Tag Archives: Housing

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Bronx property is first purchase in unique partnership designed to boost affordable housing

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As part of an effort to increase the supply of affordable housing in New York City, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Commissioner Louise Carroll, Settlement Housing Fund, the Community Preservation Corporation, and the New York City Acquisition Fund recently announced the first acquisition of a property through the city’s Neighborhood Pillars Downpayment Assistance Fund.

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Here are the top destinations for movers in the U.S.

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While most people who move tend to stay relatively close to where they were before, that doesn’t mean that others aren’t willing to pack up and move to a whole new city or state. New data from Realtor.com shows that the typical homebuyer may only move up to 15 miles away from home, but others are attracted to metros that offer housing affordability, strong employment and other factors.

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Digital mortgage company Better.com closes $160 million in funding

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Better.com, one of the fastest-growing digital mortgage companies, said Monday it closed on $160 million of Series C funding, with backers including Ally Financial, Citi, and American Express. “Similar to how Amazon upended the retail industry, Better.com is digitally disrupting the $15 trillion mortgage industry,” said Vishal Garg, CEO and founder.

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Creating a sustainable organization through facilities management

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Sustainability and corporate social responsibility efforts are now significant factors for successful organizations as regulations and consumers drive change. Organizations that don’t take account of their environmental impacts face potential backlash from consumers who are increasingly sustainability minded.

While not previously top of mind, environmental and sustainability issues are more central to facilities management than at any point in the past. Facility managers are increasingly aware of this movement and are changing their values and how they respond to this change.

However, what steps are required to meet these challenges?

Sustainability in facility management

Going green is gone. Evergreen is now the full-scope approach. Sustainability is serious, so facility managers must capitalize on decisions to reduce any potential negative impact on the environment.

Sustainability efforts in these cases are more than reducing the amount of waste produced, using fewer resources, and developing new processes leading to sustainable initiatives.

Implementing sustainability measures

Sustainability efforts within a facility management environment must focus on carbon and energy management services. Doing so means creating a culture that can adequately respond to the commercial, social, and environmental impacts these can have on the environment. Therefore, any resources used or procured must consider all effects and benefits.

For example, regarding emissions, facility managers much understand that emissions mean costs. Reducing emissions reduces costs, which is the definition of a win-win scenario. Implementing an accredited carbon offset program means you can deliver environmental and social benefits.

By creating and implementing a sustainability strategy, an organization can remain up to date on environmental compliance.

The creation and rollout of sustainability programs may need support from outside experts and advisors. During these engagements, facility managers must learn how to minimize heating and lighting consumption, eliminate unneeded lighting, implement lower wattage technology components, and other technical outputs.

Other considerations include structuring the workforce to travel less, and analyzing sustainable water consumption, for example — through low-flush or no-flush toilets.

The point of this exercise is to allow facility managers the ability to carefully consider any potential emission drivers, waste, and inefficiencies. Facility managers also may create an approach for reducing emissions and cut waste wherever there is an opportunity.

Sustainability efforts can boost employee morale and motivate them to perform better than working in an unsustainable environment. The best, most environmentally progressive organizations attract the best employees. In this manner, facility managers drive the success of the organization in more than just the quality of the buildings.

Implementing a sustainable workplace means “things” are done differently than may have been in the past. Innovation is required. However, some buy-in is required of those throughout the organization. Without this buy-in, sustainability only can go so far.

Engagement is required across the board. Management must agree on the strategy, and the rest of the team must be and remain on board. If employees claim a sense of ownership in the program, they are far more likely to make sure it succeeds.

Measuring sustainability

Success benchmarks create a baseline for all future sustainability efforts, allowing for the establishment of targets and a framework to manage operations and report future results.

Most sustainability programs are usually achieved within three to five years over the course of stages. Return on investment and program costs must be measured to ensure resource outcomes. Data outcomes must be studied, too, rather than using generic figures that don’t lead to an accurate painting of the program or its requirements.

