Housing News Roundup: April 23, 2015 | How Housing Matters

Housing News Roundup: April 23, 2015

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Off-Grid Solar Brings Affordable Electricity to Tribal Homes

Affordability and convenience is driving wider use of off-grid solar power on tribal reservations, including among the Navajo Nation, where 40% of homes currently lack electricity. Extending the electrical grid by one mile can cost up to $50,000; a solar panel costs $17,000. Financial constraints are holding the option back, though. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has delivered 260 solar panel units, but is currently out of money for more.

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Source: NPR

At Annual Meeting, City Planners Worry about Affordability

Sessions on affordability and equity were packed during the recent annual meeting of the American Planning Association in Seattle, and filtered into other discussions as well. Robert Hickey of the Center for Housing Policy told attendees that incomes are not keeping pace with housing costs and that the middle class — not just low-income families — are seeing housing costs eat into their budgets for other needs.

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Source: CityLab

Existing Home Sales Rise to Highest Levels in Eighteen Months

A new report from the National Association of Realtors shows that sales of previously owned homes jumped to their highest levels in a year and a half last month. But the report also found that rising home prices and too-small inventories are still holding back the market. The median price of a house in the U.S. was 212,000 in March, up 7.8% from the year before.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

What San Francisco Can Learn from Houston

San Francisco’s affordable housing problem is well documented. But why doesn’t Houston, another large market, suffer from the same? The answer is zoning — or, rather, a lack of it. “Zoning, parking minimums — these inadvertently drive up the fixed cost,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist of Zillow, about San Francisco. These fixed costs also drive developers to focus on more expensive housing. In comparison, Houston’s lack of zoning gives developers far more leeway in what and where they can build, which can lower costs and give residents lower-cost options.

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Source: Market Watch

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