There have been some interesting environmental development happening around the Twin Cities and Minnesota. Here are some of the community-related green news and stories that broke in January.
An in-depth survey of 3,000 households in Ramsey and Anoka counties is providing environmental researchers at the University of Minnesota insight into what it would take to get people to make more of an effort to reduce their impact on the earth. They asked about thermostat settings, number of children, cars, bedrooms, miles driven to work, lawn size and fertilizer use, even whether there were vegetarians in the house. As it turns out, most people really do care about their impact on the environment. But what really drives them to change is knowing how they rank on their own personal pollution scores, how they compare to their neighbors, and where they can improve. In the end, the researchers hope to find out how best to influence social norms and change behavior toward a more eco-friendly culture.
More U.S. consumers and developers are turning to factory-built housing for speed, quality and energy efficiency. The prefab market is positioning itself for major growth when the housing industry rebounds. Several prefab newcomers, including ZETA, Minnesota-based Hive Modular and Florida-based Cabin Fever, report healthy annual increases in the number of homes they're building. Several prefab newcomers, including Minneapolis-based Hive Modular, report healthy annual increases in the amount of homes they're building. The prefabs take 5 to 12 weeks to manufacture and 4 to 8 weeks to assemble and finish once it is delivered on site. Prices range from $200 to $250 per square foot. Several carried the Energy Star label and one earned the top, or platinum, rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Not finding a home that you like that's also energy efficient and earth-friendly? Perhaps buying a lot and a prefab is the right way to go.
The Varney Lake stormwater retention...
Using statistics and analysis of the biggest 50 cities from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Juju.com's monthly Job Search Difficulty Index for Major Cities and Moody's Economy.com, Forbes recently released its list of America's Best and Worst Job Markets.
According to a recent analysis, Minneapolis and St. Paul ranks as the 4th best major community for job markets throughout the United States. The Twin Cities Area's unemployment rate stands at 6.5%, compared to the 9.1%. There is an average of 2.68 job-seekers per opening.
In the Twin Cities area "employment is expected to recover fully by mid-2011, far earlier than nationally," according to a recent Moody's Economy.com analysis of the region. Look for growth in manufacturing and professional services jobs like accounting. Did we mention that the metro is home to the Mall of America, a retail and tourist destination, which is expanding?
Best U.S. cities for jobs:
- Washington, DC
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Austin, Texas
- Minneapolis/St Paul, Minnesota
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Baltimore, Maryland
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Salt Lake City, Utah
- New York, New York
- Hartford, Connecticut
Worst U.S. cities for jobs:
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Riverside, California
- Miami, Florida
- Detroit, Michigan
- Sacramento, California
- Los Angeles, California
- San Diego, California
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Jacksonville, Florida
- Orlando, Florida
Read the full America's Best and Worst Job Markets article at Forbes....
Last year was the worst for home sales since the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors began tracking home sales in the Twin Cities metro area nearly 10 years ago. The number of Twin Cities homes sold slipped in 2010 to 37,365, down 17% from 2009. It was even lower than 2008, which many industry experts had hoped was the bottom of the market. Median sales prices did rise a modest 2.3%.
Rob Grunewald, associate economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said that while the construction industry saw more promising numbers during the last weeks of the year, a full thaw for the housing market isn't likely during 2011. "While the overall Minnesota economy is expected to recover moderately in 2011," he said. "The housing industry faces conditions that will likely keep home prices and building at relatively low levels."
Though 2010 started off at a run due to the $8,000 federal first time home buyer tax credit, once it expired expectations for the year were low. At the end of the April deadline, Twin Cities real estate sales practically stopped in its tracks. Prices didn't plummet drop significantly as expected because of an increase in sales of traditional listings and upper-bracket houses, while prices of lender-mediated foreclosure and short sales properties fell.
"It was like two different markets," said Pat Paulson, president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. He said that during the last week of April there were 1,460 pending sales, the highest weekly level since 2005. Since then sales have fallen to about 600 deals a week with the exception of the last couple weeks of the year.
"The last half of the year is fresh in my mind, and I'd say it was disappointing," he said. "We knew there'd be a drop-off, but we didn't expect it to be such a steep drop. But the...
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Browse Minneapolis MN Communities
Forbes has recently compiled a list of America's 10 Most Affordable Cities. Ranked at No. 7 overall was the Minneapolis - Saint Paul Twin Cities Metro Area.
Forbes started its list with the 50 largest U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Then they went to work finding a mix of data that included current median asking price of homes on the market, median salaries of workers with bachelor's degrees or higher, cost of living and unemployment statistics. The result is a list of the top 15 urban affordability hot spots.
Minneapolis ranked 28 for asking price, 17 for salar, 19 for cost-of-living, and 5 for unemployment. Here's what Forbes had to say about Minneapolis:
At $249,000, the current median asking price for homes in Minneapolis-St. Paul remains higher than those of its neighbors on our list. The Twin Cities make up for it in quality of life, touting low unemployment rates and a healthy cost of living vs. salary.
"Minneapolis-St. Paul has very strong institutions of medical research and higher education, a highly educated population and a desirable amenity base," says Stuart Gabriel, director of the Ziman Center for real estate at the University of California Los Angeles.
"Minneapolis has weathered the downturn better than most places and its prospects continue to look relatively bright," says Gabriel, who has researched the quality of life as it relates to real estate economics.
The cities that beat Minneapolis were:
- Omaha, Nebraska
- Buffalo, New York
- Detroit, Michigan
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Overall, the Midwest dominated Forbes' bargain city list.
Looking for the best community in the Twin cities for a relatively quick trip to work? Look no further than Richfield. Residents of this city, located at the heart of the Twin Cities' transit and highway system, get to work an average of two minutes faster than average state residents.
According to U.S. Census date released in December, Richfield MN residents had an average commute of 20.2 minutes, while Bloomington, St. Paul and Minneapolis trailed at 21 to 22 minutes. Commutes were much longer in outer-ring suburbs and bedroom communities such as Marine on St. Croix at 34.6 minutes, Chisago City at 35.1 minutes, Bethel at 37.7 minutes and Waverly at 39 minutes. Statewide, the average Minnesotan's commute to work takes 22.2 minutes.
The data come from 2005 to 2009 estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS), which measures population characteristics in detail. Some of the questions focus on how people get to work and how long it takes them to get there.
While it seems self-evident that commuting times are shortest when workers are near employment centers, the data indicates that other issues may complicate the commute. Minnesota communities with the longest commutes also had no public transit systems.
Lee Munnich, a transportation expert with the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said long commutes from the fringe of the metro area reflect people's search for affordable housing in the last 20 years. The farther people went, the cheaper houses got. But industry and employment didn't necessarily follow.
"It's part of the cost of housing moving further out," he said....