Author: SETO Staff Published: 9/28/21 SETO
Author: SETO Staff Published: 9/28/21 SETO
Author: FDA Staff Published: 9/27/21 The Foundation for Democracy in Africa
Author: James Wright Published: 99/27/21 WI
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Monday that the city’s ticket amnesty program has been extended to Dec. 31.
Bowser said the program, which was set to end Thursday, allows motorists to pay, without penalty, any outstanding tickets for parking, photo enforcement and minor moving violations.
“As the District continues to recover from the pandemic, we know this is a program that is helping residents — many who have had to make difficult decisions — get a fresh start and get back on track,” the mayor said. “Whether it’s the Ticket Amnesty Program or STAY DC, we are encouraging all residents in need of financial assistance to apply for these programs today.”
D.C. Deputy Mayor of Operations and Infrastructure Lucinda Babers said under the program, tickets owed “since the beginning of time” can be paid. Plus, eligible drivers only have to pay original ticket amounts, with any penalties waived.
However, starting on Jan. 1, penalties for late payments will be reinstated.
Since the program’s launch on June 1, more than 32,000 drivers have settled $4 million worth of tickets. Residents and non-residents facing financial hardship can contact the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s Central Collection Unit for payment options.
Author: Emma Newburger Published: 9/27/21 CNBC
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan testifies before a Senate Appropriations Committee Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the EPA’s budget request on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 9, 2021.
The Environmental Protection Agency is sharply curbing the use and production of hydrofluorocarbons, the climate-warming chemicals widely used in air-conditioning and refrigeration.
The move is the Biden administration’s first major regulatory action to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also the first time the federal government has set national standards on hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at heating up the planet. The EPA said the rule could avoid up to 0.5 degrees Celsius of global warming by the end of the century.
The agency’s rule is expected to reduce the equivalent of 4.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide by mid-century, or roughly three years’ worth of emissions from the country’s power sector at 2019 levels, according to estimates from the EPA.
Such a reduction would help the Biden administration’s pledge to curb U.S. emissions by in half by 2030 and reach a net-zero economy by 2050. The president issued an executive order in January that requested Congress to ratify the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which aims for the phase-down of HFCs.
White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy on Wednesday called the agency’s rule a victory for combatting climate change and securing U.S. jobs.
“As we move in this direction, we are also opening up a huge opportunity for American industries,” McCarthy said during the briefing. “Reducing HFCs is a huge climate success story.”
Some U.S. manufacturers have already moved to more climate-friendly refrigerants, and some major chemical companies have supported the EPA’s proposal to phase down HFCs, including The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, a trade group that represents manufacturers of heating and cooling equipment.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the new limits will help the country transition to more energy-efficient cooling technologies while creating new jobs.
“This action reaffirms what President Biden always says: When he thinks about climate, he thinks about jobs,” Regan said during the briefing. “His administration knows that what’s good for the environment is good for the economy.”
Author: Laura Davison, Ari Natter and Jennifer A Douhy Published: 9/24/21 Bloomberg
“It’s projected that making polluters pay — when combined with clean energy tax credits — would lower the cost of clean electricity for Americans,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said in a statement to Bloomberg News Friday. “I’ve worked on this for years, and have continued to develop the proposal as part of my menu of options for the caucus.”
A “substantial portion” of the revenue generated from a carbon tax would be disbursed to Americans in the form of cash payments, Wyden said. That could help increase public support for the tax, but would also mean less money to offset the cost of the up-to-$3.5 trillion so-called reconciliation bill.
That bill, incorporating the bulk of President Joe Biden’s long-term economic agenda, includes overhauling climate investment and directing money into health and education programs. Negotiations on are ongoing on Capitol Hill.
The New York Times earlier reported Wyden’s plans to pursue a carbon tax.
Momentum for such a levy is growing as a way to address climate change. And economists have long favored a carbon tax as a straightforward approach to putting a price on the greenhouse-gas emissions.
Advocates say it would encourage companies and consumers to pollute less. The American Petroleum Institute, the oil-industry trade group that counts Exxon Mobil Corp. among its members, and the Chamber of Commerce have both endorsed a price on carbon, which could take the form of a levy.
