What’s Happening in the News: Late February, 2021

Photo of Austin, Texas by Ryan Magsino on Unsplash

Today’s news stories meet at the intersection of real estate and decarbonization. We look at data for home equity, home ownership, and the hottest U.S. housing markets. Then there’s some exciting news about the increasing number of zero-energy and zero-energy ready homes. Plus, you’ll be surprised how attainable zero really is for the U.S. as a country.

Home Equity on the Rise

The economy was rocky last year. But Attomdata.com reports that one important aspect of wealth has improved: home equity. That’s important because home ownership is such a powerful tool for building wealth in our economic system. According to the report, one in three mortgaged homes in the U.S. can be considered “equity rich.” That means that the unpaid amount of their loans is less than half of the estimated value of the property. The percentage of equity-rich properties increased more than three percent between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the fourth quarter of 2020. And the number of “seriously underwater” properties–owing more than 125 percent of their estimated value–decreased a percentage point during the same time.

Hottest U.S. Housing Markets

Austin, Texas tops the list of the 12 Hottest Markets. A local realtor calls it “one big party.”

Zillow has released its Hottest Housing Market Report for 2021 and National Mortgage News shares the numbers. They reveal which cities are cooling off. Then share snippets from local realtors in the twelve markets that are expected to perform the best. Three of the twelve are in Texas and two are in Florida (maybe I’m not the only one thinking about warmer places today?), with the rest spread all over the country.

All the Housing Data in One Place

The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies looks at homeownership statistics across the U.S. from every possible angle. In their words: “Our research examines changing patterns of homeownership at the national and metro levels, as well as the demographic drivers of those patterns. We also look at how government programs and policies shape homebuyer markets and the housing finance system.” Click through to find reports, papers and interactive maps covering a whole range of housing topics.

Just one example of the many interactive reports available at jchs.harvard.edu.

Zero Energy Inventory Increasing

From a story over at the Zero Energy Project, here’s today’s most exciting sentence:

“The residential zero energy housing market in the U.S. and Canada is growing faster than every other major innovation in the industry since ENERGY STAR…”

Reporting on a study by Team Zero and The Energy and Environmental Building Alliance, the article tells us that the number of zero energy (ZE) and zero energy ready (ZER) homes in the U.S. and Canada could double this year! And the chart below shows how homes that are already zero energy are now a significantly bigger portion of the inventory. Go read the whole report!

See more at teamzero.org.

Attainable Zero

It’s tempting sometimes to feel like cutting energy usage to reverse climate change is just impossible. But that’s simply not true. Emma Penrod at utilitydive.com reports on a study by the University of San Francisco, the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and consulting firm Evolved Energy Research. Among the study’s important conclusions: the actual cost to get the U.S. to carbon neutral by 2050 is a mere 0.4 percent of GDP. Also, electricity generation needs to be given top priority because of its impact on so many other areas. And last but not least, we have to resist the urge to take the fastest, flashiest path to zero in order to create lasting change.

“The shift we are talking about is one where we need to plot a consistent, slightly conservative course…This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Ryan Jones, co-founder of Evolved Energy Research
Solar and wind energy will both provide power for a clean energy grid. Photo by Chelsea on Unsplash

Stay Warm!

As if we hadn’t worn out the word “unprecedented” last year, lots of the country is experiencing “unprecedented” winter weather as I type this. We hope our readers are staying safe, warm and comfortable. And maybe the positive vibes from today’s stories will leave you with a warm feeling. Do you know of any zero energy homes near you? Is your state, county or city doing something to provide clean energy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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