New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. USDA Farm Programs: Farmers Have Been Eligible for Multiple Programs and Further Efforts Could Help Prevent Duplicative Payments. GAO-14-428, July 8.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664671.pdf
2. 401(K) Plans: Improvements Can Be Made to Better Protect Participants in Managed Accounts. GAO-14-310, June 25.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664392.pdf
3. National Flood Insurance Program: Additional Guidance on Building Requirements to Mitigate Agricultural Structures’ Damage in High-Risk Areas Is Needed. GAO-14-583, June 30.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/664517.pdf
4. Medicaid Financing: States’ Increased Reliance on Funds from Health Care Providers and Local Governments Warrants Improved CMS Data Collection. GAO-14-627, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665076.pdf
1. Screening Partnership Program: TSA Has Improved Application Guidance and Monitoring of Screener Performance, and Continues to Improve Cost Comparison Methods, by Jennifer Grover, acting director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-787T, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665067.pdf
2. Budget Issues: Opportunities to Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposures Through Greater Resilience to Climate Change and Extreme Weather, by Alfredo Gomez, director, natural resources and environment, before the Senate Committee on the Budget. GAO-14-504T, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665090.pdf
3. Federal Real Property: Better Guidance and More Reliable Data Needed to Improve Management, by David J. Wise, director, physical infrastructure issues, before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-757T, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665086.pdf
4. Tobacco Taxes: Disparities in Rates for Similar Smoking Products Continue to Drive Market Shifts to Lower-Taxed Options, by David Gootnick, director, international affairs and trade, before the Senate Committee on Finance. GAO-14-811T, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665082.pdf
5. Medicaid: Completed and Preliminary Work Indicate that Transparency around State Financing Methods and Payments to Providers Is Still Needed for Oversight, by Katherine M. Iritani, director, health care, before the Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-14-817T, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665070.pdf
6. Combating Nuclear Smuggling: Past Work and Preliminary Observations on Research and Development at the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, by David C. Trimble, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Cybsersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-783T, July 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665073.pdf
House prices have increased significantly in Canada over the past decade, driving household debt and residential construction activity to historical highs. Although macro-prudential tightening has slowed the pace of household borrowing in the last few years, house prices have continued to trend higher, and affordability remains a major challenge in urban centres. First-time home buyers must therefore spend more of their incomes to purchase a house and are vulnerable to future interest rate hikes. Overbuilding in the condominium sectors of some cities appears to be a source of risk, especially if a major price correction in these segments spills over into other markets. The country benefits from a sound and effective housing finance system, which performed well throughout the global financial crisis thanks to strong regulatory oversight and explicit government backing of the mortgage market. Nonetheless, the dominance of the crown corporation CMHC in the mortgage insurance market concentrates a significant amount of risk in public finances. Improving competitive conditions in the mortgage insurance market could help diversify these risks and reduce taxpayer contingent liabilities, while introducing coverage limits on loan losses would better align private and social interests. There may be a shortage of rental housing in several cities, especially in the range that low-income households can afford. Urban planning policies have resulted in low-density residential development which contributes to relatively high transport-related carbon emissions. Addressing these externalities requires stronger pricing signals for land development, road use, congestion and parking, combined with better integration of public transit planning. To prevent the marginalisation of low-income households, planning policies should support social mix and increase incentives for private-sector development of affordable housing.
NAR Identifies Best Purchase Markets for Aspiring Millennial Homebuyers
Source: National Association of REALTORS®
First-time homebuyers have been largely absent from the housing market in the current economic recovery, but some metropolitan areas – particularly in the Midwest and West – are well positioned to see increases in home-buying from the Millennial generation in upcoming years, according to new research by the National Association of Realtors®.
NAR analyzed current housing conditions, job creation and population trends in metropolitan statistical areas1 across the U.S. to determine the best markets for aspiring, leading edge Millennial2 homebuyers. Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City were identified as top standouts for Millennials for having a young adult population with solid job growth rates and still relatively affordable home prices. Seven of the 10 metro areas recognized are in the Midwest and West.
The Olympic and Paralympic legacy: Inspired by 2012 – second annual report
Source: Cabinet Office
This report describes the activities which took place in the second year since the Games to build a lasting legacy across a number of commitments, namely sport and healthy living, the regeneration of east London, bringing communities together, the Paralympic legacy and economic growth.
The report includes a foreword by the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London, and an assessment of progress by Lord Sebastian Coe, the Prime Minister’s Olympic & Paralympic Legacy Ambassador.