But industry supporters generally want the carbon tax imposed as a substitute for existing regulations on greenhouse gases — a tradeoff that is unlikely to be part of the plan Democrats are assembling.
Though several Senate supporters have been eyeing the reconciliation bill as a potential pathway for the tax measure for more than a year, it’s gained momentum over the last several weeks, according to a person familiar with negotiations on the issue. The tax is appealing because of its role as a potential revenue-raiser, but lawmakers are also working to ensure that a significant chunk of the proceeds goes back to middle- and low-income families.
A carbon tax could draw more support as a way to replace other revenue raisers, assuage moderates’ concerns about the size of the package and give the Biden administration tangible proof of robust U.S. plans to slash greenhouse-gas emissions before a critical UN summit in five weeks.
Still, a tax that could increase the costs of driving, flying and consumer goods is likely to face stiff political resistance from some quarters, and Republicans previously have voted against the concept of placing a tax on carbon dioxide. Some moderate Republicans, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah have signaled they are receptive to the idea.
GOP opposition wouldn’t be able to nix the proposal, because Democrats aim to pass the tax-and-spending bill on a party-line vote. Still, Democrats have tight majorities in both chambers, meaning that they need nearly every member in the House and all 50 caucus members in the Senate to support the legislation.
Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat who represents coal-reliant West Virginia, would be a key consideration in the drafting of a carbon tax. Manchin has been non-committal on the issue, but voted with members of his party on a messaging amendment earlier this year in support of such a tax.
Supporters argue that a domestic carbon tax would have to be paired with a levy on imports — known as a carbon border adjustment tax — to protect U.S. workers in energy-intensive industries and to ensure that companies don’t shift manufacturing out of the U.S. to nations with lax environmental regimes.
National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy Bloomberg in July that while “it’s not off the table,” there are strategies other than a carbon border adjustment tax that may be more beneficial. Even so, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on Wednesday dangled the prospect of a tariff on carbon-intensive imports if other nations don’t limit their emissions and reliance on coal-fired power to fuel cheap manufacturing.
Author: DC Gov. Staff Published: 9/27/21 WI
Author: Austin R. Cooper, Jr. Editor Published: 9/27/21 Word In Black WI
DOE Staff Published: 9/25/21 DOE
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced new Biden-Harris Administration appointees that have joined the team to help combat climate change and build a more prosperous and equitable clean energy future. With these new hires, DOE appointees make up an historically diverse team with 58% women, 58% BIPOC, and 21% of staff identifying as LGBTQ+.
“The Department of Energy is building a team of talented and dedicated public servants who are well-positioned to deliver on President Biden’s climate goals and deploy historic levels of clean energy infrastructure across the country,” said Chief of Staff Tarak Shah. “These appointees bring a diverse range of experience and expertise that will expand our capacity to tackle the climate crisis and forge a clean energy future with good-paying jobs, resilient climate solutions, and hope for future generations. ”
New appointees and their roles are listed below:
Matt Baca, Director of Scheduling and Advance, Office of Management
Matt Baca is a project manager and event producer with nearly a decade of experience in advocacy and political campaigns. He previously worked as Director of Advance for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential primary campaign, and before that was a Press Advance Lead in the Obama White House. Baca has a B.A. with Honors from DePaul University.
Christian Bato, Regional Intergovernmental and External Affairs Specialist for the Southwest, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs
Christian Bato most recently worked for U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto in her Las Vegas office. Previously, he was the Nevada Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris campaign. He began his career working for SEIU’s iAmerica, which advocated for immigrant justice in the AAPI and Latino communities. Bato is originally from Rancho Cucamonga, CA and holds a B.A. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the proud son of Filipino immigrants.
