Affordable Homebuilders Support Aiding Struggling Californians

Source: CHC  |  2016-04-29

CHC is a non-partisan advocate for the production and preservation of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income Californians. We represent the development, building, financial, and public sectors united in their goal that every Californian has a safe, affordable place to call home. Photo courtesy CHC

The California Housing Consortium released the following statement from Executive Director Ray Pearl in support of a proposal released recently by 12 Democratic Assemblymembers that would deliver relief to Californians struggling to keep up with skyrocketing rents:

“CHC wholeheartedly supports the proposal introduced today by Asms. Chiu, Thurmond, and their colleagues with support from Speaker Rendon. This plan recognizes that our state’s housing affordability crisis is hurting California businesses and sending California jobs out of state. California’s affordable home developers are ready to deploy this much-needed investment to put affordable homes within reach of the state’s neediest individuals and families, create jobs, and strengthen communities.”

The Assemblymembers’ proposal comes as state investment needed to catalyze affordable development has plummeted by approximately $1.7 billion annually, or 79 percent, following the elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2012 and the exhaustion of state housing bonds.

California’s shortfall of 1.5 million apartments affordable to the neediest Californians is driving our state’s poverty rate to the highest in the nation.

The proposal introduced today would mark a turning point in California’s housing affordability crisis, and jumpstart building of affordable places to live for struggling individuals and families.


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Backyard Bounty: Vegetables Are Nature's Original Nutritional Powerhouses

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-21

Tomatoes are a gardener’s favorite, plant in ground, raised beds or in containers.

(BPT) - You’ve probably heard the chatter around how a handful of unusual foods are must-eat nutritional powerhouses - and wondered how you’ll ever get your kids to try kale or chia seeds. But you don’t have to stress over how to incorporate the latest health food fads into your family’s diet in order to get powerful nutrition.

The truth is, those headline-grabbers aren’t the only nutritional powerhouses. Most vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, so quit worrying about how to pronounce acai or where to find seaweed in the supermarket. Instead, improve your family’s diet and save some money by growing nutrition-packed vegetables right in your own backyard. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Growing squash is easier than finding chia seeds. Many vegetables are easy to grow in any home environment, whether it’s a large garden plot or pots on your patio. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula and kale are full of nutrients and simple to grow, even for beginners. Transplants, like those offered by Bonnie Plants, make it even easier by helping you bypass the work of starting from seed. Plus, you’ll harvest six weeks sooner.

  • Healthy benefits go far beyond nutrition. Growing your own vegetables and herbs means you’ll always have a fresh supply of nutrient-rich food at home. But gardening also delivers healthful exercise, time in the fresh air, and it’s a relaxing and satisfying activity.

  • Gardens are good for Mother Nature. The more food you grow at home, the fewer natural resources will be needed to grow veggies in far off places and ship them to your local supermarket. Your garden is also a great opportunity to recycle household food waste as compost. Plus, when you choose Bonnie Plants in biodegradable pots, you’re saving millions of pounds of plastic from landfills. The pots decompose, add nutrients to the soil and help prevent transplant shock.

  • Gardening could get your kids excited about veggies - really! When kids participate in gardening, they take ownership of the plants they help grow. And with their hands in the dirt, they’re not on their cellphones or playing video games. Kids who grow veggies are much more likely to eat them, and make gardening an ongoing, healthy habit.

  • Save money at the supermarket. Growing your own food means you’ll spend much less money in the produce aisle. Plus, you can grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, even expensive, restaurant-style “foodie” greens you may not have tried otherwise.

The plant pros at Bonnie recommend these nutrient powerhouses to jumpstart your garden:

  • Strawberries - Just one cup of berries contains 3 grams of fiber and more than a full day’s recommended allowance of vitamin C. Phenols are potent antioxidants that work to protect the heart, fight cancer, block inflammation, and they give strawberries their red color.

  • Sweet potatoes - Alpha and beta carotene give sweet potatoes their bright orange color, and your body converts these compounds into vitamin A, which is good for your eyes, bones and immune system. A half cup of sweet potato provides nearly four times the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A, plus vitamins C, B6, potassium and manganese.