Proximity to Coast Is Linked to Climate Change Belief
Source: PLoS ONE
Psychologists have examined the many psychological barriers to both climate change belief and concern. One barrier is the belief that climate change is too uncertain, and likely to happen in distant places and times, to people unlike oneself. Related to this perceived psychological distance of climate change, studies have shown that direct experience of the effects of climate change increases climate change concern. The present study examined the relationship between physical proximity to the coastline and climate change belief, as proximity may be related to experiencing or anticipating the effects of climate change such as sea-level rise. We show, in a national probability sample of 5,815 New Zealanders, that people living in closer proximity to the shoreline expressed greater belief that climate change is real and greater support for government regulation of carbon emissions. This proximity effect held when adjusting for height above sea level and regional poverty. The model also included individual differences in respondents’ sex, age, education, political orientation, and wealth. The results indicate that physical place plays a role in the psychological acceptance of climate change, perhaps because the effects of climate change become more concrete and local.
Do Coastal Building Codes Make Stronger Houses? (PDF)
Source: Cato Institute
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which provides federal flood insurance to property owners in participating communities, is currently $24 billion in debt. The shortfall has long been foreseen by policymakers because the insurance is underpriced, effectively subsidizing property owners of coastal properties. Congress attempted to curtail that subsidy with the 2012 Biggert–Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was intended to put the burden of flood risk squarely on property owners rather than taxpayers. However, beneficiaries of the subsidies rallied against the legislation, and earlier this year both houses of Congress passed, and President Obama signed, legislation delaying the 2012 subsidy reform.
Communities that participate in the NFIP must adopt the program’s building code, which incorporates minimum building standards set forth by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Economists have theorized that building codes associated with the provision of subsidized insurance may create moral hazard by inducing risk taking. That is, the acquisition of insurance against some contingency is associated with a decreased incentive to avoid or prevent the insured loss because policyholders do not bear the full consequences of their actions. Independent of any insurance provision, moral hazard can also result from a false perception of safety if building codes are not effective.
This article examines the effectiveness of the NFIP’s building code in reducing damages to barrier island property in a hurricane. We determine whether similarly located properties fare better or worse in a hurricane based on the code regime under which they were constructed. We use data from Lee County, Fla., where 2004’s Hurricane Charley made landfall. Our findings raise questions about the optimal scale of code design, and about unintended consequences from building code changes.
Evaluating the Effect of Smart Growth Policies on Travel Demand
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) has released a project brief that provides transportation planning agencies with improved tools and methods to accurately and comprehensively integrate transportation investment decision making with land development and growth management.
Global Real Estate Transparency Index 2014
Source: Jones Lang LaSalle
JLL’s eighth Global Real Estate Transparency Index , covering 102 markets worldwide, shows continued progress in the transparency of commercial real estate around the world. Over 80% of markets have registered improvement since 2012. The top improvers in each survey generally correlate with a surge in foreign direct investment and corporate occupier activity, as investors help to accelerate transparency reforms and governments realise that poor transparency will affect continued inward investment, long-term growth prospects and the quality of life of citizens.
2014 CoreLogic Storm Surge Analysis Identifies More Than 6.5 Million US Homes with Total Reconstruction Value of Nearly 1.5 Trillion Dollars at Risk of Hurricane Storm Surge Damage
CoreLogic® (NYSE: CLGX), a leading global property information, analytics and data-enabled services provider, today released its 2014 storm surge analysis featuring estimates on both the number and reconstruction value of single-family homes exposed to hurricane-driven storm surge risk within the United States. According to the findings, more than 6.5 million homes along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts are at risk of storm surge inundation, representing nearly $1.5 trillion in total potential reconstruction costs. More than $986 billion of that risk is concentrated within 15 major metro areas. This exposure could constitute significant risk for homeowners and financial services companies, as many at-risk homes lack protection from insurance coverage.
The analysis examined homes along the coastlines of 19 states and the District of Columbia in the Gulf and Atlantic regions, extending as far west as Texas and as far north as Maine. Florida ranks number one for the highest number of homes at risk of storm surge damage, with nearly 2.5 million homes at various risk levels and $490 billion in total potential exposure to damage. At the local level, the New York metropolitan area, which encompasses northern New Jersey and Long Island as well, contains not only the highest number of homes at risk for potential storm surge damage (687,412), but also the highest total reconstruction value of homes exposed, at more than $251 billion.
Free registration required to download report.
