In spite of the softening real estate market, Vermonters earning the median income still could not afford the median priced home, according to a new report released today.The report, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Housing and Wages in Vermont,” is the latest in an annual series that tracks housing costs in relation to Vermonters’ incomes. For the last several years, Vermont’s tight housing markets have driven up prices while wages, particularly those employing the most Vermonters, have not kept pace. During the recession, even as home prices drop, opportunities for low-income and first time buyers were limited due to high fees and higher interest rates for buyers with moderate credit scores.“The real estate market was helped this year by low interest rates and a generous federal tax credit,” said Sarah Carpenter, Executive Director of Vermont Housing Finance Agency. “The problem was those low rates weren’t available to many buyers and the tax credit wasn’t available at closing to help pay for the higher down payments and fees lenders now require. Few first time buyers can save up the down payment and closing costs needed to buy a home even if the median price dropped.”Among the report’s findings:The median purchase price of a home in Vermont dropped by 5% to $190,000, the first substantial fall on record.A Vermont household would need an annual income of $57,000, and an estimated $15,000 for down payment, fees and closing costs, to afford that home.The median household income remained the same as last year, $52,000, although once inflation is factored in, Vermonters saw a 2% decrease in buying power.The average Fair Market Rent for a modest two-bedroom unit is $920 a month, and more than half of Vermont’s occupations have median wages less than the $36,800 needed to afford that rent.An additional 3,000 households become cost burdened annually, meaning more Vermonters paying more than 30% of their income for housing. The state is the 7th and 15th worst state in the nation for cost burdened renters and owners, respectively.The recession is more than many households on the edge can bear. Despite stimulus programs and increased funding, the number of people who are homeless in Vermont increased 22% since 2008 when the recession began.“Vermonters continue to need affordable housing and the state’s economy needs housing construction in order to help it emerge from this recession,” said Rob Naylor of Naylor & Breen Builders in Brandon, VT. “Our company has seen firsthand the effects of the real estate market, but because of the programs designed to fund the construction and renovation of housing for lower-income residents, we were able to keep a crew working to build the units this report clearly shows are needed. These projects have created permanently affordable housing, while also keeping my guys employed.”One family’s story illustrates the difficulty accessing both the rental and homeownership market. Janet Green, her husband and son lived in an apartment in Richmond, but were commuting to work in Burlington. “The commuting had become a lot for us, and we wanted to raise our son in Burlington so we started looking for a place to rent. But it was so expensive!” In May 2009 they decided to attend a homebuyer education workshop to see if homeownership was an option. It was, through the Champlain Housing Trust’s shared equity program, and after searching for a number of months, they bought a condo in Burlington and moved in on Halloween.“We could never have bought a home on the open market — even renting seemed to stretch our budget. But with CHT’s program, we were fortunate to be able to do it,” added Green.Source: VHFA. 6.15.2010. Copies of the new report are available online at the VHFA website, www.vhfa.org.-30-(link is external)
continue reading » Montgomery County Employees Federal Credit Union is now SkyPoint Federal Credit Union($146.7M, Germantown, MD), a rebranding that’s the result of a strategic journey that has included a new branch, a new name, new charter, and a new direction.A series of planning sessions beginning in 2013 has produced the guide for this “organic growth-plus” strategy, as described by president and CEO Jim Norris. Since then, the 51-year-old credit union has grown membership by 18%, assets by 53%, and loans by 116%, and there’s more to come.“Our five- to seven-year goal is to grow to a $500 million credit union,” Norris says.That would be more than triple SkyPoint’s current asset size and will require making significant headway within the 2.5 million potential membership the credit union gained when it received a federal community charter on Jan. 7, 2019. ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr
$1,000 per tonne Image courtesy of LNG CanadaThe Hague-based LNG giant Shell has taken a final investment decision on LNG Canada, a major liquefied natural gas export project in Kitimat, British Columbia.With LNG Canada’s joint venture participants also having taken FID, construction will start immediately with first LNG expected before the middle of the next decade, Shell said in a statement on Monday.Besides Shell, LNG Canada JV partners include Malaysia’s Petronas, PetroChina, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation and Kogas of South KoreaShell has a 40 percent interest in the C$40 billion ($31 billion) LNG project via its unit Shell Canada Energy.Shell’s share of the project’s capital cost is within the company’s current overall capital investment guidance of $25-30 billion per year, the company said.LNG Canada will initially export LNG from two trains totaling 14 million tonnes per annum (mtpa), with the potential to expand to four trains in the future.It is advantaged by access to abundant, low-cost natural gas from British Columbia’s vast resources and the relatively short shipping distance to North Asia, which is about 50% shorter than from the US Gulf of Mexico and avoids the Panama Canal, according to Shell.Image: LNG CanadaThe joint venture of JGC-Fluor Corporation has been previously selected as the project’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor.“We believe LNG Canada is the right project, in the right place, at the right time,” Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief said in the statement.“Supplying natural gas over the coming decades will be critical as the world transitions to a lower carbon energy system. Global LNG demand is expected to double by 2035 compared with today, with much of this growth coming from Asia where gas displaces coal,” he said.According to van Beurden, LNG Canada is “well positioned” to help Shell meet the growing needs of customers at a time when the company sees an LNG supply shortage in its outlook.“With significant integration advantages from the upstream through to trading, LNG Canada is expected to deliver Shell an integrated internal rate of return of some 13%, while the cash flow it generates is expected to be significant, long life and resilient,” van Beurden said. The LNG Canada plant will be constructed under a single EPC lump-sum contract at an estimated cost of some $1,000 per tonne of LNG, Shell said.According to Shell, the cost to deliver LNG into Asia is expected to be” structurally advantaged” compared to a greenfield development on the US Gulf coast.Regarding the feed gas to the plant, each joint venture participant will be responsible for providing its own natural gas supply and will individually offtake and market its own LNG.Shell’s Groundbirch asset in Northeast British Columbia can provide the majority of Shell’s equity share of natural gas or the company will buy gas from the market, depending on which option provides the most value, it said.TransCanada Corporation will build, own and operate the Coastal GasLink pipeline that will be built to connect upstream gas supply to the LNG Canada plant.
