Entries in City (4)


Home Prices Highest Since April 2006

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Home prices in cities around the country surged 10 percent in the past year to highs that haven't been seen since the end of the housing bubble.

Prices around the country rose the most since April 2006, though in most places they are still well below their 2006 peak, according to the Case-Shiller house price index, which includes data through March 2013.

Phoenix, San Francisco and Las Vegas had the biggest jump in home prices, with increases of more than 20 percent compared with a year ago.

The housing market, while apparently on the road to recovery, is not yet fully healed.  A large number of homes are still in some stage of foreclosure and investors rather than first-time home buyers make up an outsized chunk of the housing market.

Many economists though are still confident that we are on the way to a healthy market. 

“This is not a bubble,” says economist Diane Swonk.  ”We are regaining lost ground which is a game-changer for most households since their home is what they rely on for wealth.”

Still the rise in home prices could be among the factors contributing to resilience in consumer spending despite a tax hike at the beginning of the year.  As home prices rise consumers feel confident to spend on other items like a new car.

The housing market in cities, including Seattle and Charlotte, is pushing back into positive territory after a couple of months in decline.  Prices were up 3 percent in Seattle compared with a month ago, and 2.4 percent in Charlotte.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Philadelphia Officials Disapprove of Man Who Spent $20,000 to Clean City Lot YORK) -- A man who spent $20,000 to clean up a rubbish-strewn and weed-filled lot next to his Philadelphia coffee shop is now in trouble with the city for supposedly putting public safety at risk.

Ori Feibush, owner of OCF Realty and OCF Coffee House, said he spent his own money to clean up the neighborhood eyesore next to his business last month. After trying to purchase the 1,600-square-foot lot for years, he said he reached the end of his rope about a week before his coffee shop's grand opening on Aug. 16.

"I didn't wake up one morning and spend tens of thousands of dollars to remove blight that was a danger to residents and customers," he said.

Feibush, 28, had visited the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority on Aug. 8 to complain about the lot and outline his plan for it. He was told the agency would clean the lot and that he was not permitted to enter it.

"They promised they would get around to it," Feibush said. "I did not believe I could open up a coffee shop when people couldn't traverse the sidewalk."

He said he finally cleaned up the lot out of "frustration," poured a new sidewalk, and placed a bench and picnic table. He said parents, children and dog-walkers are visiting the property now. Previously, the homeless would sleep behind the nine-foot weeds.

Soon enough, city officials came out to the lot and called him a "trespasser."

Feibush told the Philadelphia Daily News that once the city got wind that Feibush had cleaned up the lot, he received an email on Aug. 13 that read, "You are requested to immediately stop all work and return the j-barriers to the original location."

Paul Chrystie, director of communications for Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development, said the city had put barriers on its property for the safety of the public and to prevent dumping.

While the property was not in the best condition, it had not been ignored, said Chrystie.

A crew had visited the lot at least eight times within the year before Aug. 8. Two days later, a crew cleaned debris from the property.

"There are hundreds of agreements in Philadelphia allowing private citizens to use public lots," he said in a statement. "Mr. Feibush chose not to pursue one, which is not fair to the taxpayers who are foregoing revenue and accepting liability, nor to the three potential buyers who have followed the rules that Mr. Feibush is ignoring."

Feibush said he disputes that crews had actually cleaned up the property.

"I've been past that corner every day for the past seven years and have never seen it looking better than the day before," Feibush said.

Feibush, a developer in Philadelphia for seven years, said this is not the first time he encountered red tape in the city.

"What I don't understand is why they didn't consider that previous site to be a liability for them," he said.

He said around the time he purchased the property for the coffee shop in 2008, he had tried to buy the vacant lot next door, but he said he was passed from one city office to another. More than once, he was told by officials that the city did not own the lot.

On four occasions, because some paperwork showed there were "Jersey" barriers surrounding the lot, he was absurdly told he had to contact authorities in New Jersey.

He said it took him years to get approved to purchase the lot across the street from the coffee shop, where he intends to build single-family homes.

Feibush said if the city allowed it, he would purchase the adjacent lot "at fair market value tomorrow."

