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How UT students are innovating affordable housing

School of Architecture graduate students from University of Texas plan big and win bigger for their efforts to redesign aging public housing.

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For the last three years HUD’s Innovation in Affordable Housing competition has focused on these three simple objectives and is intended to encourage research and innovation in affordable housing, to raise practitioner and future practitioner capacity, and to foster cross-cutting team-work within the design and community development process. Multi-disciplinary graduate student teams are asked to create innovative solutions involving design, planning, and finance.

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Creativity and sustainability

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a graduate student team from the University of Texas at Austin the winners of HUD’s third annual Innovation in Affordable Housing Student Design and Planning Competition.

The Austin team is comprised of School of Architecture graduate students Sarah Simpson, Megan Recher, Brianna Garner Frey, and Tatum Lau, along with graduate student Brett Clark from the McCombs School of Business.

The group presented their final project April 19 at HUD headquarters in Washington, D.C. They defeated finalists from the University of Kansas, Harvard University and the University of Maryland at College Park. The winners were one of the four team finalists to develop a plan to redevelop the public housing project Monteria Village in Santa Barbara, California.

Public housing in need of a facelift

HACSB’s Monteria Village is composed of 28 family units, built in 1973. The Housing Authority is in the process of rehabilitating and preserving its aging HUD Assisted Public Housing portfolio, long suffering from continual Congressional budget cuts to the HUD funding necessary for their proper upkeep, to promote and ensure their viability for future generations.

The design competition challenged multi-disciplinary teams of graduate students to consider the complex challenges associated with rehabbing the current structure or demolishing it and creating new construction.

According to HUD’s web portal, “These student participants needed to consider design, community development, and financing elements in order to provide an all-encompassing plan and solution that would allow the housing authority to meet its goal of offering safe and sustainable affordable housing to area families.” Coming up with a winning proposal meant that students also need to understand the needs of the intended residents, the zoning restrictions, and leveraging opportunities.

And the winners are…

The University of Texas at Austin team will receive a $20,000 award and the runner-up team from the University of Maryland will receive $10,000. The competition jurors praised the Austin team members for their “Sophisticated site plan that connects homes and social space.”

The team also received very high marks for their water conservation plans and their plans to include an education center which will provide school and job training to address the needs of the community.

#HookEm

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

Homeownership

On the fence about buying a house? Low interest rates may change your mind

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) It’s understandable to be unsure about buying a house in COVID times, but there are some good reasons to take advantage right now.

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Buying a home seems intimidating but worth it.

If you’re on the fence about buying a house in the time of COVID, perhaps this will change your mind: For the third consecutive week, interest rates are well below 3% across the board.

Fox Business reports current fixed-rate mortgages as staying below 3% this week—like the last two weeks—with 30-year rates sitting at 2.75 percent. 20- and 15-year fixed rates are rating 2.75% and 2.125%, respectively. That’s a heck of a lot lower than rates were this time last year, and while there’s an obvious culprit with egregious downsides to thank, the fact remains that a pyrrhic thanks may indeed be in order.

Even refinancing rates are substantially lower than usual. A fixed 30-year rate is right at three percent, while rates for shorter time frames are consistently holding at below 2.8%. This proves true for the 13th week in a row, so it seems like now—like 12 weeks ago—is a good time to refinance your home for a lower rate.

While these rates may differ from what you’ll receive when looking to buy, you can generally expect lower interest rates these days—even if your credit isn’t perfect. Other factors that will impact your rate include property location and value, your income, and how much you’re able to afford for the down payment. Similarly, as long as the economy is going through a rough patch, it seems fair to expect that rates will continue to err on the side of lower than average.

As someone with an interest rate over 4% on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, it’s tempting to refinance, especially given that the process for doing so is necessarily contact-free. Even if you’re fully buying a house, though, there’s some merit to entering the market now.