Julie Cerqueira, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of International Affairs
Julie Cerqueria most recently served as the Executive Director of the U.S. Climate Alliance, a bipartisan coalition of governors working together to advance the most ambitious state climate agenda in our nation’s history. Previously, she served as a Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State where she led U.S. engagement in strategic partnerships. Prior to her work in the federal government, Cerqueira worked with developing countries to design and implement climate policies and financial instruments at the climate think tank Center for Clean Air Policy, advised U.S. companies at the American Chamber of Commerce in Indonesia to expand U.S. investments overseas, and served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines working with teachers and farmers to promote economic development and environmental stewardship. She has a M.A. in International Political Economy and Development from Fordham University, and a B.S. in Biotechnology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Torend Collins, Regional Intergovernmental and External Affairs Specialist for Appalachia, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs
Torend L. Collins most recently served as a Program Coordinator in the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Florida office, synthesizing issue research and performing policy analysis to advance EDF’s clean energy agenda and strategic communications across the state. Previously, she worked as an Environmental Coordinator with the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District implementing programs and initiatives focused on improving air quality in Louisville. Collins earned a B.A. in Political Science from Spelman College and a Juris Doctor and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.
Torend Collins, Regional Intergovernmental and External Affairs Specialist for Appalachia, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs
Arjun Krishnaswami was most recently the Climate Policy Lead for Innovation at the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he worked to advance strong federal policy to build a just and equitable economy, promote clean energy innovation, and address the climate crisis. Krishnaswami previously served on the policy team for the Biden-Harris transition team. He holds an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and a B.S. in Environmental Systems Engineering from Stanford University.
Ramzey Smith, Deputy Press Secretary
Ramzey Smith was most recently a Director of Public Affairs with SKDKnickerbocker after serving as a Spokesperson for the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition and African American Media Director with the Biden-Harris campaign. He previously worked at Howard University as a Senior Communications Specialist and Feldman Strategies as a Communications Associate. Smith began his career working as a television news producer in Fort Myers, Orlando, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He is a proud graduate of Florida A&M University, having earned a B.S. in Journalism.
Rose Stephens-Booker, Regional Intergovernmental and External Affairs Specialist for the West, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs
Rose Stephens-Booker was most recently a Senior Associate at BlocPower, where she developed and managed their partnership strategy to bring clean energy technology solutions to the most vulnerable and underserved communities across America. She previously led efforts focused on energy efficiency and market transformation through public-private partnerships as a Program Manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program. Stephens-Booker began her career working as an environmental consultant at the nexus of climate, energy and the business community on issue-based awareness campaigns for a variety of stakeholders. A Virginia native, she received her B.A. in Environmental Policy from Roanoke College and a M.B.A. from UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.
Spencer Thibodeau, Regional Intergovernmental and External Affairs Specialist for the Northeast, Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs
Spencer Thibodeau is an attorney and public servant, practicing law in the real estate practice group of the Portland, Maine based law firm of Verrill Dana, LLP for eight years. Thibodeau served as a Portland, Maine City Councilor for nearly six years, where he chaired the Housing And Economic Development Committee and Sustainability and Transportation Committee. Thibodeau previously served the Maine Senior Advisor to the Biden-Harris Presidential campaign. He has served on a number of boards and committees, including the United Way of Greater Portland and the Equity Subcommittee of the Maine Climate Council, and served as a member of Maine Governor Janet T. Mills’ transition team in 2019. Thibodeau is a proud graduate of Fairfield University and Northeastern University School of Law.
Author: AEE Staff Published: 9/25/21 Advanced Energy Economy
Electrification is turning the automotive industry upside down. Traditional automakers are retooling to make electric vehicles (EVs) and building battery factories along with auto plants.
Startups – a rarity themselves on the automotive landscape – are taking EV production to new states like California and Arizona. Opportunity abounds for new companies, new workers, and new locations to get into the game. But even with all this activity, can the U.S. leapfrog the competition in the race toward an electric transportation future?
In this webinar, you’ll get the opportunity to:
Author: Leah Rublin and Tom Lewis Published; 9/22/21 AEE
The U.S. House of Representatives has spent the last three weeks marking up a series of legislative proposals that form the basis of the Build Back Better Act, the budget reconciliation bill put forward by the Democrats. Taken together, these proposals put into legislative text the elements of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan that were not included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed earlier this year. While, as in all legislation, there are elements that disappoint, AEE is impressed by the overall scope and scale of investments in advanced energy proposed. If enacted, the Build Back Better Act would put the U.S. on course to leading the world in advanced energy manufacturing, transportation electrification, and carbon emissions reductions, all while creating millions of jobs and investing in economic opportunity for American workers and families.
