Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oil Spill Spreads to Housing Markets – What’s Next?

Tapping into America’s resilient spirit, President Obama has promised not only to recover from the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but to repair the Gulf to an even better state than before. That’s an ambitious task to take on. But in the aftermath of disaster, it appears that the nation may have chance to show some real growth in one area in particular: housing and sustainable land use.   
The effects of the spill have not spread evenly across the gulf:

On one hand, Florida’s housing market has been dealt a one-two punch. The state was already one of the hardest hit by foreclosures in recent years, with over 80% of home loans “under water” (where owners owe more than their property’s value). On top of diving home values, Florida also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. It’s not likely that the oil spill’s blow to the economy, specifically on the fishing and tourism industries, will help any of these problems.

On the other hand, New Orleans is experiencing modest growth after the disaster, according to Multi-Housing News. New Orleans’ properties are now 88% occupied and several construction projects are in the works, as the housing market and rents appear to stabilize. With BP hiring more than 20,000 people to help clean up, Louisiana is actually experiencing a “mini-job boom,” increasing demand for rental and owned homes.

So, how can we come out of this crisis a better, healthier and more efficient country?

According to Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), it comes down to our ability to adopt more sustainable practices, particularly when it comes to “transportation and how we build in our communities.” Over three quarters of America’s oil consumption and one third of our oil emissions come from transportation. Congressman Blumenauer says sustainable land use provides a long term solution:
“Being truly aggressive about where and how we build can save even more money and energy -- with the potential to cut carbon pollution 12-16 percent by 2030 and save more than a million barrels of oil a day.”
The lasting effect of the oil spill on gulf communities remains to be seen. But the reality is that the only way to prevent a similar catastrophe in the future is to encourage Americans to use less fossil fuels. In that aggressive effort, housing, transportation and smart growth have a huge role to play.

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