It’s no secret that the economy has slowed down during the pandemic. With the majority of the population hunkering down and sheltering in place, buying a home may not be the first thing that comes to mind for most. Sure, it’s a process that is rife with risk at the moment; however, if your plans for this year included moving anyway, now is a pretty good time to apply.

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Homeownership

Getting a mortgage in 2020, what’s changed?

(HOMEOWNERSHIP) In this unexpected marketplace, here’s some advice on how to get a mortgage in 2020.

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Mortgage papers held in hands with a pen, being handed to the other hands.

Mortgages are terrifying. The idea of being committed to a payment for the next 30 years is a viscerally horrifying concept—which makes it a perfect topic to visit this season. Here is what you need to know about applying for a mortgage in the tail end of 2020.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that while mortgage rates are currently low—the last 3 weeks have seen interest rates dip well below three percent—that doesn’t mean you can expect the lowest possible rate. There are a lot of factors that play into the mortgage rate you receive: Credit, location, estimated value, and even your occupation. For this reason, you should evaluate your own eligibility so you know how “safe” you are before calling your bank.

You should also know that your credit history—while always important—will play even more of a role if you plan on buying any time soon. In the absence of other economic factors, lenders are looking much more closely at debt in comparison to income, and some lenders reserve the right to ask applicants to reduce or eliminate sources of debt before granting a loan.

Another aspect of the loan application process involves extremely timely employment checks—some of which may seem invasive. It isn’t out of the ordinary for lenders to vet applicants’ job stability, including whether or not the job will subject workers to increased risk of contracting COVID; for now, at least, a higher-risk opportunity for you might lead to a more tenuous standing in lenders’ eyes.

Finally, most experts in the loan field agree that helping your loan service help you is a crucial aspect of getting information quickly and accurately—something that is of paramount importance these days. The best way to do this is simply for you to be available to the best of your ability; the quicker you can respond with the necessary information, the faster your selected lender will be able to move you through the application process and get you a quote.

Everything feels uncertain right now, and the real estate field isn’t exempt from that feeling. By following the information here, you can cut back on your own uncertainty—and, in the process, potentially score a decent rate on a mortgage.

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Homeownership

Demand for newly built homes soars, but so is the cost of lumber

[HOMEOWNERSHIP] Many potential buyers are looking for newly built homes, but will builders be able to meet this demand with lumber prices on the rise?

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COVID-19 has had an undeniable effect on the U.S. economy. In the housing market, increased interest in single-family, new-construction homes has given builders a bright spot in the crisis. Builder confidence in this market has now reached a 35-year high, but builders are not out of the woods yet.

Potential homebuyers are showing up in hoards (figuratively speaking, we hope) this fall with a keen interest in new-construction homes. Buyers looking to take advantage of record-low interest rates are knocking on model home doors, seeking improved living arrangements with more space and functionality. The market sentiment for single-family homes is positive, but rising lumber prices are tempering home builders’ excitement for booming business.

Many white-collar workers are staring down an indefinite stretch of remote working arrangements, with some large tech companies even considering making the change to remote work permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced workers to make big shifts in their everyday life. These lifestyles changes, along with low interest rates, have prompted a new wave of homebuyers.

Unfortunately for builders, the pandemic has had a much harder impact on blue-collar workers and a negative impact on supply and demand. While office workers sit on their couches and open up their laptops to Zillow, places like lumber mills and factories had no choice but to shut down during the height (if that is even past us) of the pandemic.

Many lumber mills and factories remain closed or are dealing with severe labor shortages as these blue-collar workers are disproportionately affected by the pandemic and access to adequate health care.

Prior to shutdowns, the market was not expecting this type of boom in new-construction interest from homebuyers. Builders are now seeing lumber prices rise as a result of increased demand and dwindling supplies.

Mortgage rates hit record lows in early August, and while those have risen somewhat since then, it is unlikely that rates will skyrocket anytime soon. With no end to the pandemic in sight for the U.S., potential homebuyers will keep coming and builders will just have to deal with the premium on lumber for the foreseeable future.

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