As LaBahn Arena empties after yet another Badger win, a small group of students walks along the concourse singing “In Heaven There Is No Beer” in typical Wisconsin hockey fashion. As the group nears earshot of the press box, the song winds down and Lucas Pillar, a self-proclaimed superfan, finishes the song with a loud and defiant “Paint LaBahn!” Members of the Athletic Department begin to grumble at the slightly annoying tradition. Meanwhile, it becomes more apparent that the walls of LaBahn remain bare.After its completion in 2012, LaBahn Arena became only the second women-specific stadium in the country, trailing the construction of Minnesota’s Ridder Arena by only a year. The $27 million project created an arena with the capacity for 2,273 people. LaBahn’s impressive capacity matches that of nearly a quarter of the stadiums in Division I NCAA men’s hockey today and creates an intense and captivating environment for fans and athletes. However, the arena has one flaw in the eyes of the fans.While the facility is state of the art and much of it, including the offices, media rooms, locker rooms and concourses are decorated with Badgers memorabilia and murals, the inside of the arena is starkly bare. The small Wisconsin student section in LaBahn’s inaugural 2012-2013 season immediately noticed the difference. After a year of hoping for a change in scenery, the fans took to Twitter in protest at the beginning of the 2013-2014 season.“The north concourse is nice,” Pillar said. “However the seating bowl feels like a plain practice facility, not the home of the Wisconsin Badgers, where the women’s hockey team plays its games.”The “Paint LaBahn” saga began at the beginning of the season when the Wisconsin women’s hockey team faced off against Team Japan in an exhibition game. Pillar, as well as Dan Simanek, better known by Wisconsin hockey fans as Superfan Dan, began tweeting @BadgerWHockey about painting LaBahn. Although the tweets started off as a joke, #PaintLaBahn quickly caught on.“Paint LaBahn has become a running joke all season,” Pillar said. “We considered it a wild success and pretty amusing when we saw someone we didn’t know use ‘#PaintLaBahn’.”While Pillar and Simanek initially composed the tweets for a bit of fun, the comments came from their real feelings about the stadium’s decoration. The two were still hoping that one day LaBahn would be a little bit more colorful. The group of student superfans is not alone in its opposition to the bare walls of LaBahn either. Many other spectators have commented on the walls and some have even taken to Twitter to help #PaintLaBahn trend.“Some of our tweets to @BadgerWHockey are a little tongue-in-cheek, but we genuinely would like to see something on those plain walls,” Pillar said. “Based on some initial reaction from other fans over the last year, we are not the only ones.”After Pillar and the other superfans decided they wanted LaBahn painted, the focus turned to what to paint on the wall of could become a legendary stadium in women’s hockey history.“They could paint it with anything from a giant motion W, to some kind of ring of honor, to big hockey murals.” Pillar said. “Send some art students. It would be awesome.”While Pillar and other fans continue planning their grand design for LaBahn’s interior, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team remains unfazed by the controversy as it makes a run for its fifth National title. When asked about the possible renovations, many of the players merely chuckled and pushed the question off.“I don’t really care,” senior forward Madison Packer said. “We don’t really look up in the stands. It’s a nice facility, our locker room is painted and we have stuff hanging around the arena, so we’re happy with what we’ve got.”Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson could hardly believe he was being asked about the movement. He shrugged for a few seconds before coming up with the only response he could think of: “It doesn’t matter.”Still, the campaign rolls on while the second-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team continues to win game after game in the slightly empty LaBahn. The Badgers played their last home game of the regular season last weekend against Minnesota. After a best-of-three series next week for the WCHA playoffs, LaBahn will close for the season leaving, Pillar and Simanek waiting another year in hopes of seeing a painted arena. As of now, the Athletic Department has no plans to paint the walls of LaBahn Arena, but you can be sure officials will be hearing about the blank walls until they makes a change.