  • Broccoli - This green nutritional giant delivers vitamins C, A and K (associated with bone health), folate and sulforaphane that helps stimulate the body’s detoxifying enzymes.

  • Tomatoes - Tomatoes provide vitamins A, C and B, potassium and lycopene - an important phytonutrient thought to help fight various cancers and lower cholesterol.

  • Spinach - Spinach contains more than a dozen phytonutrients, and twice the daily recommended allowance of vitamin K. These nutrients contribute to cardiovascular and colon health, better brain function, eyesight and increased energy.

  • Kale - Kale contains vitamins A, C and K. A cup of cooked kale gives you more than 1,000 percent of the daily value for vitamin K. It’s also high in manganese, which promotes bone density.

  • Cauliflower - Low in calories and carbohydrates, cauliflower is packed with a long list of nutrients, including phytonutrients. They say cauliflower is the new kale!

For more information on growing nutritional powerhouse vegetables, visit www.bonnieplants.com. Bonnie Plants is the largest producer and supplier of vegetable and herb plants in North America. You’ll find their plants at Home Depot, Walmart, Lowes and 4,700 independent garden retailers.


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Battling Mosquitos? Eliminate Standing Water to Deprive Bugs of Breeding Spots

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-21

(BPT) - Malaria, West Nile virus and heartworms - as if you didn’t already have enough reasons to fear and loathe mosquitoes and the illnesses they spread, now there’s Zika, a virus that is possibly linked to birth defects. Mosquitoes are much more than itchy nuisances; the illnesses they can transmit with their bite kill thousands of humans every year. In fact, some scientists believe malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, has killed one out of every two humans who has ever lived, according to a report in National Geographic.

Keeping mosquitoes away from your home, yard and family is much more than a matter of convenience; it may help preserve your health. Eliminating standing water from your property is the single most effective thing you can do as a homeowner to minimize the presence of mosquitoes around your property. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in still water - puddles and standing water in your yard can be a breeding ground.

“When warm weather arrives, that low spot in the backyard where water always collects becomes much more troublesome than just being an eyesore,” says Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer with NDS Inc., a leading manufacturer of water management solutions. “It will attract mosquitoes that will want to lay their eggs in that standing water, but first they need to bite a human or two.”

Homeowners may think solving their drainage problems will be difficult and costly, or that they’ll end up with an ugly drainage ditch on their property. But Larsen says it is possible to eliminate standing water cost-effectively and attractively. He suggests homeowners take these five simple steps:

1. Identify actual or potential trouble spots.

Is there a low area in the yard where water collects after rain? Are any downspouts or gutters on your home clogged with debris? Does water linger along a retaining wall, edging, walkway or patio after you’ve irrigated the lawn? Mosquitoes can lay their eggs in very shallow standing water, so anywhere water collects could be a breeding ground.

2. Address the easy fixes first.

The gutters, downspouts and minor collection spots are easily addressed by simply clearing away the obstructions. When those issues are resolved, homeowners should concentrate on addressing low areas, Larsen says. “These muddy, wet areas look bad, can kill grass, attract mosquitos and eventually lead to more serious damage to a property,” he says.

3. Determine the scope of the problem.

Standing water on a property can occur in multiple spots, from walkways to lawns. NDS offers an online Home Drainage Center to help you identify your problem, possible solutions and whether the resolution is a DIY project or if you’ll need to hire a professional.

4. Choose and install your solution.

French drains, underground drainage and catch basins are typical solutions for many home drainage problems. Placing drainage underground not only minimizes the risk of mosquitoes breeding in standing water, it can preserve the visual appeal of your landscape. For example, for NDS drainage solutions that involve catch basins, the company offers a wide selection of decorative catch basin grates, so the portion of the system you can’t hide will be visually appealing. Most drainage systems can be installed in just one weekend.

