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How U.S. Homes Are Hurt by Rising Energy Prices

John F. Wasik, Bloomberg
John Wasik , author of “The Kitchen-Table Investor,” is a columnist for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.
Soaring energy prices have literally hit home.

Although it wasn’t always true in the past, crude-oil and gasoline prices, along with higher financing costs and decreased affordability, may have pushed the U.S. housing market into a palpable decline.

With crude-oil prices leaping past $77 a barrel, a conflict escalating in Lebanon, supply concerns exacerbated by hurricane threats, Nigerian pipeline sabotage and a civil war in Iraq, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the global energy anxiety.

Rising fuel costs often translate into higher mortgage expenses as the Federal Reserve raises short-term rates to squelch inflation. Already approaching rocky shoals, the housing market is imperiled by gasoline prices climbing 6.3 percent in the producer price index last month alone.

As energy prices have spooked consumers, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has noted how higher household spending on gasoline is slowing the overall economy. “One likely source of this deceleration was higher energy prices, which have adversely affected the purchasing power of households and weighed on consumer attitudes,” Bernanke said before Congress on July 20.
(24 July 2006)

Homes for sale rise to 9-year high
Price appreciation at a 10-year low as existing-home sales soften

Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON — The worsening correction in the housing market continued in June, with inventories rising to a nine-year high while price appreciation slowed to the weakest pace in 10 years, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.
(25 July 2006)
See a dramatic graph of home sale prices at the original article. Submitter WT writes:

As the housing bubble bursts, consumer spending will decline and a “recession” will begin. Because of Peak Oil, the economic downturn that begins with this “recession” will very likely mark the end of economic growth as we
know it.

The Housing & Transportation Affordability Index

Alex Steffen, WorldChanging
How much does your house really cost? Most of us are used to writing our rent or mortgage checks and thinking we’ve paid for our homes, but a lot of us are starting to realize there’s more to the story. Green building, for instance, has taken off so quickly in part because many of us are recognizing that how much we pay on our power, water, gas, food and garbage bills is determined (to greater and lesser degrees) by the design of our house.

Now more of us are starting to realize that how much we pay for transportation is determined largely by the location of our homes, so much so that researchers have created a “Housing and Transportation Affordability Index”:

Transportation costs are a significant part of the average household budget. The average transportation expenditures for the median income household in the US in 2003 was 19.1%-the highest expenditure after housing. The Center for Transit-Oriented Development’s Affordability Index recognizes this fact: living in a particular location is implicitly associated with transportation costs to get to that location.

Using the Twin Cities as its pilot location, this tool integrates housing and transportation costs into a single measure, correcting a pervasive information gap. The index will help local and regional planners understand the housing costs and “location costs” of building housing and transportation. Potential home buyers and renters, finance agencies, public and private-sector real estate developers, housing lenders, and secondary market actors can use the index to better understand the full cost of the homes they purchase.

In other words, access by proximity makes your house less expensive: living in a place with a healthy walkshed saves you money, and may be one of the most effective means we have for battling climate change. As we’ve said before, the solutions to the problems cars create will not all be found under the hood.
(25 July 2006)
Related: Adapting zones and sectors for the city (describes a system for arranging your activities so as to minimize fuel use)

Earth Homes Make For Affordable Housing

Tom Banse, Oregon Public Broadcasting
OKANOGAN, WA – If you’re like most people, you wouldn’t think “striking architecture” and “low income housing” belong in the same sentence. But an Okanogan, WA non-profit is planning just that — a village of domed adobe houses.

Correspondent Tom Banse reports it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.
The house John Goss is building for his mother is about as far from Northwest contemporary style as you can get. It looks like something transplanted from a Persian desert mirage — a puffed up sandcastle with skylights, or an igloo moon house.

John Goss: “Until you’ve lived in a round house, you haven’t lived. It’s just a nice open airy feeling. You don’t feel closed in.”

Officially, it’s called “SuperAdobe.” The design was patented by a California architect.

Instead of wood and nails, this house is built with long sandbags stacked in concentric circles.

John Goss: “We lay the bag down and then we whack the stuffing out of it with a tamper. And it’s a lot of work, a lot of work. But it’s solid.”
(25 July 2006)