PRESS RELEASE: FALL FESTIVAL OF HOMES PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS ANNOUNCED

(SPOKANE, Wash.) – Thanks to the support of the community, the 11th Annual Fall Festival of Homes was a huge success. The event provided the opportunity for our neighbors to view homes throughout our community in price ranges and styles to meet the needs of many potential homebuyers and those looking for home improvement and interior design ideas.

Attendees had the opportunity to vote for their favorite home in the People’s Choice Awards. Voters were asked to rate each home on a scale ranging from one to five stars, and the scores were averaged to determine the winners. We congratulate all of the winners of the People’s Choice Awards!

The value of new construction is proven again and again with more energy efficient homes, desirable open floor-plans, flexible spaces, improved safety features and low-maintenance materials. Fall Festival of Homes attendance continues to rise every year as the public turns out to meet quality new home builders in neighborhoods throughout the Spokane area.

Many of the homes have sold, but all of the Fall Festival homes are still featured in virtual tours at www.SpokaneFestivalofHomes.com.

2015 Fall Festival of Homes People’s Choice Award Winners

Up to $250,000: #17 Markham Homes Inc – 17012 E Baldwin Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #27 Greenstone – 920 E Colbert Road

$350,001 – $375,000: #12 Eric Madsen Homes – 16607 E 10th Ave

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #2 Paras Homes LLC – 6816 S Woodhaven Ct

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #28 Ted Miller Construction – 14210 N Wandermere Estates Lane

The Spokane Home Builders Association would like to thank the Fall Festival of Homes Signature Sponsor, PRO-Build, and Partner Sponsors Avista, Coldwell Banker Tomlinson, INB, and the Inlander, for their generous support.

The Spokane Home Builders Association is the premier voice of the building industry of the Inland Northwest and champion of homeownership and quality community development. Please visit www.SHBA.com for additional information regarding membership, benefits, and programs.

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PRESS RELEASE: FALL FESTIVAL OF HOMES INDUSTRY AWARDS ANNOUNCED

(SPOKANE, Wash.) – New home construction awards were presented to builders participating in the 11th Annual Fall Festival of Homes at the Kick-Off Night & Awards Dinner held this past Thursday.

The Spokane Home Builders Association is proud to announce the winners for the following categories:

BEST OVERALL

Up to $250,000: #16 Hayden Homes – 18914 E Grace Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #23 Greenstone – 9202 N Rosebury Lane

$350,001 – $375,000: #12 Eric Madsen Homes – 16607 E 10th Ave

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #22 Greenstone – 8609 N Rosebury Lane

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #28 Ted Miller Construction – 14210 N Wandermere Estates Lane

 

BEST ARCHITECTURAL & INTERIOR DESIGN

Up to $250,000: #16 Hayden Homes – 18914 E Grace Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #23 Greenstone – 9202 N Rosebury Lane

$350,001 – $375,000: #12 Eric Madsen Homes – 16607 E 10th Ave

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #22 Greenstone – 8609 N Rosebury Lane

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #28 Ted Miller Construction – 14210 N Wandermere Estates Lane

 

BEST KITCHEN

Up to $250,000: #16 Hayden Homes – 18914 E Grace Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #23 Greenstone – 9202 N Rosebury Lane

$350,001 – $375,000: #12 Eric Madsen Homes – 16607 E 10th Ave

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #22 Greenstone – 8609 N Rosebury Lane

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #28 Ted Miller Construction – 14210 N Wandermere Estates Lane

 

 

BEST MASTER SUITE

Up to $250,000: #16 Hayden Homes – 18914 E Grace Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #23 Greenstone – 9202 N Rosebury Lane

$350,001 – $375,000: #15 Greenstone – 19925 E Knox Ct

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #22 Greenstone – 8609 N Rosebury Lane

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #28 Ted Miller Construction – 14210 N Wandermere Estates Lane

 

BEST LANDSCAPING

Up to $250,000: #16 Hayden Homes – 18914 E Grace Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #27 Greenstone Homes – 920 E Colbert Road

$350,001 – $375,000: #21 Paras Homes – 5409 N Radium Lane

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #2 Paras Homes – 6816 S Woodhaven Ct

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #6 Paras Homes – 4320 S Bernson Lane

 

