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January/February 2011 — Web Exclusive

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Help for Future Homeowners

TxHomePrograms.org, a new website, offers prospective Texas homeowners a searchable database of affordable housing programs. Created by the Texas Association of Realtors, the site lets consumers search for programs that offer assistance with down payments and closing costs.

TxHomePrograms.org is an interactive and personalized tool for prospective Texas homeowners, says John Gormley, vice president of communications and marketing for the Texas Association of Realtors.

“With a lot of affordable housing programs, the eligibility requirements depend on household income and can change depending on zip code and the location,” Gormley says. “Texas is a large state geographically and very diverse in terms of home ownership and home ownership patterns. What’s great about TxHomeprograms.org is that consumers can input basic information, including their household income and zip code, and that will return a list of programs they should be eligible for.”

The site launched in May 2010, shortly after the federal first-time homebuyer tax credit expired. Gormley says the site offers a wealth of resources on other state and local homebuyer assistance programs. Since launching, the site has received more than 790,000 hits from 18,000 unique visitors.

(Karen Hudgins)

Rebuilding a Marsh

In the last 60 years, nearly 340 acres of intertidal marshland along the Nueces Bay Causeway, north of Corpus Christi, were eroded due to weather and road construction.

Thanks to the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP), a restoration effort along the causeway will recreate 160 acres of marshland. A vital element of the bay’s ecosystem, the intertidal marsh is home to fish, shrimp and crabs, and provides food for waterbirds.

Remarkably, state funds represent less than 25 percent of CBBEP’s total construction budget. The program used $530,000 from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to attract more than $1.9 million in matching federal funds.

CBBEP began work on the marsh restoration in July 2010 and plans to complete the project by March 2011.

The marsh restoration will benefit not only the bay’s ecosystem, but residents and visitors who will enjoy enhanced public access and opportunities to fish and kayak in the restored region.

Texans may contribute to the restoration process through volunteer planting, arranged in partnership with the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association. To participate, “All you have to have is a pair of boots,” says CBBEP Communications Manager Beth Wilson.

The program offers educational presentations to residents and visitors on the causeway restoration and its environmental and community impact.

(Meghan Vail)

Taking the LEED
in League City

In August, Associated Credit Union (ACU) of Texas opened the first Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED)-certified green building in League City.

Upfront construction costs were more expensive, but the long-term savings make up for it, says Jack Click, ACU of Texas president and CEO.

The 30,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and branch office includes a “cool roof” system that reduces the demand for electrical power by up to 10 percent. An energy-efficient air conditioning system circulates fresh air from outside, while impact-resistant reflective windows allow natural light in, reducing the need for artificial lighting while reducing heat transfer. Drought-tolerant landscaping surrounding the building reduces overall water usage.

“As a credit union, we’re tight with our members’ money,” Click says. “While the initial costs for the building were a little bit more, the costs over the life of the building are less.” Click expects monthly utility savings of about 15 percent.

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Building Certification Institute certifies LEED projects, providing independent verification of the use of green building techniques and materials. Becoming LEED-certified also requires the use of recycled materials and materials obtained within 500 miles of the construction site.

“In 10 years, green building will be standard in construction,” Click says.

(Tracey Lamphere)

Texas Export Leaders

Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston are national leaders in exports and related employment, according to a July 2010 study by the Brookings Institution. The study ranked 100 U.S. metropolitan areas based on 2008 export data.

In 2008, the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area ranked fourth nationally in export-related employment, with 303,514 jobs, while Houston was sixth with 235,193 jobs. Houston also ranked fourth nationally in the value of its exports, at $51.6 billion. Dallas-Fort Worth followed in fifth place, with $44.6 billion. Houston also ranked fourth nationally in export growth, racking up a 20 percent increase from 2003 to 2008.

Read the entire report, including rankings for 100 U.S. metro areas.

(Tracey Lamphere)

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