He estimates that it is worth around $70,000 to $80,000, based on his purchase across the street.

He plans to continue to "maintain the garden and pick up trash and so it looks the way a lot should look in the city of Philadelphia and not a piece of squalor."

After the city "ignored" this lot for decades, Feibush said he is surprised it has taken such an interest, even visiting the site hourly when his work crew cleaned up the property to tell them to stop.

"What I'm hoping the next step of the city is to take other lots and try to clean them up instead of focusing on this one lot," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Occupy Protests Take Toll on City Budgets

Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's unclear what the Occupy protests have accomplished, but police have received a bonanza of overtime, making up a large part of at least $10.3 million in costs incurred by nine cities since the protesters began gathering near Wall Street two months ago.

Occupy Wall Street catalyzed dozens, if not hundreds, of protests across the world. New York City alone has spent about $6 million on costs related to Occupy Wall Street, not including the eviction on Tuesday, according to Howard Wolfson, the mayor's deputy for government relations.

Philadelphia racked up $492,000 in unanticipated police overtime through last week, according to Rebecca Rhynhart, the city's budget director. Rhynhart said they're estimating that costs could reach $2.5 million if the protest lasts through the fiscal year, or June 30.

Oakland spent over $1 million to pay police overtime, according to the Washington Post.

Portland estimated $750,000 so far for police overtime, while damage related to its parks has cost $50,000 to $100,000, according to Amy Ruiz, communications director for Mayor Sam Adams.

In Seattle, protests will cost $625,999 from the week that ended in Oct. 14 to the end of Nov. 25. The largest portion goes to overtime for Seattle police: $580,468. The extra costs to Seattle's parks comprise $21,471 of the total.  The department of finance and administrative services, which just gave protesters permission for a permit to use part of city hall's plaza on Tuesday, made up the rest at $24,060.

The Boston police department estimated overtime costs related to the Occupy Boston movement to be about $575,000 so far, according to Elaine Driscoll, director of communications of the department.

In Atlanta, protests cost $451,691 from Oct. 7 to 25, with almost three-quarters going to overtime to police, said Mayor Kasim Reed on Nov. 2.

Occupy Denver led to overtime for various city departments during five days of protest in October at about $365,000, according to the Denver Post. The protests are estimated to cost $200,000 a week for the rest of the year. This week, the police department asked for an increase of $6 million in its budget, "citing Occupy as a small but unspecified portion of the cost," the Post reports.

Cincinnati has spent about $128,000 in police overtime, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Coming Soon: A City in a Petri Dish

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Twenty square miles of land in New Mexico are set to be turned into a real-life Sim City by one Washington D.C.-area company. But there’s a catch: it will be a ghost town.

Pegasus Global, a telecommunications and technology testing company, announced Tuesday that it planned to invest $200 million in this city simulation, which will operate as a functioning city, complete with urban canyons, suburban neighborhoods and rural communities. It just won’t contain any people.

The city will mimic the mix of old and new infrastructure found in most mid-sized U.S. cities, said Pegasus CEO Robert Brumley in a statement.

“[It] will allow private companies, not-for-profits, educational institutions and government agencies to test in a unique facility with real-world infrastructure, allowing them to better understand the cost and potential limitations of new technologies prior to introduction,” said Brumley.

Anthony Rufolo, a professor urban planning at Portland State University, said the announcement left him with a lot of unanswered questions -- and he suspects Pegasus Global has plenty too.

“It sounds like a risky concept to me,” Rufolo said. “Obviously some things, like the canyon effects of broadcast could be tested, but I don’t know how you could test recycled water without people there to generate waste water.”

Rob Melnick, dean at Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, disagreed and called the project “long overdue.”

“It’s a very smart platform to test and advise city governments,” said Melnick.  He said that even without a population, the faux city will be able to provide some real insight for city governments, adding: “I have high hopes.”

The company is currently conducting a five-month feasibility study of where in New Mexico the city should be built.

The New Mexico Economic Development Department said Pegasus anticipates the private test city will create 350 direct jobs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio