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NAHB Unveils New Map Tool for Endangered Species

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NAHB Unveils New Map Tool for Endangered Species
At the NAHB Board of Directors meeting last week, the association unveiled an important new member benefit for builders, developers and others who want to know more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's plans to step up the “listing” process for endangered and threatened plants and animals under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The interactive species finder map allows members to search by state and county to determine the status of the more than 1,400 species currently protected by the ESA as well as the status of 700 additional species whose listings are now in the planning stages. The NAHB Environmental Issues Committee touts this new member benefit as an “early warning system” for builders who might want to reconsider how to develop a specific property or whether to even purchase it based on its likelihood of being designated as an endangered animal's critical habitat.

State and local home builders associations may also find it helpful to know what listings are in the works for their market areas so that they can begin putting resources together for comment letters and other tools to address proposed listings and habitat designations. Importantly, the new map tool also includes a set of Frequently Asked Questions designed to explain how the ESA works and explain some of the related terminology.
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Today's house plan photos are those of Archival Designs' Award Winning Luxury House Plan, Blanchard.

Study Seeks 'Right' Rate of Return for Energy-Efficient Features

A newly published special study on HousingEconomics.com addresses the question of what the appropriate rate of return should be for judging the cost effectiveness of a particular energy-saving feature in a home. While NAHB has a policy that classifies a change in building codes as cost effective if it returns at least 10% in energy savings in the first year, other approaches -- for example, those pegged to the current rate on a fixed-rate mortgage -- assume a much smaller rate of return will do. NAHB's economists argue that the common practice of using the current mortgage rate to discount energy savings is unrealistic, fails to account for buyers' borrowing constraints and doesn't reflect the way that consumers actually evaluate alternatives when deciding on which features to include in a new house. 
The article presents evidence from three different sources about rates of return that more realistically reflect household decision alternatives, all of which are in the same neighborhood as (though slightly higher than) the 10% return in NAHB's current policy. 

Meanwhile, it argues that the current mortgage rate of 4% is far too low of a benchmark against which to compare utility savings because doing so will result in some features being classified as cost-effective that are clearly priced higher than the market will bear. While NAHB surveys have shown that most home buyers do care about energy efficiency and are very interested in features of the home that can lower utility bills, home buyers on average say they need to save 14% of the upfront cost per year to make an investment in energy efficiency. This aligns with survey responses indicating that consumers are willing to pay about $7,100 up front to save $1,000 annually in utility costs. The study therefore concludes that the right rate of return to use when trying to judge the cost effectiveness of a particular energy-saving feature needs to be in the 11% and higher range if it is to accurately reflect housing market behavior -- very near to what is dictated by NAHB's policy on Cost-Effective and Affordable Energy Codes and Standards.

 

NAHB Mourns the Passing of Senior Life Director Dan Coleman

NAHB's leadership was sorry to learn just before our Spring Board of Directors Meeting of the passing of Senior Life Director Dan Coleman, from Victoria, Texas. Dan earned Builder of the Year honors from the Builders Association of Victoria in 1970, and the following year served as that BA's president. He was a managing partner of Coleman Roth Homes for a number of years before becoming a manager at Zarsky Lumber and eventually rising to the post of president and CEO of that company, where his father had worked before him. Dan was also president of the Lumbermen's Association of Texas in 1979 and was named Lumberman of the Year for the state of Texas in 1984. He served his country as a member of the Air Force during the Korean Conflict, and was a frequent traveler who over his lifetime managed to visit all 50 U.S. states as well as places on at least four other continents. Dan passed away on May 25, at the age of 82. Our thoughts are with his wife, daughter and grandchildren at this difficult time.

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  • Joanne Loftus
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