5. Take steps to protect yourself.

Mosquitoes have been around since the time of the dinosaurs (and they’ve been spreading malaria for that long, too), according to National Geographic. While eliminating standing water on your property will go a long way toward reducing the number of mosquitoes in your environment, it’s virtually impossible to remove them entirely. The American Mosquito Control Association says some mosquitoes will travel 40 miles or more in search of a meal. When outdoors, wear insect repellant on exposed skin and clothing. Choose repellants with an active ingredient like DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Dark colors attract mosquitoes, so wear lighter colored clothing, and burn citronella candles or run a fan near the ground when you’re enjoying your deck or patio.

For more information about home drainage solutions, visit www.ndspro.com/home-drainage, where you’ll also find instructional videos, the Home Drainage Center, production recommendations, installation instructions and helpful links. You can also email your home drainage questions to drdrainage@ndspro.com.


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5 Essential Spring Home Improvement Projects

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-20

(BPT) - The arrival of spring means new beginnings and a fresh chance to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve been putting off for the last several months. Get your home ready for summer and make it more beautiful, efficient and functional than ever with these five seasonal projects.

Keep, donate or trash.

Your first step is to declutter the home. Separate items into three categories: keep, donate or trash. Here's a tip: if you haven’t used something in the last year, chances are you can get rid of it. Items such as unwanted electronics, housewares and gently used clothing can be donated to charity. For everything else, check with your local recycling program before putting anything in the garbage.

Get serious about spring cleaning.

Give your home a fresh start by wiping down windows, countertops, electronics, appliances, doorknobs, furniture, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Also, be sure to mop floors and vacuum carpet. Never cleaned windows before? Find out how with our free guide.

Bring your deck back to life.

We think winter is hard on us, but just imagine how hard it is on our decks, which weather the bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice all season long. Take a close look at your deck and check for warped, loose or splintered boards. Sweep away anything that may have fallen between the cracks, make any needed repairs, scrub or power wash, and restain if necessary.

Do a color refresh.

Whether you’re adding a fresh coat of paint to your interior or exterior walls, or completely changing the colors of your home, spring is the perfect time to renew your home’s look. One 2016 color trend: bold entry doors like those from Pella. Learn more and pick out your new, colorful front door.

Bloom where you are planted.

Whether you are a homeowner, renter or sublessee, celebrate the end of winter by creating spaces for bright flowers and making the most of your garden. Apartment dwellers, bring the outdoors in with hanging baskets, potted plants or herbs.


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Why Attic to Bonus Room Conversions Are Tops When It Comes to Useful Home Improvements

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-19

An underused attic becomes a functional bonus space filled with healthy natural light and ventilation. Energy Star-qualified solar powered fresh air skylights close automatically in case of rain and carry a 10-year warranty against leaks. Operated by touchpad remote control, the skylights, energy efficient solar powered blinds, and installation costs are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. Get details at www.whyskylights.com.

(BPT) - Open floor plans, mini-mansions, micro homes - some home design styles and elements shift with the currents of consumer tastes. However, others stand the test of time because they’re enduringly useful. Attics or lofts, for example, are a staple of American home design, remaining in demand even as the way we use them has evolved.

In bygone eras, attics served largely as storage space - but those were the days before the growth of the self-storage industry. Modern homeowners can stash their stuff outside their home, opening up a range of other possible uses for their attics, from master suites, extra bedrooms or home office to workout rooms and craft centers.

Homeowners are as eager as ever to convert attics, and the trend isn’t limited to people buying older homes. Many builders are incorporating attics into new construction to please buyers who want the flexibility of finishing the space as they like later on. If you’re considering an attic conversion, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

Light from above

Some attics are constructed with windows, others have none. Whether your attic has a small window or solid walls, skylights and roof windows are the go-to choice for bringing natural light and fresh air into an attic space. The direct access to the roof means it’s easy to add no-leak skylights like those made by Velux America. Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered, fresh-air skylights provide ample natural light, privacy (an advantage in bedrooms and bathrooms), and ventilation (also great for bathrooms and kitchens). Programmable remote controls make it simple to open and close fresh-air skylights, and to operate solar-powered blinds that allow you to decide just how much or how little light enters the room.