Does Planning Regulation Protect Independent Retailers? (PDF)
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers
Regulations aimed at curbing the entry of large retail stores have been introduced in many countries to protect independent retailers. Analyzing a planning reform launched in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, I show that independent retailers were actually harmed by the creation of entry barriers against large stores. Instead of simply reducing the number of new large stores entering a market, the entry barriers created the incentive for large retail chains to invest in smaller and more centrally located formats, which competed more directly with independents and accelerated their decline. Overall, these findings suggest that restricting the entry of large stores does not necessarily lead to a world with fewer stores, but one with different stores, with uncertain competitive effects on independent retailers.
2014 Global Life Sciences Cluster Report
Source: Jones Lang LaSalle
Notable shifts and surges in industry activity have been the recent norm for Life Sciences. Big players have made moves to become more nimble, while small to medium sized companies have made steady headway into the marketplace. Learn more about the ever-changing landscape, trends in real estate that are helping to support these changes, and what global regions are leading the way in the Life Sciences industry.
Free registration required to access full report.
Bursting the Bubble: The Challenges of Working and Living in the National Capital Region (PDF)
Source: The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, The DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and The Maryland Center on Economic Policy
Living in the national capital region looks like it has its advantages. Employment levels are back to where they were before the recession. The unemployment rate is far lower than that of the country as a whole. Incomes are high, especially for highly educated workers. From outside this bubble, things look pretty good.
However, the bubble obscures a troubling story for many residents of the region.
Income inequality is growing. Employment levels for people without a college education are far lower than before the recession. Unemployment rates for several groups of workers, including those without a college degree, remain high. Black workers and young workers were particularly hard hit by the recession, even when compared to other area residents with similar education levels. The high cost of living in the region is pushing many families to spend more than they can afford on housing, while others trade more affordable housing for long and expensive commutes.
The region has many successes worth celebrating. But broadly shared prosperity is not one of them. The region’s policymakers need to address the challenges facing those who are struggling to keep their foothold in the economy. This includes ensuring all workers in the region have the skills and credentials needed by employers for current and future jobs, taking steps to make sure all working adults have enough income to support their families, and ensuring availability of affordable housing options with access to good jobs.
REALTORS® in the American Workforce, by State
Source: National Association of REALTORS®
The interactive map below allows you to look at the share of REALTOR® members by state and, by using the slider in the top left corner of the map, through time.
What stands out in the map, regardless of the year’s data that you look at, is that there is geographic variation in the ratio of REALTOR® members to employed persons by state. If you take a look at this variation over time, you find that there is also some consistency in the shares by state.
Hawaii is a perennial leader, coming in with the highest share of REALTOR® members per employed persons in 19 of 34 years. Arizona is a close second, coming in with the highest ratio in 15 of 34 years. These two states are the only two to rank number one in this metric from 1980 through 2013. In that time, the highest share of REALTOR® members per employed persons ranged from 0.9 to 2.3 percent.
By contrast, the state with the lowest share of REALTOR® members per employed persons has been more variable. In the 34 years observed, Mississippi, Maine, West Virginia, South Dakota, and North Dakota have all rotated in and out of this position. In every year, the state with the lowest share of REALTOR® members per employed persons has ranged between 0.2 and 0.4 percent.
DHS OIG — FEMA Could Realize Millions in Savings by Strengthening Policies and Internal Controls Over Grant Funding for Permanently Relocated Damaged Facilities
FEMA Could Realize Millions in Savings by Strengthening Policies and Internal Controls Over Grant Funding for Permanently Relocated Damaged Facilities (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General
From Spotlight (PDF):
FEMA could realize millions of dollars in cost savings by strengthening its policies, procedures, and internal controls over Public Assistance grant funding provided for permanently relocated damaged facilities. FEMA’s present policies and procedures do not effectively address how FEMA should use program income to offset permanently relocated facility costs. For example, such a revised policy could have saved an estimated $17.8 million in project costs. Also, internal controls were not in place to determine when applicants received program income to offset permanently relocated facility costs.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Macroprudential Tools at Work in Canada
Source: International Monetary Fund
The goal of this paper is to assess the effectiveness of the policy measures taken by Canadian authorities to address the housing boom. We find that the the last three rounds of macroprudential policies implemented since 2010 were associated with lower mortgage credit growth and house price growth. The international experience suggests that—in addition to tighter loan-to-value limits and shorter amortization periods—lower caps on the debt-to-income ratio and higher risk weights could be effective if the housing boom were to reignite. Over the medium term, the authorities could consider structural measures to further improve the soundness of housing finance.