BEST TECHNOLOGY

Up to $250,000: #17 Markham Homes – 17012 E Baldwin Ave

$250,001 – $300,000: #29 Condron Homes – 13517 N Mayfair Street

$300,001 – $350,000: #27 Greenstone Homes – 920 E Colbert Road

$350,001 – $375,000: #18 Sullivan Homes – 5305 N Del Ray Drive

$375,001 – $400,000: #1 Morse Western Homes – 915 W Basalt Ridge Ct

$400,001 – $450,000: #22 Greenstone – 8609 N Rosebury Lane

$450,001 – $500,000: #7 Camden Homes – 13202 E San Juan Lane

$500,001 – $750,000: #28 Ted Miller Construction – 14210 N Wandermere Estates Lane

 

The public can visit these great homes during the second weekend of the show this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday, October 2-4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The event is the largest new home construction showcase in the Inland Northwest featuring 31 homes from 19 of Spokane’s finest builders.

Find additional show information, maps and directions to these award winning homes, and all of homes in the Festival, at www.SpokaneFestivalofHomes.com. This year’s event features homes that fit almost any budget and are located in great neighborhoods throughout the area.

Those interested in viewing these beautiful homes are encouraged to start their tour at one of our three “host sites.” Show magazines and maps will be available at Eagle Ridge in South Spokane, Elk Ridge Heights in Spokane Valley, and Ponderosa Ridge in Northwest Spokane. To locate the host site nearest you, visit www.SpokaneFestivalofHomes.com.

The Spokane Home Builders Association would like to thank the Fall Festival of Homes Signature Sponsor, PRO-Build, and Partner Sponsors Avista, Coldwell Banker Tomlinson, INB, and the Inlander, for their generous support.

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PRESS RELEASE: ANNUAL FALL FESTIVAL OF HOMES FEATURES 31 NEW CONSTRUCTION HOMES

(SPOKANE, Wash.) – The Spokane Home Builders Association is proud to announce the return of the Fall Festival of Homes.

The 11th annual event is set for the weekends of September 25-27 and October 2-4. The event is the largest new home construction showcase in the Inland Northwest featuring 31 homes from 19 of Spokane’s finest builders. This year’s event features homes varying in price from under $200,000 to $1.2 million and are located in neighborhoods throughout Spokane County.

September 25-27 & October 2-4
Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
www.SpokaneFestivalofHomes.com

Proudly presented by the Spokane Home Builders Association, and sponsored by PRO-Build, the Fall Festival of Homes provides the public with a FREE tour of newly constructed homes in Spokane where they can view the latest building techniques and designs. Show attendees are encouraged to fill out “People’s Choice Ballots” to help us recognize the best homes in the show. Ballots are located at each home.

Today’s market offers unprecedented opportunities for those who want to take advantage of building or purchasing a new home. It is still a buyer’s market with affordable prices, low mortgage rates and great, energy efficient homes. These new homes also are significantly more resource efficient and environmentally friendly and are designed to accommodate today’s busy lifestyles with open floor-plans, flexible spaces, improved safety features and low-maintenance materials. But, market conditions are changing and these opportunities may not be around for long.

Those interested in viewing these beautiful homes can start their tour at one of our three “host sites.” Show magazines and maps will be available at Eagle Ridge in South Spokane, Elk Ridge Heights in Spokane Valley, and Ponderosa Ridge in Northwest Spokane. To locate the host site nearest you, visit www.SpokaneFestivalofHomes.com.

More information on the show can be found at www.SpokaneFestivalofHomes.com. Maps and an event guide will also be included in a special insert in the Wednesday, September 23, edition of the Spokesman-Review, and event information will be shared in radio, TV and print advertisements in the community throughout the show.

The public can contact the Spokane Home Builders Association at (509) 532-4990 or at www.SHBA.com to request additional information on the Fall Festival of Homes.

The Spokane Home Builders Association would like to thank the Fall Festival of Homes Signature Sponsor, PRO-Build, and Partner Sponsors Avista, Coldwell Banker Tomlinson, INB, and the Inlander, for their generous support.

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RELEASE: STRONG CANDIDATE PARTICIPATION IN SHBA BACKGROUND CHECK PROCESS

(Spokane, Wash.) – The Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) is pleased to report that the new mandatory background check policy for candidates has been met with a positive response and strong participation.

“Following our first time going through this process, we continue to believe that mandatory background checks for candidates increases transparency, which is beneficial for the both the community and the candidates themselves,” said Michael Cathcart, Government Affairs Director for the Spokane Home Builders Association.

