News

April 4, 2014

Articles of Interest:
 
Over 4 Million First-Time Home Buyers Wanting to Enter Housing Market In 2014
 
Features:

Flood Insurance Rate Relief Finally Comes
On March 21, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014, which is designed to ease big flood insurance premium increases for hundreds of thousands of homeowners.

This law repeals and modifies certain provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which enacted in 2012 to revamp the insolvent National Flood Insurance Program by ending subsidized and grandfathered premiums, and by updating the flood maps used to set rates. Under the law, hundreds of thousands of homeowners on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and in flood plains faced sizable - in some cases exponential - rate increases.

The newly signed Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act caps average annual premium increases to 18 percent a year and will allow people buying properties remapped into riskier flood zones to continue receiving grandfathered rates that previous owners had enjoyed. Older homes built prior to the creation of the national flood insurance program also will continue receiving subsidized rates.

Babcock Ranch Seeks New Power Plan
 Is this another sign of recovery in Florida?

Babcock
Backers of the planned Babcock Ranch development in Southwest Florida have asked state regulators to sign off on a new electric utility to serve the area.   

The Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District filed a document in March with the Florida Public Service Commission, outlining plans for the municipal utility in Charlotte County.

The PSC in the past approved an agreement that said Florida Power & Light and Lee County Electric Cooperative would serve areas that overlap within the Babcock district. But the document filed last week said the Florida Legislature gave authority to the district to provide electric service.

"By giving the district this authority, the Legislature intended to insure that the district and its inhabitants would be able to secure electric services in the most cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner possible," the document said. "The Legislature's repeated emphasis in the Babcock Ranch law upon the unique and innovative nature of the district is consistent with the Legislature's rare bestowal upon the district of the power to provide electric service."

It remains unclear whether the special district would provide the electric service directly or contract with another utility to provide the service. But the document said the PSC's acknowledgment of the district's right to provide service is "one of the last remaining steps prior to initiation of development activities."

The development is expected to eventually include up to 17,870 single-family and multifamily residential units and 6 million square feet of commercial space, according to the document filed with the PSC. Plans for an initial phase call for 2,500 residential units, a school, and 25,000 square feet of retail -- aimed at the nation's 78 million baby boomers who are poised to retire in places like Florida. [More

Advanced Energy Retrofit Guidelines
Available for Various Building Types

The US Department of Energy, through its Building Technologies Office, has been creating advanced energy retrofit guidelines (AERGs) for various building types. (See links below).

The latest in the AERGs series, offers comprehensive information and analytical methods for calculating the cost effectiveness of the highest priority measures that should be considered for retrofit projects in hospitals and small outpatient facilities.

A webinar on implementing AERGs into health care facilities and small medical offices is planned for April 17. Guest speakers are Sonia Punjabi, U.S. Department of Energy, and Bob Hendron, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Date: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Time: 1:00   2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
[Register]

The AERG for Healthcare Facilities helps commercial building owners and managers to plan, design, and implement energy improvements in existing facilities. This guide identifies the unique challenges and opportunities in healthcare facilities, with an emphasis on the most effective commissioning and retrofit measures identified by experts.

One of the most important gaps in the current literature is reliable and actionable cost and energy savings methods and data. The AERGs address this gap by providing very comprehensive analytical methods for calculating the cost-effectiveness of retrofit measures. These methods are supplemented by examples using the Pre-1980s Commercial Reference Buildings, and by detailed case studies demonstrating how organizations have successfully implemented similar measures in commercial buildings. All of the AERGs are available for free download:

  • Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Office Buildings
  • Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Retail Buildings
  • Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Grocery Stores
  • Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for K-12 Schools
  • Advanced Energy Retrofit Guide for Healthcare Facilities

Florida Receives $48 Million
To Improve Public Housing

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $48.3 Million to Florida public housing authorities. The grants are provided through HUD's Capital Fund Program, which provides annual funding to build, repair, renovate and/or modernize the public housing in communities. The housing authorities use the funding to do large-scale improvements such as replacing roofs or making energy-efficient upgrades to replace old plumbing and electrical systems. [More

$1.75 Million in Funding Available
For Affordable Housing Projects

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC) today issued a Request for Applications (RFA) regarding available funding of $1,750,000 to be made available for the development of affordable, multifamily housing involving Public Housing Authority (PHA) revitalization (consisting of rehabilitation or reconstruction) in medium and small counties.

The funding order for the applications received will be based on the development's leveraging of funding from local or federal government sources and/or PHA resources, as well as how the proposed development ties into an initiative to revitalize the neighborhood or community. [More]

Take the Retrofit Challenge
Are you involved with remodeling, renovation, or home performance? The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) researchers are looking for partners to "test drive" best practices under a recently launched initiative - the Retrofit Challenge. Get the scoop on cost-effective, energy-savings practices, take the Retrofit Challenge Pledge, and access research and case studies backing up the Retrofit Challenge at www.ba-pirc.org/retrofit. Or contact Karen Sutherland (321) 638-1474; ksutherland@fsec.ucf.edu.

Water Conservation - Perception vs. Reality
Fresh water is used increasingly beyond sustainable levels. Do people know how much water is used by a variety of daily activities? If people were asked to conserve water, would they know which behaviors are more effective than others?

In a national online survey, 1,020 participants reported their perceptions of water use for household activities. When asked for the most effective strategy they could implement to conserve water in their lives, or what other Americans could do, most participants mentioned curtailment (e.g., taking shorter showers, turning off the water while brushing teeth) rather than efficiency improvements (e.g., replacing toilets, retrofitting washers). This contrasts with expert recommendations. Additionally, some participants are more likely to list curtailment actions for themselves, but list efficiency actions for other Americans.

By contrast, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that retrofitting toilets results in the greatest savings (71%) in indoor household water use (14), followed by retrofitting clothes washers (19%), showerheads (5%), and faucet aerators (5%). (Even though toilets use less water volumetrically than washers and showers per use, the frequency of use results in higher water use overall.) [More] [Test Your Knowledge]

Florida Home Partnership Expands Services
To Include Housing Rehabilitation

The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a contract with Florida Home Partnership, Inc. (FHP), a nonprofit Community Housing Development Corporation, to provide management services of the Owner Occupied Housing Rehabilitation Program in Hillsborough County. Earl Pfeiffer, executive director of FHP, commented, "We are excited for this partnership opportunity with Hillsborough County to expand our affordable housing services and assist a whole new segment of the community."

Low income Hillsborough County residents have the opportunity to apply for financial assistance to correct housing violations with repairs that meet the minimum housing standards of Hillsborough County. Financial assistance is provided in the form of 0% interest loans and grants. The housing rehabilitation services include determining client and property eligibility, needs assessments through home inspections, contractor vetting and selection, and construction monitoring. FHP has hired and dedicated three staff towards managing the program.

The program is designed to:

  • Bring properties up to minimum housing codes
  • Eliminate emerging housing code violations
  • Eliminate conditions having a demonstrative blighting influence
  • Adapt the residence to meet accessibility needs of a handicapped family member
  • Eliminate emergency housing conditions that present a serious threat to the health and safety of its residents

[More]  

New Members:

FGBC Welcomes New Members & Certifying Agents

Funding Opportunities:

FHFC Multifamily Energy Retrofit Program
National & State Green Building Funding Opportunities
St. Johns River WMD
South Florida WMD Water Programs
Southwest Florida WMD Water Programs