Here is our take on what the Build Back Better Act does – and, in some cases, doesn’t do – for advanced energy:
Advanced Energy Manufacturing. As we said in a statement last week, AEE applauds the inclusion of several provisions that will strengthen U.S. domestic manufacturing capacity for electric vehicles (EVs) and other advanced energy technologies. This includes the revival of the section 48C advanced manufacturing tax credit, as well as reserving a portion of the credit specifically for investments in communities that have historically had strength in automotive manufacturing. We are also pleased to see investment in both grants and loan authority to support domestic EV manufacturing and funding to monitor and identify critical supply chain vulnerabilities. Finally, AEE has championed additive, non-discriminatory incentives for projects and technologies that meet domestic content requirements, and we are encouraged to see this approach reflected in the proposed direct pay tax credits for clean electricity investment and production (see Clean Electricity, below), as well as for EVs. This approach holds promise for encouraging a pivot toward the use of domestically produced materials in solar, wind, and other advanced energy projects, and in the development of domestic supply chains to support those projects, without stalling near-term deployment.
Clean Transportation. The proposals contain significant funding for clean transportation, including new refundable credits for individual buyers of both new and used light-duty EVs without a per manufacturer cap and a new credit for commercial EVs of all weights. Both tax incentives and grant funding are also included for EV charging infrastructure, including reforms to the section 30C credit to attract private capital to build out 21st century transportation infrastructure. And funds are invested in replacing existing public vehicles, such as fire trucks and school buses, with electric versions, as well as in electrifying federal fleets, including Postal Service vehicles. However, AEE is disappointed to see both income (Adjusted Gross Income) and sticker price (MSRP) caps imposed on the individual credit for new EVs. These restrictions on eligibility are counterproductive to the intended aim of the policy, which is to grow EV deployment across the auto market, and are bureaucratic and confusing for consumers. They will only serve to slow down EV adoption and growth of the thousands of jobs and companies associated with the electrified transportation industry in the U.S.
Distributed Energy Resources. While transmission and clean electricity generation are critically important to achieving an affordable, reliable, and 100% clean electricity system, so too are the distribution grid and distributed energy resources (DERs). That’s why AEE was pleased to see a 10-year extension of existing tax credits that support DERs, such as the section 25C credit for residential energy efficiency improvements and the section 25D credit for residential solar. The proposals also contain over $20 billion for residential energy efficiency and electrification grants and rebates. We also appreciate the investments in making public buildings more resilient and energy efficient, along with the increase to the section 179D deduction for commercial energy efficiency. Finally, AEE applauds the $2.5 billion investment in low-income community solar, as well as the dedication of 40% of the $27.5 billion for state and local climate finance institutions dedicated to low-income and disadvantaged communities.
Clean Electricity, Transmission, and Wholesale Market Expansion. The proposals from the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees create ambitious targets for clean electricity by providing incentives to increase investment and market demand. AEE is pleased to see 10-year extensions of both the section 48 ITC and section 45 PTC, including a “direct pay” option that allows a project developer to claim these credits as refundable. Direct pay is critically important to ensuring that tax credits can benefit all developers, especially helping those without access to tax equity make use of the credits while avoiding Wall Street fees. We are also pleased that, after many years of advocacy, the bill would add energy storage to the existing ITC. It’s also good to see funding made available to support energy and industrial transition communities.
The legislative text also includes important investments in transmission infrastructure, including a new investment tax credit made available to certain large transmission projects needed to move low-cost clean energy from remote locations to load centers, and over $9 billion in direct investments in transmission. AEE was also pleased to see additional funding for states to help site transmission projects, and to improve organized wholesale electricity markets or study their formation in places where they do not exist today.