The May 21st press release, “Spokane Home Builders Association Taking the Lead on Candidate Transparency,” which announced this new program is available by visiting SHBA.com or by clicking here.

The SHBA invited 19 candidates to participate in an endorsement process that concluded this week with candidate interviews and a vote of the Board of Directors. The first step asked the invited candidates to comply with the background check requirements. The Association declined to interview or consider any candidates who did not agree to the background check.

An announcement of the endorsed candidates will be released next week.

The following list includes all of the candidates invited to participate, if they participated, and whether they chose to publish the results for the public to see. All published background check reports are available online at www.candidateverification.org.

Candidate Participation Chart

“We want to thank all of the candidates who chose to take part in the background check and those choosing to publish the results. We believe this is a big win for election transparency in Eastern Washington,” said Cathcart. “We continue to encourage all Eastern Washington organizations who issue campaign endorsements to join with us in making background checks a mandatory part of their process.”

The background checks through Candidate Verification include:

  • Civil and criminal records search, including the national sex offender registry search
  • Military records verification
  • Resume verification, including: employment history verification, professional credential verification, and post-secondary degree/diploma verification
  • NOTE: A credit check is not part of this process

More information about Candidate Verification can be found at www.candidateverification.org. Anyone wishing to contribute to Candidate Verification to ensure the funding of candidate background checks in Spokane and Eastern Washington may do so by clicking here.

Release: Spokane Home Builders Association Taking the Lead on Candidate Transparency

(Spokane, Wash.) – The Board of Directors of the Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) made the decision this week to modify its candidate endorsement policy to include mandatory background checks for anyone seeking election support going forward.

The background checks are free and self-authorized by the candidates. The SHBA is partnering with Candidate Verification, a non-profit 501C3 organization based in Seattle to make this requirement possible. Once the candidate has had the opportunity to review his or her background check, Candidate Verification will then post it online for the public to see.

More information about Candidate Verification can be found at www.candidateverification.org.

“As an Association that has long advocated for more government transparency, and as one of our region’s strongest and most active political advocacy organizations, it seemed a natural fit to make mandatory background checks a pre-requisite for our endorsement,” said Michael Cathcart, Government Affairs Director for the Spokane Home Builders Association. “We see this as the next evolution of candidate and election transparency and we are excited to be the first in Eastern Washington to sign-on and the second organization in the State to make this mandatory.”

Already implementing mandatory background checks is the Western Washington advocacy organization, Stand for Children. Others encouraging candidates to comply, but not making it mandatory, include: the King County Municipal League, King County Republican Party, Snohomish County REALTORS Association, and Progressive Majority.

“We don’t want to be all alone in this here in Eastern Washington,” added Cathcart. “This is a very non-partisan issue, so we have started the process of reaching out to a broad and bi-partisan range of political, labor, and business organizations that support and endorse candidates and asking them to join us in making candidate transparency a priority. We are calling on the Spokesman Review and the Inlander to join-in as well.”

The background checks through Candidate Verification will include:

  • Civil and criminal records search, including the national sex offender registry search
  • Military records verification
  • Resume verification, including: employment history verification, professional credential verification, and post-secondary degree/diploma verification
  • NOTE: A credit check is not part of this process

“This added step is beneficial for the candidate as well as the community,” said Cathcart. “The candidates will benefit because any erroneous information about their background will be kept to a minimum and the community gets to benefit from the certainty and transparency the background checks provide. The voters will actually have a way to verify some of the information candidates are telling them throughout election season.”

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Spokane Transit Authority Ballot Measure Not Supported by the Spokane Home Builders Association

For Immediate Release

Spokane Transit Authority Ballot Measure Not Supported

by the Spokane Home Builders Association

(Spokane, Wash.) – Following multiple presentations and discussions regarding the April 28th Spokane Transit Authority ballot measure, the Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) Board of Directors has determined that too many concerns exist for our Association and, as a result, we are not willing to endorse or support the Proposition.

“Our Association believes in the benefits of effective mobility and we fully support a multitude of transportation options when done in a responsible and cost effective manner, we just don’t feel the ballot measure as presented to voters meets that criteria,” said Michael Cathcart, Government Affairs Director for the SHBA. “The measure does contain some positive elements such as the West Plains and Upriver Transit Centers, some route efficiency improvements throughout Spokane, increased night and weekend service, and the added bus shelters. However, the significant increase in the tax rate, the Central City Line as it is presented, and the growing scope of STA to include service beyond its current boundaries are major concerns for us.”