Skylights are a great aesthetic fit for attics too, and can help large or small attic spaces feel brighter and bigger. JoAnne Haynes, project designer for the O’More College of Design Alumni Show House, utilized skylights for the attic conversion on that project and says that it was an amazing transformation. “It went from a dark, black, unusable space to a wonderful, well-lit multi-purpose room.”

Adding skylights to your attic conversion is a cost effective way to upgrade both the appearance and functionality of the space. The latest solar-powered models, which close automatically in case of rain, along with solar-powered blinds, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit on the products and installation costs. To learn more, visit www.whyskylights.com.

Bedrooms and bathrooms are things of beauty

With more families housing multiple generations under the same roof, additional bedrooms and bathrooms are popular objectives of attic conversions. Homeowners with very large attics can convert the space into a dream master suite, complete with a spacious bedroom and full bathroom. If your home already has a great master, or if your attic space is more modest, you can still convert even a small attic into an extra bedroom or a half bath.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report, a master suite addition recoups more than 64 percent of its cost when you resell the home. A bathroom addition returns more than 56 percent of your investment.

Homeowners are getting inspired about attics

While extra bedrooms and bathrooms are a great way to use attic space, they’re by no means the only ones! If you have all the bedrooms and baths you need, you can still benefit from an attic conversion to increase your home’s functional living space. Whether you’re adding a family room, workout space, home theater or craft room, that unused space in your attic is the perfect way to create a specialty space without giving up any other room in the house.

Your decorating options are as unlimited as your imagination, too. Some homeowners choose to take advantage of an attic’s naturally rustic look, and leave ceiling beams exposed. Others work within the limitations of a low-ceiling attic to create cozy, right-sized playrooms or bedrooms for kids. Still others put a creative twist on the attic’s original function - storage - to move their wardrobes out of their master suites, allowing them to reclaim walk-in closet space for other uses.

Americans have been finding value in attics for generations. If your attic is currently serving as storage space, it may be time to clean it out - and start envisioning the many ways you can brighten and freshen up the space to work better for your family and lifestyle.


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3 Ways Today's Lawn Equipment Is More Like Your Car

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-14

RZT-S Zero Cub Cadet lawn tractors are the world’s only electric zero-turn rider with steering wheel control and four-wheel steering.

(BPT) - The cars of today aren’t quite your father’s car. While that’s not a surprise given the rise in new technology for the automotive sector, what some homeowners may find surprising is the level of technology with items in the garage next to the car - like the lawn equipment. Here are three unique ways today’s lawn equipment is featuring automotive-like technology.

Bluetooth Connectivity

While Bluetooth technology has become more of a standard on new cars, it is actually a unique feature on lawn equipment. With the Cub Connect mobile app, owners can connect their smartphone with certain lawn mowers, garden tractors and zero turn riders via Bluetooth. It takes the guesswork out of maintenance by allowing the lawn tractor to alert its owner about needed oil changes, blade maintenance, air filter replacements and other routine maintenance.

“With so many apps available for things homeowners don’t use, this app can actually help them keep track of maintenance for an important piece of equipment,” says Jason Cameron, home expert and TV host.

Electronic Fuel-Injected Engines

Electronic Fuel-Injected Engines - or EFI engines - were popularized in the automotive sector in 1980s. However, no one had been able to engineer the same type of technology in residential lawn tractors until this year. For the first time ever, fuel-injected engines are now available on XT2 LX42 Cub Cadet lawn tractors. The new engine technology reduces emissions and delivers excellent fuel consumption - using up to 25 percent less fuel than carbureted engines that are standard on other lawn tractors.

“According to a recent study, lower fuel consumption is a top benefit to residential lawn mower customers,” Cameron says. “And they have a willingness to pay for fuel-injection technology - more than half surveyed were likely to purchase a riding mower with a fuel-injected engine.”

