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August 2014

News In Brief

By NWREporter

August 2014

  • Sarah Rick Lewontin, Executive Director of Bellwether Housing, received the Carla Okigwe Leadership Award at Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County's (HDC) annual luncheon on April 30th. This special award is given occasionally in honor of the vision and leadership of HDC's founding Executive Director, Carla Okigwe. Recipients are chosen for their exemplary contributions to the affordable housing movement and a clear commitment to bettering the lives of those struggling and the communities in which they live. Ms. Lewontin is the third recipient of the award since its inception in 2009. Sarah was recognized for her exceptional contributions to the affordable housing movement in Seattle and throughout King County. For many years, Sarah has participated in numerous activities throughout the community with a goal of raising awareness of the need for more affordable housing. She currently serves on Urban Land Institute Northwest's Advisory Board and co-chairs the ULI-NW Housing Task Force. She also serves on Puget Sound Regional Council's Growth Management Policy Board and the Seattle Mayor's Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing Incentives. Sarah is an active member of Seattle 4 Rotary, and represents Bellwether Housing as a member of the Housing Partnership Network. She served for many years on HDC's board of directors, including terms as president and treasurer.
  • The new-home market in the past year has largely been driven by the upper tier, resulting in record-setting rises to the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and garages being added to new homes, according to U.S. Census Bureau. Forty-four percent of homes built last year had at least four bedrooms, the highest percentage recorded since the Census began tracking the statistic in 1973, and up from 41 percent in 2012, according to the Census data. Another survey high: The percentage of homes built last year with at least three bathrooms grew from 30 percent in 2012 to 33 percent last year.

    New-home shoppers also are adding garages. The percentage of homes built with a garage for at least three cars rose to 21 percent last year - another survey high and up from 19 percent in 2012. To accommodate the desire for more bathrooms, bedrooms, and garages, homes are getting larger. The median size of a newly built home was 2,384 square feet last year, up 3.4 percent over the previous year. Square footage has steadily been increasing since 2009. The median price of a new home reached $268,900 last year, another Census survey record high.
  • An upswing in green building is expected over the next four years as more widespread adoption takes hold, according to survey respondents in McGraw Hill's latest SmartMarket Report. More than one-third of single-family builders, or 34 percent, report that more than 60 percent of their projects are "green." What's more, 62 percent of builders say they expect that more than 60 percent of their single-family homes will be green by 2018. The multifamily market is also going green. The number of multifamily builders who say that 90 percent of their current projects are green is expected to triple by 2018, rising from 6 percent to 18 percent, according to the report. Forty-two percent of builders say that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018. (Currently, 23 percent are operating at that level.) Builders say that buyers are showing more willingness to pay for green features. In 2013, 73 percent of single-family builders and 79 percent of single-family remodelers said that buyers were willing to pay a 3 percent to 5 percent premium for green homes. For multifamily homes, 68 percent of builders said that buyers were willing to pay more. In the survey, builders identified the following main drivers to building more green homes: energy cost increases; code, ordinance, and regulation changes; and green-product availability and affordability.
  • The Federal Housing Administration will be ending its public comment period in mid-August on a proposed program that would allow first-time homebuyers to get a discounted mortgage if they enroll in housing counseling classes, according to Tom Kelly. The program, called Homeowners Armed with Knowledge (HAWK), was announced last month by the FHA as way to curtail homebuyers' mortgage insurance premium costs. FHA is operating under the assumption that the more borrowers understand about home ownership, the less likely they are to default on their loans, thereby decreasing their lending risk. To be eligible for the discount, borrowers must take several courses before and after closing. FHA says consumers could save an average of $325 a year or nearly $10,000 over the life of the loan. FHA officials say the classes could make the difference between qualifying or not qualifying to buy a home. The courses will be taught by agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. FHA hopes that borrowers will be able to apply for the program by the end of the year.