Continue below to read our entire statement on the STA ballot measure…

 # # #

The Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA) supports a robust transportation network throughout the Spokane region. We recognize the significant benefits effective mobility has not only for each individual, but for our entire community. However, the upcoming Spokane Transit Authority Proposition is not a measure we are able to endorse.

First, it’s important to share that in the last six months, the SHBA has taken the uncharacteristic position of supporting and promoting several tax measures – including the Spokane Street Levy, Spokane Park Bond, the Central Valley Schools Bond, and the Spokane Schools Bond and Levy.

Turning down most of these measures would have resulted in a decreased rate of taxation, so the question many ask is, why would a traditionally tax averse organization endorse these measures?

Quite simply, we ask government to work smarter, be inventive, responsible, and thoughtful where tax dollars are concerned and that, to a large degree, is what these packages accomplished. Our Association found common cause in the careful and diligent approach the school districts and the City of Spokane took in crafting the proposals to fill the needs of the community, while keeping tax rates flat. In our view this actually protected taxpayers. In addition, by leveraging local dollars into these significant infrastructure investments, we promote economic growth and revitalization to the benefit of the entire community.

The voters clearly agreed.

Now, looking ahead at the forthcoming Spokane Transit Authority Proposition, our Association used the same lens to analyze the proposal as we did those previous measures. We concluded that the proposal has some positive aspects to it and we can understand why certain organizations and elected officials have chosen to endorse the plan, however, our concerns are too significant and too numerous for us to do the same.

Let’s first address the positive aspects of STA’s proposal.

The West Plains Transit Center – The ballot measure would build a West Plains Transit Center making bus travel far more customer friendly and efficient out on the West Plains. Currently, STA users out on the West Plains have no ability to travel from say Medical Lake to Cheney without going all the way downtown to make the connection. This would correct that inefficiency.

Route Improvements – The ballot measure creates several route improvements which allow riders in the West Central, Logan, and Lincoln Heights neighborhoods to travel much more efficiently without the need for making connections at the STA Plaza downtown.

Upriver Transit Center – Locating a larger transit center on or near the Spokane Community College (SCC) campus would enhance student and employee access to campus, while also serving nearby residents with expanded options for making connections to other routes – presumably without a need to travel downtown to the Plaza. We will touch on this a little more later on.

Night and Weekend Service – Many people have different work schedules, family commitments, or entertainment opportunities and often these don’t work perfectly with the typical daytime bus service. As long as additional night and weekend service is carefully implemented to ensure busses are running as efficiently as possible, this accommodation is a very good thing.

Adding Bus Shelters – The people utilizing bus service shouldn’t be forced to stand out in the elements. In fact, increasing the number of shelters might also help increase ridership. So, it makes a lot of sense to add shelters where feasible. Should the ballot measure pass, STA needs to work diligently to ensure the shelters integrate well with the neighborhoods, while also taking great care to be very cost conscious.

Unfortunately, much like cable service doesn’t let us pick the individual channels we want to pay for, we don’t get to pick and choose which elements of STA’s plan to support either.

So let’s dig into our concerns.

The center piece of the STA proposal – the Central City Line – The proposal calls for a six mile system – long referred to as a trolley, but more recently identified by STA as a form of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) – at a cost of $72 million assuming no overruns. It’s important to point out that we don’t necessarily oppose the concept. A bus-rapid-transit system has its merits; however in this instance, we do question the cost per mile, the funding source, and the identified route and the lack of real-world testing to ensure the rider demand is really there to make it successful.

                The Cost: It appears Spokane will be paying a premium, a significant premium, in order to have a system operated by “zero emission” vehicles. There’s really no other good explanation for why we will pay $72 million for six miles when nearby places like Everett, WA and Eugene, OR have built similar projects in recent years at much lower cost. The Swift BRT in Everett runs over 16 miles and features 15 hybrid-electric vehicles, real-time tracking so passengers know exactly when the next vehicle will arrive, and off board ticket purchasing to keep the system moving. All of this at a cost of about $30 million. The similar Emerald Express in Eugene has two routes combining for about 12 miles in length and costing in the neighborhood of $63 million.