Achieving real sustainability must be more than lip service and goodwill. Effort is required, and metrics must be established to work toward its full impact. Ultimately, if the program is not measurable, it cannot be profitable and, therefore, is not sustainable.

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Capital Economics: Expect home prices to increase as mortgage rates drop

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For the last two weeks Freddie Mac reported 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages averaging 3.6%, a three-year low. These rates, combined with tight housing inventory will lead to an increase in home prices, Capital Economics said in a report on Monday. The report predicts a 3% rise in prices for 2019.

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Douglas Elliman launches in Texas

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Douglas Elliman Real Estate, the top brokerage in the New York metro area, is expanding into Texas. On Tuesday, the brokerage announced a joint venture with Sudhoff, a company based in Houston that specializes in luxury high-rise condominiums. Jacob Sudhoff, president of Sudhoff, was named chief executive officer of Douglas Elliman, Texas.

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Designing intelligent interactive environments

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Integrating interactive technologies into interior environments is becoming increasingly common. So, too, is the use of interactive robots in nonindustrial settings.

What if you could combine the two to create an interior space that is itself an intelligent, interactive agent? That’s the goal of a project being developed at Cornell University’s Architectural Robotics Lab.

Today’s “smart” environments employ a variety of technologies that respond to, and in some cases anticipate, interactions with occupants. These include sensors, cameras, touch screens, and voice-activated devices linked together by the internet of things (IoT).

Some are passive and await commands submitted by the user either orally or through the use of some type of Wi-Fi-connected digital device. Others are programmed to respond proactively to particular triggers, such as someone entering a room or changes in sunlight during the day.

Over time, by collecting, storing and analyzing data, some of these devices or the computers they are connected to can “learn” to identify user preferences and adjust the environment accordingly when the user is present in the space.

Another way engineers and designers are exploring how technology can be employed to address human needs is robotics. In recent years, labs and companies have introduced a variety of interactive and responsive service robots designed to perform a range of functions, from independently vacuuming a room to providing information at shopping malls and airports, to serving as a home health aide and companion for the elderly and chronically ill.

It’s not much of a stretch to envision “smart” environments that are designed to accommodate the use and movements of service robots in order to make them more supportive for occupants.

Several years ago, Rajesh Elara Mohan and his team at Singapore University of Technology and Design noted that more attention needed to be paid to the creation of barrier-free, robot-inclusive spaces using proven design best practices and principles, including lighting schemes, furniture choices and arrangement, wall and floor surfaces, and wayfinding. The challenge, as they see it, is to incorporate architectural and design features that optimize the performance of service robots but that also are aesthetically pleasing to human occupants.

Along similar lines, Keith Evan Green, a professor in the department of Design + Environmental Analysis (DEA) at Cornell University and author of “Architectural Robotics: Ecosystems of Bits, Bytes, and Biology,” established the Architectural Robotics Lab (ARL) to focus on “making our physical surroundings interactive and adaptive to help us do what we do: work, play, learn, roam, explore, create, interconnect, heal, and age.”

Combining design, robotics and psychology, projects developed at the lab create built environments embedded with robotics to support the activities they were designed for. One such project is the Animated Work Environment (AWE), a user-programmable, robotic work environment that can change shape to adapt the configuration for different work and play needs, such as collaborating, composing, presenting, viewing, lounging, and gaming.

Taking that concept a step further, Yixiao Wang, a DEA graduate student and member of ARL, is engaged in developing a prototype of an AI-enhanced, partially intelligent interactive environment in which the entire environment holistically serves to support the occupants. He refers to this environment as a “space agent,” one that that is perceived by users as having humanlike traits, such as one might attribute to a robot or voice agent, like Siri.

Because it is partially intelligent, the space agent can respond to movement, gestures, voice commands, and such not only to respond to the user but to assess and anticipate how the environment needs to be adapted at any time to best accommodate the current activity.