Meanwhile, to increase market demand for clean energy, the proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) would set out incentives for electricity providers (utilities and retail suppliers) to increase their year-over-year clean electricity supply by 4%, while also enacting penalties if they fall short. This is in place of what would have been preferable measures to drive demand like a Clean Electricity Standard, made necessary to meet the narrow requirements of the budget reconciliation process. Also missing is an accompanying incentive for energy efficiency, as an EERS that might have accompanied a CES. Nonetheless, AEE strongly supports measures that accelerate market growth for these resources. We look forward to working with Congress, the administration, and state regulators to ensure that the new program is implemented as efficiently and effectively as possible, including guidelines for competitive procurement processes and incentives for investment in DERs and energy efficiency.
The Build Back Better proposal represents an opportunity for Congress to accelerate the country’s transition to an advanced energy economy powered by clean energy and electrified transportation. The provisions described above would drive down the cost of that transition for consumers while creating new investments that have the potential to add millions of new jobs to our economy over the next 10 years. The time to act is now. Advanced Energy Economy calls on Congress to do so without delay.
Author: Rev. Yearwood Published: 9/24/21 Hip Hop Caucus
Hurricane Ida made it crystal clear: the climate crisis isn’t coming. The climate Crisis is NOW!
Unfortunately, while the rest of us are rushing to stave off disaster, Big Oil is ramping up their attacks on our communities and our lives. Congress needs to intervene, and pass the “Make Polluters Pay Act” so that the Petrochemical Industry is held accountable for the damage they do.
Making Big Oil pay isn’t even a punishment. It’s the very bare minimum.
CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW and demand that they pass the Make Polluters Pay Act! Call 1-888-751-2787 right now to connect to one of your senator’s offices.
Here’s what you can tell your senators:
The Polluters Climate Pay Fund Act would hand Big Oil the tab for the damage Big Oil does. It’s time to fine Big Oil to create a fund for climate disaster problems. The Petrochemical Industry owes us $500 billion dollars for past violence, and that’s the bare minimum- because at the end of the day you can not put a price on human life.
For centuries, environmental racism has poisoned communities of color in america- whether through setting up noxious manufacturing plants in Black neighborhoods, or poisoning the water supply of indiginous communities to create white profit, this evil is older than the Industrial revolution. It’s time to hold the petrochemical industry accountable for their murderous white supremacy.
People who say there’s no money to invest in the Climate Crisis miss that calling upon these treacherous companies to pay their fair share would immediately create billions of dollars to clean up the mess they made in our lives.
Big Oil is ramping up their attacks on our communities and our lives. Congress needs to intervene, and pass the “Make Polluters Pay Act” so that the Petrochemical Industry is held accountable for the damage.
Call your Senators at 1-888-751-2787 and demand they do their jobs. This is not just the fight against evil. This is the fight for our lives.
For Future Generations,
President & CEO
Author: Green The Church Staff Published: 9/23/21 GTC
Author: Jason Plautz Published: 9/20/21 Utility Dive
The House tax package would be a major step towards Democrats’ goal of producing 80% of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2030. The ITC and PTC would be extended through 2033, with added credits for facilities using domestic materials and union labor. The bill would also expand credits for energy efficiency improvements, zero-emission nuclear power production and electric vehicle purchases.
However, Barnes said advocates were disappointed to not see direct pay for the solar ITC for residential customers under section 25D. A recent working paper from the Rand Corp. found that the current structure of the program limits its availability for households and businesses with lower tax burdens. With the bottom 50% of U.S. income earners paying an average of $626 per year for electricity, it would take at least seven years to monetize the tax credit under the current structure.
“Millions of households are currently unable to benefit from that tax credit and without that credit, it takes too long to break even,” said Barnes. “This could be a way to address those inequities and the energy burden facing low-income communities.”
Appalachian Voices is one of the members of the Residential Renewables for All coalition, which launched this month to promote 25D reforms during the budget reconciliation debate. The coalition also includes the NAACP, Black Owners of Solar Services, National Wildlife Federation, Solar United Neighbors and other clean energy groups.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has indicated his committee, which will write the upper chamber’s tax language, would rely on the Clean Energy for America Act, which passed the committee in May. That bill would create technology-neutral tax credits for projects that meet certain emissions reduction and labor requirements, coupled with incentives for energy efficiency technology and electric vehicles.