Another advantage of the engine technology is that riding mowers with these engines feature a one-step start, making it easier to start in all weather conditions. The push-button start mirrors the features in many cars.

Zero Emissions

Hybrid and electric cars have carved a place in the automotive world, but there is now an equivalent to that eco-friendly technology for lawn care. The RZT-S Zero is the world’s only electric zero-turn rider with steering wheel control and four-wheel steering. It requires zero gasoline, zero oil, zero oil filters and provides zero emissions and zero engine noise, making it one of the most environmentally friendly lawn mowers on the market today. It operates on battery power, which provides up to 60 minutes of continuous mowing on an overnight charge.

For handheld lawn equipment, there’s a new technology available that also provides zero emissions. Cub Cadet powered by CORE uses a sophisticated motor technology to deliver more torque with longer runtimes and no gasoline. It’s the same type of technology used in wind turbines and even submarines. In addition to providing zero emissions, it offers reduced noise and high torque levels equal to two-cycle engines most common in garages. This technology is available in string trimmer, hedger and leaf blower options.

With features like Bluetooth, push-button starting, fuel-injected engines and zero emissions, cars aren’t the only products showcasing innovation. The next generation of lawn equipment is designed to help homeowners create their ideal outdoor spaces by incorporating efficient new technology. More information about these automotive-like features is available at www.CubCadet.com.


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Spring Cleaning Tricks for Small Businesses and Home Offices

Brandpoint  |  2016-04-14

(BPT) - Being a small-business owner or home-based professional is hard work. Long hours may come with big rewards, but maintaining a clean and well-organized office might just be one of the many sacrifices. Do you think the mess doesn't matter when it comes to the bottom line? The reality might surprise you.

Productivity and workplace cleanliness are directly related, meaning dust and grime is more than just an eyesore. A clean office produced a 5 percent productivity gain, according to a study conducted by HLW International LLP. What's more, employee morale and engagement improve when an office is organized and clean, which in turn means higher productivity.

Piles of paper here, folders scattered there and lots of clutter everywhere - the effects of a messy workplace go even further. When office spaces are dirty, germs and viruses spread easily. In particular, touchpoints such as doors, handles, phones, etc. can be a transfer point. When you or one of your team members becomes sick, it can halt productivity for the entire business.

To keep your office clean and productivity pumping, consider these five smart tips and tricks:

1. Stock your cleaning arsenal.

When you have the right cleaning supplies and tools on hand, it's easier to adopt and stick with a cleaning routine. Some essentials include paper towels, all-purpose spray cleaners, dusters and air deodorizers. Fortunately, you can get everything you need to maintain a clean and tidy office at Staples. Visit www.staples.com to place an order - you can even pick up breakroom essentials like coffee, along with clever office organizational supplies.

2. Wipe once weekly.

Place a bottle of disinfectant wipes at each person's desk and encourage everyone to wipe weekly. Not only will this prevent dust and food grime from building up, it will also help eliminate germs to keep everyone healthy. Make sure to focus on the phone, keyboard, desk surface and door handle to your office. If your space has a breakroom, wiping it down regularly is equally important.

3. Plan a purge day.

Particularly appropriate during spring cleaning season, planning a purge day is a great way to eliminate clutter and inspire organization. Whether you're a one-man-shop or have a small team of dedicated employees, set aside a few hours on a particular day to recycle old paperwork, donate dated office supplies and toss broken desk gadgets.

4. Rearrange the workspace.

After the clutter is gone, it's time to organize. Rethink your file system and use color coding to your advantage. Use storage options to streamline desk space. Invest in ergonomic office supplies to help keep your workforce healthy. Digitize what you can to eliminate excess paperwork.

5. Organize the digital workspace.

Technology is another big consideration when it comes time to clean. Dated files, legacy software and hidden computer viruses can cause digital chaos that cuts productivity quickly. Clean up your technology systems by deleting unnecessary files and software. Buy a backup drive and cloud storage as necessary.

Want more tips for keeping a clean office from the experts at Staples? Visit www.staples.com and prepare for productivity progress.


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