To help visualize his idea, Yixiao describes a scenario in which an interior designer arrives at her office and prepares to begin her day’s work. A ceiling-mounted flexible robotic environment, similar perhaps to the AWE, gently bends down and presents her with an interactive surface tablet, positioned according to her preprogrammed preferences.

When she finds her creativity blocked, the space agent notices she has stopped working and provides her with prompts and images to inspire her. As she recommences her work, the space agent collaborates with her, searching for relevant information and making suggestions. Later, some colleagues enter the room for a scheduled meeting, and the space agent proactively reconfigures the environment to create privacy and block out external noise.

Yixiao concedes there are many issues, both technical and psychological, that need to be worked out. His study will assess several trials involving interior designers to determine how users might react and prefer to interact with the space agent. Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, those designers may be called upon to help design and implement space agents for their clients.

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America’s growing home tenure is threatening potential home sales growth

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Potential existing-home sales fell in July as inventory concerns continued to threaten the market’s overall growth, according to First American’s Potential Home Sales Model. According to the company’s analysis, the market potential for existing-home sales fell by 1.2% from 2018, equating a loss of 63,000 sales. First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming said America’s rising tenure length means that there are both fewer buyers and homes on the market, keeping existing-home sales below market potential.

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3 steps for new employee success

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The honeymoon period for new employees provides a prime time to set the stage for unlimited success. While some employers unfortunately also call this the introductory period and try to use it as an evaluation window within which to weed out new hires, we should look at it as a litmus test for our own success and a chance to invest in the success of an employee.

Employees come in ready to make an impact, optimistic about the opportunity and eager to learn. Here are three steps to take to fan that flame of enthusiasm into a sustainable fire.

Check, please!

The only time more engaging than the start of the employee-employer relationship is the interview process. Each side comes with its own expectations, things are strategically said — or omitted — and the dance evolves until, ideally, an offer is extended and accepted.

Sometimes, however, there are misunderstandings. From salary to work environment, office space to office location, there can be misalignment between what was said and what was understood. To address this in the bud, before it blossoms into full blown disenchantment, we must schedule and keep to regular check-ins.

The check-in does not have to follow an outline, a time schedule or last for a minimum number of minutes. On the contrary, as long as it happens and happens consistently, the frequency and reliability of it will facilitate open communication and allow the smaller but important items to be addressed quickly.

You’re an open book.

The second step is to listen and note any questions new employees ask. Then, read between the lines.

What are their questions telling us about their experience from the first time they heard about the position through the time they showed up this morning? Is our culture reflected in their questions?

Remember they are new and may not be as likely to ask as openly as a longer-standing employee. As such, meet with them regularly as noted above. Instead of trying to immediately answer their question or defend a practice, figure out what had to happen for them to ask that question.

Keep asking what else, how so and other open-ended follow-ups to get as much clarity as possible. Even the simplest questions from the newest employees can provide insight into an organizations systems and culture.

Next steps

Finally, find a way to systemize the above steps into the orientation and onboarding processes. In other words, look at each new employee as an opportunity to get an unvarnished look at how the work environment is conveyed.

Transition the introductory period from the misunderstood free pass to fire someone into a valuable exchange of information, helping to ensure both sides are in lock step to move forward. Optimize it as a chance to level-set expectations from the hiring process and uncover any basic issues before they become systemic problems.

The bottom line is that the start of a new job provides a great opportunity to help employees build positive habits that will help them sustain their success while, of course, helping the organization.

If you would like to get that new employee feeling again, check out this article for tips on how to rekindle that enthusiasm.

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Southwest sees fastest single-family rent increase

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Last month, we reported that Phoenix led the nation in multifamily rent growth. Now, according to a recent report from CoreLogic, single-family homes are following suit as rent prices are increasing the fastest in the Southwest. Phoenix had the highest year-over-year rent growth for the seventh consecutive month this June, with an increase of 7.1%.

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