The proposed Central City Line would feature an inductive charging system. Each of the all-electric vehicles would be required to connect to a built-in inductive charging pad intermittently throughout the day to stay powered. The cost of a current hybrid-electric bus in Spokane is a little over $500,000, but it isn’t clear what Spokane would be charged for these alternative all-electric vehicles and their charging stations. For comparison sake it appears based on the 2015 Business Plan for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority in California, they will spend about $760,000 dollars for one charging station and about $863,000 for a single electric bus.

                Who Pays: A big question in our mind is, should the entire transportation district pay for a system that is so downtown and U-District centric or would it be more appropriate for this to be paid for through an alternative means that focuses on businesses, residents, and the colleges along the route – essentially those who stand most to benefit?

                The Route: The proposed route would begin around Brownes Addition, travel through downtown to the U-District and end at Spokane Community College. This serves a relatively small percentage of the population. While Downtown and the U-District are certainly important and make vital contributions to our local economy, we have to ask the question, what percentage of the population will actually get good use out of the proposed system? Most of the City would need to travel downtown to even get access to the Central City Line. The cost of extending the route all the way to SCC is also questionable in our view, especially when the Upriver Transit Center would theoretically make bus travel to the school far more efficient and limit the need for many riders to travel to the Plaza where they would get access to the Central City Line.

If you’re going to do a BRT system, we think it would make much more sense to give access to a far greater percentage of the population. A route that travels North/South through neighborhoods on the Northside or South Hill or even East/West picking up some of the Valley and East Sprague areas would provide better commuting opportunities to downtown and/or the U-District.

At this point the route is set and voters will decide next month if they agree, however, voters should also take caution as STA has never actually performed any real world tests on this project. One argument officials make for the Central City Line is that it would be a “cool” looking system. We think before going to voters, STA could have painted some busses in a cool or unique way, added some neat amenities, even built out a few test stations in order to gauge if the demand and interest actually exists to warrant the significant capital investment of the full system. This has never taken place making the success of the project largely unpredictable.

Based on the recent STA election mail piece, we suspect the feedback STA has received on the Central City Line isn’t too far off from our criticisms above. The glossy (publicly funded) mailer contains only one very vague reference to the project, which in early materials was paraded as the central focal point.

Sales Tax Increase – We understand that a growing public operation requires increasing revenues in order to pay for it, but it’s disappointing that STA doesn’t offer any sort of out-of-the-box solutions for alleviating the transit subsidy carried by tax payers; in fact the proposal only increases it. Raising the sales tax rate from 8.7% to 9.0% may not sound significant, but it adds up – to the tune of $300 million over a 10 year period. In terms of sustainability, the proposal leaves no room for error. STA is only permitted to ask voters for up to 0.9% of the sales tax and with this 0.3% increase they will be at that ceiling. If the costs continue increasing overtime and additional sales tax dollars are required, STA will be left with few options.

This tax increase will certainly have an effect on the cost and affordability of new construction as well, which is a large concern for us. We estimate that a $250,000 home will see an increase of about $475. That’s enough to price out of the market well over 100 families. The value of home ownership is huge. It’s a great investment for families, it enhances the local economy, and it makes a big difference on the quality of local schools.

Increasing taxes has many unintended consequences and we believe everyone deserves to be aware of this.

We think STA should spend more time and energy focusing on how to either increase the share of operating costs contributed by riders, which is currently only a meager 16%, or it should look for alternative opportunities to generate non-fare, non-taxpayer subsidized revenue. One area to consider is creating better partnerships with the private sector to generate sponsorship/advertising dollars.

In addition, nothing indicates plans are in motion to lower administrative costs, which have been steadily increasing and are up 96% since 2006 – including increases seen during the recession.

There are also questions concerning the level of cash STA keeps on hand year-after-year. The designated reserves fund for STA has ranged from about $13 million to $20 million over the past few years, however (according to STA’s online posted budgets) they have never maintained less than about $40 million cash on hand going back to 2008 – the average is closer to $48 million. Why so much more cash than what’s required? In theory, the excess revenue is meant to support capital projects, but year-after-year the cash on hand really doesn’t vary too significantly. Certainly we want public entities to be quite diligent in how they budget, but maintaining millions of dollars in excess of their designated reserves may indicate they are asking for unnecessarily excessive revenues/taxes.

