

Downtown Boise condo sales are looking up | Business | Idaho Statesman

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Recession and Recovery in the Intermountain West’s Metropolitan Areas

Mark Muro, Fellow and Policy Director, Metropolitan Policy Program and Jonathan Rothwell, Senior Research Analyst of The Brookings Institution published a report titles the Mountain Monitor in Dec 2009 outlining the outlook for the Mountain West states.

According to this report:

Drawing on data covering the third quarter of 2009 (ending in September), the new Monitor documents that no multistate region has been hit harder by the last year’s economic crisis than the six-state Intermountain zone.

Across the region, the deflation of a massive housing “bubble,” widespread job losses, and the onset of a significant public-sector fiscal crisis have wreaked havoc on many communities. In many Intermountain region locations, the sheer abruptness of the shift from hyper-growth early in the decade to a severe contraction in the last year has spawned a sense of almost existential whiplash.

As the findings below highlight, even within the region the effects of the recession and recovery have not been uniformly felt. Phoenix, Boise, and Las Vegas, for example, remained three of the most troubled metropolitan areas in the entire nation in the third quarter, with all residing in the weakest quintile of metros on a combined measure of overall economic performance.

Read full report here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Downtown Boise streetcar project fails to get stimulus funds | News Updates | Idaho Statesman

The city's proposed Downtown streetcar project was not among the winners of a highly competitive federal stimulus grant for transportation projects. Boise had requested $40 million to help pay for a $60 million, 2.3-mile loop along Main and Idaho streets between 1st and 15th streets.

Full story... Downtown Boise streetcar project fails to get stimulus funds |Idaho Statesman

Friday, February 12, 2010

How America Can Own Its Transit Networks Again

From the "Next American City" Blog, a look at how the U.S. can own its transit network and make them economically viable Next American City » Buzz » How America Can Own Its Transit Networks Again.

High Speed Rails... China is making progress

President Obama is concerned, as are we, that the United States was falling behind Asia and Europe in high-speed rail construction and other clean energy industries. “Other countries aren’t waiting,” he said. “They want those jobs. China wants those jobs. Germany wants those jobs. They are going after them hard, making the investments required.”

According to a news report in today's NYT:

The Chinese bullet train, which has the world’s fastest average speed, connects Guangzhou, the southern coastal manufacturing center, to Wuhan, deep in the interior. In a little more than three hours, it travels 664 miles, comparable to the distance from Boston to southern Virginia. That is less time than Amtrak’s fastest train, the Acela, takes to go from Boston just to New York.

Even more impressive, the Guangzhou-to-Wuhan train is just one of 42 high-speed lines recently opened or set to open by 2012 in China. By comparison, the United States hopes to build its first high-speed rail line by 2014, an 84-mile route linking Tampa and Orlando, Fla.

Read full article here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heard about those "Starter" Mansions?

Timothy Egan writes about abandoned rows of suburban houses in California. What will happen to the stock of houses that nobody wants?

Egan writes:

Drive along foreclosure alley, through new planned communities that look like tile-roofed versions of a 21st century ghost town, and you see what happens when people gamble with houses instead of casino chips.

Dirty flags advertise rock-bottom discounts on empty starter mansions. On the ground, foreclosure signs are tagged with gang graffiti. Empty lots are untended, cratered with mud puddles from the winter storms that have hammered California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Nobody is home in the cities of the future.

Read the full article here.

Urban Growth in Salt Lake City

An interesting article on the plans for and controversy over a new development in downtown Salt Lake City, UT.

Santa Fe, NM: A success story of urban growth

Check out the link to a New York Times article on Santa Fe, New Mexico: The Art of Being Santa Fe.