The House bill also expands the ITC for solar projects that serve certain low-income communities. Projects can receive an additional 10% credit for being located in a low-income community and an additional 20% for being part of a qualifying low-income residential building project or economic benefit project. That credit increase for the section 48 ITC has a capacity limitation of 1.8 GW per year through 2031, with any unused capacity rolling over to the following year. A similar incentive is in the Senate bill.
The bill also creates a refundable competitive credit of $1 billion per year for higher education institutions working on environmental justice programs.
As Democrats combine committee language to assemble the budget reconciliation bill — and possibly pare the bill’s size down to gain the support of moderates — environmental groups say they’ll continue to fight for clean energy language that benefits environmental justice communities. In a statement, Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce said the bill could “alleviate some of the pollution impacts that have been borne by communities and help the country build back better.”
“The tax package will serve as a major driver of climate action and clean energy deployment at a scale that can truly transform the way we power our economy — our homes, buildings and transportation sector — while protecting public health by cleaning up our air and water,” Pierce said.
Author: NAN Staff Published: 9/23/21 Reverend Al Sharpton@TheRevAl
Author: Children’s Health Defense Staff Published: 9/23/21 CHD
Author: Kimberly Cataudella Published: 9/20/21 WIF
Lovell Walls is a third-generation Washingtonian.
His maternal grandparents, Ada and John Wesley Bailey, bought an 18-year-old house on what is now Grant Street NE in 1939. They bought four plots of land at $10 each, public records show, and probably spent a few thousand dollars on the house, Walls said.
Today, Walls calls this house in Ward 7 his home. Its value is assessed by the District at more than $430,000. Real estate site RedFin estimates its worth at close to $500,000.
But this hot market comes at another price: Longtime Black Washingtonians say they’re getting pushed out of their city. In 1957, Washington, D.C., became the country’s first predominantly Black major city, earning the nickname “Chocolate City.” After years of gentrification, recently released Census numbers show that there are now more white District residents than Black.
Today, residents in Wards 7 and 8 – the areas with the city’s most Black residents – are getting offers left and right to buy their homes.
Walls, an auditor in the District’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer, receives weekly phone calls, postcards, text messages and flyers from local investors, house flippers and developers asking to buy his property. Investors may not renovate houses and instead sell them to interested parties as-is, while flippers and developers will revamp homes to sell them at a larger profit. Developers often expand and add additions to homes, increasing their value all the more.
Since Walls began keeping track in 2018, he said he’s gotten more than 80 mailers, dozens of phone calls and constant texts, including a few in-person visits from interested investors.
He’s one of many District residents getting bombarded with offers to buy his house in “as-is condition” through a quick cash sale.
“No amount of money would get me to sell this house,” Walls said. “I don’t even engage in conversations with these people to know how much they’d offer, but neighbors and friends who’ve talked to these guys say that they offer pennies on the dollar, a fraction of what the house is worth.”
Walls wants to pass the house down to his sons, who would be fourth-generation Black homeowners in a neighborhood where the Black population dropped from 98% to 88% over the past decade, according to Census data.
“I grew up coming to this house on the weekends, mowing the lawn and taking my grandmother out grocery shopping,” Walls said. “The neighborhood was 95%, 98% Black. We all knew each other.”
Walls’ mother, Gwendolyn, took over the property after his grandmother died in the 1980s. She rented out the home, but after issues with tenants, she wanted to get it off her hands. Walls jumped at the opportunity and moved into the house in 1990 to make renovations, which included turning the four plots of land into one. He bought the house with his wife in 1998.
Walls began getting requests to buy the house as soon as he moved in, but they’ve become more frequent in the past few years.
“Wards 7 and 8 aren’t cheap, but investors see the ability to make more profit than if they were to buy property west of [Rock Creek Park] and spend millions,” said Ericka S. Black, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who bought property in Walls’ neighborhood in 2011. The area has more yard space than most places in the city, she said, allowing investors to expand properties and increase profits when they sell.
A hot real estate market can put stress on residents whose incomes are fixed or aren’t keeping up with increased taxes and other pressures.
