Trade Pact Windfall Vancouver, Wash.–based lumber supplier Abitibi-Consolidated reports that it has received $225 million in refunded softwood duties, as part of the agreement between the U.S. and Canada that effectively settled their acrimonious tariff dispute. That agreement, which went into effect on Nov. 1, returned a total of $4.3 billion of the $5.3 billion in duties Canadian exporters had forked over under the previous pact. Abitibi says it would use its refund to reduce its debt.—J. Caulfield
Stable Market A study conducted by a Jacksonville, Fla., home builder on behalf of the Northeast Florida Builders Association found that the slowing housing market is a sign of stabilization, not gloom and doom. The study found that median home prices in the region rose an unprecedented 18.3 percent from the second quarter of 2005 to the second quarter of 2006. But during the third quarter of 2006, home prices increased just 4.1 percent. “To me, there's no better news than that,” says Bryan Lendry, of Brylen Homes, the builder that commissioned the study. “It needed to be down so inventory could be absorbed,” he concludes.—S. Zurier
SOURCE: JACKSONVILLE BUSINESS JOURNAL
Hola, Realtors As of January 2007, the 2,500 members of the Mexican real estate association, Asociation Mexicana de Professionales Inmobiliarios, will become Realtors. The move is part of the first joint reciprocal membership agreement with a foreign real estate organization for the National Association of Realtors. NAR executives say the move will promote standardization of international real estate practice and provide business opportunities for U.S. Realtors in Mexico, home to more than a million Americans.—P. Curry
Bird Heaven The pink flamingo is dead, may it rest in peace. The fabled lawn ornament and patron pet of millions of American homes, alternately reviled as an emblem of kitsch and revered as an icon of retro cool, was recently laid to rest when its manufacturer, Union Products of Leominster, Mass., closed its plant after 49 years. Rising energy and resin costs, combined with financing woes, contributed to its demise. —J. Sullivan
SOURCE: SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL
Survey Says Don't miss your chance to be in BUILDER's list of the top 200 home builders. For a copy of the BUILDER 100 and Next 100 survey, visit www.builderonline.com, check out the “FYI Box,” and click on “BUILDER 100 survey.” The BUILDER 100 and Next 100 will be published in the May 2007 issue. Surveys are due Feb. 6, 2007. For questions or comments, contact Loretta Williams at: email@example.com or call 202-736-3455.
A Stronger Workforce Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, stung by voters' rejection of a housing bond referendum he supported, has joined forces with that city's three largest public pension funds in a $65 million commitment to workforce housing. The public-private partnership is supporting Genesis Workforce Housing Fund II, a private equity real estate fund managed by Phoenix Realty Group. When fully invested at $150 million, Genesis II will supply 2,250 housing units valued at $750 million across greater Los Angeles. These homes are predominantly for first-time buyers making from 80 percent to 200 percent of the region's median income.—J.C.
White Flag Waved The erosion in buyer demand continues to claim home builder victims. Orndorff Construction, a custom builder based in Oak Ridge, N.C., in early November decided to liquidate its $1.9 million assets (vs. $2 million in debt) under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Unpaid subcontractors had filed numerous lawsuits and liens against the company. Jade Homes in Florida resisted a bankruptcy filing when it closed its doors in August, but through mid-November its owner Andrew Cole had been unsuccessful in his attempts to sell the company or to raise the $7 million that Jade needs to complete 75 homes under contract, valued at $17 million.—J.C.