One thing we really appreciate about Central Valley School District was how hard they worked to find ways to preserve tax payer dollars before they went back to the ballot, such as saving considerable money by rehabbing an old box store for use as a school. We can also look to the inventive approach taken by the City of Spokane where they found ways to combine utilities and street improvements in order to provide a much better value for taxpayers. We wish STA would have followed their lead as they developed this package.

If a tax increase for STA is absolutely necessary, it should only come after every alternative has been considered and we really don’t believe we are there yet.

STA Bus Service to Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene – Perhaps there is an opportunity to make this connection, however this type of service should not be subsidized by local tax payers. This is a much more specialized service that makes more sense being paid for at the fare box. We would rather see STA work on more efficiencies and enhancements here at home before looking at expanding the scope of their service outside of our boundaries.

Again, we see value in a robust regional transportation network and we support cost effective transit opportunities. On this ballot measure, however, we will leave it to the voters to weigh the pros and cons and make their decision, but our name will not be listed as an endorser.

Rising Number of Open Jobs in Construction

The number of open, unfilled construction sector positions increased in November and was revised up for October.

According to the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and NAHB analysis, the number of open construction sector jobs for November (on a seasonally adjusted basis) rose to 145,000. The November level marks the 3rd highest total of unfilled jobs in construction during the post-recession period.

On a three-month moving average basis, the open position rate for the construction sector increased to 2.13% in November. Over the last year, the open construction jobs rate has typically been higher than the rates that were experienced during the 2001-2003 period prior to the building boom.

The sector hiring rate, as measured on a three-month moving average basis, declined in November to 5%, after a significant rise during the summer.

Monthly employment data for December 2014 (the employment count data from the BLS establishment survey are published one month ahead of the JOLTS data) indicate that total employment in home building/remodeling stands at 2.343 million, broken down as 677,000 builders and 1.666 million residential specialty trade contractors.

In December, home builders and remodelers added 13,500 jobs to the residential construction sector on a seasonally adjusted basis. Over the last 12 months, the industry has created 132,000 jobs.

Since the low point of industry employment following the Great Recession, the residential construction industry has gained 359,500 positions, although employment remains 1.107 million lower than the peak level seen in early 2006. Employment growth for the sector has been steady recently, adding on average just a little more than 12,000 jobs per month over the last six months.

In December, the unemployment rate for construction workers declined to 7.5%. The unemployment rate for the construction occupation has been on the decline since reaching a peak rate of 22% in February 2010.

For the economy as a whole, the November JOLTS data indicate that the hiring rate declined slightly, after revisions, to 3.6% of total employment. The hiring rate had been in the 3.1% to 3.5% range since January 2011 but rose above 3.5% for the first time in September. The overall job openings rate ticked up to 3.4%, matching the highest rate of open jobs for the overall labor market since 2007 (3.4%).

These recent labor market indicators signal good news ahead for job creation and housing demand.

NLRB Issues Final Rule on ‘Ambush’ Union Election Rules

The National Labor Relations Board has issued its final rulemaking that that would dramatically speed up union elections, reduce the time workers have to decide whether or not to join a labor union and force employers to hand over to union organizers their employees’ private information.

Under the rule, employers could have as little as 10 days to hire a lawyer and prepare for an election hearing, which would give unions a tremendous advantage in their efforts to organize employees. The rule will be published in the Federal Register on December 15, and will take effect on April 14, 2015.

NAHB strongly opposes this controversial “quickie election” rule and will continue to work with Congress to prevent it from going forward. Specifically, NAHB is concerned this rule will make it very difficult for employers to retain counsel and have sufficient time and opportunity to prepare for an election. House bills introduced in the 113th Congress (H.R. 4320 and H.R. 4321) would prevent the NLRB from accelerating the union representation election process.

In addition, NAHB is part of the Coalition for a Democratic Workforce, which has announced that it will sue the NLRB to invalidate the newly released rule that would pave the way for unfair and illegal “ambush” elections.

New Code Cost Requirement Benefits Builders and Buyers

In a big win for NAHB and the home buyers we represent, the International Code Council (ICC) has taken a significant step forward in ensuring that code change proposals come with price tags.

In its press release today announcing the opening of the 2015/2016/2017 code development cycle, ICC also announced that it will require all advocates to include the costs associated with any proposals introduced along with the paybacks, where appropriate.