Walls said he successfully appealed his property taxes, with Black’s help, a few years ago. When the city increased his assessment value by tens of thousands of dollars, his taxes increased by about $1,200 too, he said. Black helped him navigate the appeals process and avoid the tax increase.
“Why should I be penalized for keeping my property livable and up to standards? For the benefit of other people?” said Walls, who attributes the assessment value increase to beautification in his neighborhood.
Black, who has successfully appealed her own property taxes too, wants District residents to know they can appeal their tax assessment annually: “It’s a tedious process, but it could be worth it for so many residents.” Telling others about the appeals process is one of the ways she works to retain the city’s Black homeownership and keep housing affordable, she said.
But when you’re struggling, it can be hard to think about your house as a long-term investment, said Sunya Musawwir, a homeowner in Ward 7. It’s sometimes more appealing to get quick cash.
Musawwir, who has owned property in Ward 7 for more than 25 years and grew up in Ward 8, said she also gets offers from buyers on a weekly basis. She’s not interested in selling her home, hoping to let its market value rise with time.
“[Investors] offer $300,000 or $400,000, … and you’ll think that’s a lot of money, especially when you’re facing hard times, so you’ll take it. Then you turn around, and the person who put the house on the market sold it for $500,000,” Musawwir said. “That’s happened to people I know.”
Musawwir bought her home for less than $80,000 in 1994. Today, its assessed value is more than double that.
The pressure to get quick cash – even when you’ve been told over and over again to keep your property – amplifies when you’re receiving frequent requests to buy.
“It’s accurate to say that residents of the District continue to receive what seems like an exorbitant number of solicitations to purchase their house,” said Kevin Link, part owner of 4 Brothers Buy Houses.
MarketPro Homebuyers, HomeVestors and 4 Brothers Buy Houses, among the firms that are offering to buy residential properties in Wards 7 and 8, spoke to Public Integrity for this story. Seven other companies that District residents said frequently contact them with requests to buy their homes either declined interviews or did not respond to requests for comment.
Executives with those firms said they respect the first request to be taken off of contact lists and do not show up to houses without a prior appointment.
HomeVestors, also known as We Buy Ugly Houses, is a national organization that works with independently owned franchises all over the country, said CEO David Hicks. HomeVestors works with eight franchises across the District to buy homes, rehab them and sell them for a profit. The group rarely expands the properties, he said.
“There are people out there who prey on [sellers], and they offer pennies on the dollar,” Hicks said. “We make a fair margin on [our houses], but we’ve been in this business for 25 years, and we’ll be here for 25 more. To do that, we have to offer a fair price, … but we need to make a profit to stay in business. And we need the reputation to do that, so we offer fair prices.”
As co-founder of MarketPro, Danny Bronstein’s name and contact information is on most mailed flyers. He said they send yellow flyers by mail monthly to homeowners across hundreds of zip codes throughout the Washington metro area. The company provides a web link to get removed from all correspondence at the bottom of its flyers.
“We consistently mail out these flyers over and over again to the same houses because people’s situations change,” and someone who might not want to sell right now might want to in six months, Bronstein said. “And if they want to opt out, they have a clear process to do that.”
HomeVestors typically sends flyers through the mail every three months, Hicks said, and the flyers include written instructions to stop receiving them.
Past District policies have helped investors snatch up properties whose owners were under financial duress. A 2013 Washington Post investigation revealed that longtime homeowners – most in Wards 7 and 8 – were losing homes via foreclosure when they owed as little as $44 back taxes. In response, officials prohibited the sale of liens on homes whose owners owe back taxes under $2,500.
“Mayor Bowser and our entire Administration are focused on ensuring all Washingtonians have a fair shot and can thrive in the neighborhoods they know and love,” said Shayne Wells, a spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, in an email to Public Integrity.
And for the past four years, DC Housing Finance Agency has had a partnership program with developers to build homes for residents who earn too much money to qualify for affordable housing, yet not enough money to buy a house within the expensive market. It’s also an opportunity to partner with local emerging developers of color, said agency spokesperson Yolanda McCutchen.
Even with what the city has to offer, longtime residents – especially those who are Black – say they feel like development is ultimately pushing them out.
The Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) is a multi-faith, nonpartisan organization of religious leaders in the District that has been organizing on the issue of affordable housing for more than 20 years. The group is rallying around a theme of “housing equity” this year, hoping to teach struggling residents – especially younger generations – about resources they can use to keep homes.
The Rev. William H. Lamar, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church’s senior pastor and WIN member, said he wants the government to put as much effort into helping Black, brown and poor residents as they do in building partnerships with developers.
“They’ve been focused on helping developers complete projects that would not exist without support from our elected officials and our public funds,” he said. “The District does not belong to the donor class. It belongs to us all.”
Author: US DOE SETO Staff Published: 9/21/21 SETO
Author: Diana Olick Published: 9/10/21 CNBC
The number of borrowers in both government and private sector Covid mortgage bailout programs is falling fast, but for those still in trouble, the future is not as bleak as originally thought.
Extraordinarily high levels of home equity, thanks to the recent runup in home prices, has struggling borrowers in a far better position now than they were at the start of the pandemic.
The number of active mortgage forbearance plans, in which borrowers were allowed to delay their monthly payments, fell by more than 5% from the previous week, according to a new report from Black Knight, a mortgage data and analytics firm.
The drop was driven by August expirations. Borrowers were allowed up to 18 months of forbearance from entry into the programs, so expirations are now rolling. September is expected to see an outsized group of 400,000 expirations because the wave of borrowers enrolling was highest in March and April 2020.
There are still 1.618 million borrowers in forbearance programs (down from roughly 5 million at the peak in May 2020), or 3.1% of all outstanding mortgages, representing an unpaid balance of $313 billion. But 98% of those troubled borrowers now have at least 10% equity in their homes, not counting their missed payments. Including those payments, 93% still have more than 10% equity. Given today’s tight housing market, the majority could easily sell and still pocket some profit.
“Such strong equity positions should help limit the volume of distressed inflow into the real estate market as well as provide strong incentive for homeowners to return to making mortgage payments — even if needing to be reduced through modification,” said Ben Graboske, president of data and analytics for Black Knight.
So-called tappable equity — the amount of cash available for homeowners with mortgages to take out of their homes while retaining at least 20% equity — rose by a collective $1 trillion in the second quarter of 2021 alone. Fast-rising home prices have pushed the level of home equity up from a little over $6 trillion at the start of the pandemic to just over $9 trillion.
The latest read from CoreLogic in July showed home prices nationally up a record 18% from July 2020. Some states, like Idaho and Arizona, saw even bigger gains at 33% and 28%, respectively.
“Home price appreciation continues to escalate as millennials entering their prime homebuying years, renters looking to escape skyrocketing rents and deep pocketed investors drive demand,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic.
Even with sky-high prices and equity, foreclosure starts (the beginning of the foreclosure process), rose in August, up 27% from July and up 60% from August 2020, according to Attom, a foreclosure and data company. While those jumps may seem large, they are off a very low base. Foreclosure starts were more than three times higher in August 2019, pre-pandemic.
“As expected, foreclosure activity increased as the government’s foreclosure moratorium expired, but this doesn’t mean we should expect to see a flood of distressed properties coming to market,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president at RealtyTrac, an Attom company that lists foreclosed properties for sale.
Sharga expects to see foreclosure activity increase over the next three months, as loans that were in default prior to the pandemic-related foreclosure moratorium reenter the foreclosure pipeline, and states begin to catch up on months of foreclosure filings that weren’t processed during the pandemic.
“But it’s likely that foreclosures will remain below normal levels at least through the end of the year,” he added.
Author: Paul J. Saunders Published: 9/14/21 Our Energy Policy
Full Title: Ambitious Mandates, Ambivalent Communities: Land Use Challenges to New York’s Renewable Power Goals
Author(s): Paul J. Saunders
Publisher(s): Energy Innovation Reform Project (EIRP)
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Full Text: Download Resource
The report reviews New York’s evolving renewable power and its performance in meeting them as well as the state’s efforts to accelerate permitting despite local opposition in some communities. A concluding section presents lessons for other states seeking to develop low and zero-emission power.