It’s exactly what NAHB Chairman-elect Tom Woods asked for when he addressed the ICC board on Sept. 29 and called on code change proponents to provide “quantitative information regarding the magnitude of the expected increase in construction costs.”

In an official statement lauding the ICC ruling on cost estimates, NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly said:

“NAHB commends the ICC for approving this landmark ruling that will require all code change proposals to include cost estimates. By acknowledging that costs are an important factor in determining the merit of code change proposals, this will make the building codes process more cost-effective and affordable. In turn, this will help keep housing costs down, enable builders to construct more energy-efficient homes and allow more young families to enter the new home buying market.”

To learn more about the ICC and the code development process, NAHB has provided a code toolkit that includes suggested amendments to make the latest versions of the 2015 family of ICC codes more affordable and practical. NAHB members must be logged in to nahb.org to download and view the toolkit.

Big Changes Coming for Water Heater Efficiency. Are You Ready?

New water heater efficiency standards that go into effect April 15, 2015 will require significant changes to the installation of residential water heaters – but just for those larger than 55 gallons in capacity.

The new 2015 DOE (Department of Energy) Final Rule energy efficiency mandates will require higher Energy Factor (EF) ratings on virtually all residential gas, electric, oil and tankless gas water heaters, completely altering the water heater landscape.

These mandates will require much higher Energy Factor (EF) ratings, making a huge impact on how larger water heaters are manufactured, distributed and installed. However, products manufactured before April 15 can still be bought and installed after the changeover date.

There are many factors for home builders and remodelers to consider when deciding whether to spec these new water heaters. First is the cost: Conventional, current minimum-efficiency 60-gallon gas and electric water heaters are approximately $675-$1,500, while the new high-efficiency models are about $1,200-$2,450.

New gas water heaters with a capacity of more than 55 gallons will need to be a condensing combustion design to meet the new efficiency requirements, which raises the EF from 0.55 to 0.75 for a 65-gallon model. This means you’ll need a dedicated electrical receptacle to power the exhaust fan and provide a means for condensate disposal. For venting, a dedicated line for combustion air via a lower temperature PVC pipe will typically exhaust through the wall rather than the roof with this design.

Larger electric water heaters will need to be of a heat-pump design to meet the efficiency requirements, which increases the EF from 0.88 to 1.98 for a 65-gallon model. Where a 3 feet x 3 feet closet was often the go-to location for installation for an electric water heater, these new appliances likely wont’ fit into the same space.

According to the Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute, heat pump water heaters require installation in locations that remain in the 40º–90ºF range year-round and provide at least 1,000 cubic feet of surrounding air space. Because heat pump water heaters remove heat from the house to heat the water, it’s better to install them in warmer areas of the country where the cooling effect of the heat pump will reduce the air conditioning load on the house.

But even if your project needs a extra-large hot water supply, it doesn’t necessarily need these extra-large heaters, say energy advocates.

Gary Klein, managing partner of  Aim 4 Sustainability, says one alternative is to run new plumbing to two smaller water heaters (i.e., 40 gallons) at opposite sides of the home, bringing them closer to the point of use and conserving both water and energy by eliminating excess piping.

For gas water heaters there may not be much of a benefit from purchasing two appliances, the installation of another gas line, and compliance with ventilation requirements. However, not only can the two electric water heaters fit in smaller spaces, there is no need to manage the cold air expelled from the unit or for the design to account for proximity to fixtures to decrease heat loss in piping.

Another alternative: the gas or electric tankless water heater. These units take up little space and can be mounted indoors in cabinets, under sinks, and in very close proximity to fixtures, using less energy than conventional water heaters.

However, gas tankless water heaters may require a larger gas line and modifications to the vent pipe. Electric tankless models may require increasing the capacity of the electric service to the house. Hot water flow rate is limited by the size of the unit and measured in gallons per minute (GPM). Whole-house tankless hot water systems with up to 7.0 GPM can cost $600-$1,000.

It’s important for installers to become familiar with the new rules and the technology options so that they can offer customers the best solutions for placement and capacity.

Water heater manufacturers also provide detailed information on their websites to help builders and remodelers choose the best possible option for the home.

For more information, contact Cai Owens at 800-368-5242 x8563 or via email at cowens@nahb.org.