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In Atlanta, not all neighborhoods come back

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Rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. (2 Apr 1996)

Dan Immergluck, a professor of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech, decided to investigate reports that greater Atlanta's housing market was on the mend. 

On the first Tuesday of every month, banks auction off foreclosed properties on the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta. Last month, there were a few dozen bidders, a far smaller number, according to those present, than at the height of the housing crash.

To some bidders, the presence of fewer people suggests there are fewer foreclosures. To them, this is evidence that the housing market in the Atlanta Metro region is on the mend.

Dan Immergluck, a professor of city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, has been following Greater Atlanta's housing market for a decade. In 2012, he started to hear that the  region was recovering. He wondered, after seeing neighborhoods where large swathes of property were still vacant, whether recovery was the whole story.

Immergluck broke Atlanta up into zip codes, and using home price estimates from the real estate website Zillow, he examined how house prices in each zip code were recovering. What he found was that the way in which a neighborhood was rebounding — fully and quickly, or partially and more slowly — depended in part on its racial demographics.

Homes in majority-white zip codes, Immergluck found, tended to have regained their full value. Homes in majority African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods were likely to have regained only about half of their pre-recession value. 

Home prices up across most of Cleveland, strongest in Edgewater, Tremont, Central, Kamm's Corners

Rich Exner, Northeast Ohio Media GroupBy Rich Exner, Northeast Ohio Media Group 
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on March 10, 2015 at 10:02 AM, updated March 10, 2015 at 11:16 AM

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Single-family home prices increased across most of Cleveland last year, with two of the sharpest jumps in the Edgewater area on the West Side side and Central to the East Side.

Home sales by neighborhood

These two areas, and a few other sections of Cleveland, rivaled some suburban locations for pricing.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group reported earlier that suburban prices in Cuyahoga County increased 3 percent last year to a median of $120,000, based on a NEOMG analysis of county real estate records.

Cleveland ran well below the suburban median, with prices up 7 percent to $27,900 citywide.

But Cleveland prices vary greatly from one neighborhood to the next; so today we offer a new database breaking down annual prices since 2007 for three dozen areas across Cleveland.

cleveland-home-prices-2014 [Converted]View full sizeMedian single-family home prices by neighborhood in Cleveland in 2014 ranged from close to $15,000 in some areas to more than $100,000 in others. 

Among neighborhoods where there were at least 20 sales in 2014, median prices exceeded $100,000 in four places:

  • Edgewater, with a median of $135,800
  • Tremont, with a median of $130,000
  • Central, with a median of $109,900
  • Kamm's Corners, with a median of $101,500

Prices were up in Edgewater, Central and Kamm's Corners.

The median price was in Tremont. Yet, over the last three years, no Cleveland area has been as consistently strong as Tremont. The median was $129,500 in 2012, $135,000 in 2013 and $130,000 last year.

Overall, prices were up last year in 26 of the 32 neighborhoods with at least 20 sales.

Edgewater prices jumped from $75,000 and $86,000 the previous two years to the citywide high of $135,800 in 2014. (Downtown did not have enough sales to make the list because the analysis dealt only with single-family homes.)

Anita Brindza, executive director the Edgewater community development organizationCudell Improvement Inc., said she believed the Cleveland Metroparks' takeover of Edgewater Park from the state drove up the market.

"There has been a huge difference," Brindza said. "People (previously) saw Edgewater Park as a liability. It wasn't their first choice for recreation. Now, with the type of events the Metroparks are putting on, everyone can feel safe, the park is clean, and the events are well run."

Across town, Central saw the median home price more than double last year, though the sample size was small with just over 20 single-family home sales.

The reason for the higher prices: newer homes returning to the market after going through foreclosure, said Tim Tramble, executive director of the local neighborhood organization in Central -- Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc.

Tramble said most of the homes fetching higher prices last year were built under separate housing initiatives - Central Commons in the late 1990s and later the Villages of Central.

These homes didn't fall victim to the first wave of foreclosures in the mid-2000s, but did so later when homeowners lost their jobs later, Tramble said. Many of these homes sold for above $100,000 when they returned to the market last year.

In Kamm's Corners, the biggest neighborhood market with 296 sales last year, the median of $101,500 marked the second straight increase.

Elsewhere in Cleveland, however, median home prices in many areas were lower than the price of a new car.

On the low side, median prices were in the $11,000 to $15,000 range for Forest Hills, North Broadway, St. Clair-Superior, Euclid-Green and Point Pleasant.

Across most of the city, as was the case for much of the county, prices remained lower last year than they were in 2007 before the area housing market experienced sharp declines.

Excluded from the city and suburban data were homes sold at sheriff's sales and deals that involved multiple parcels.

Homes selling for for $1,000 or under also were excluded. This was done to remove from the comparison homes bought in mass, sometimes by speculators without viewing the propertie

Governor’s proposal for $10.50 minimum wage gets warm welcome in Buffalo


A proposal to raise New York’s minimum wage to $10.50 an hour received a rousing reception Tuesday morning, during a visit by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to Buffalo’s East Side.

Cuomo highlighted the city’s improving economy in his opening comments to the enthusiastic crowd inside the William C. Baird Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo on Bailey Avenue.

“It’s a new Buffalo when it comes to the economy ... in almost every way,” he said.

But for the middle class and working families, it’s “not doing great,” he said. Those who work full time should not be living in poverty, he said.

The state’s minimum wage increased last Dec. 31 from $8 to $8.75 an hour. And it will increase, again, to $9 an hour, at the end of this year.

Even so, “You cannot afford to raise a family in this state on $18,000 a year,” the governor said.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour would lift 100,000 New Yorkers out of poverty, Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s minimum wage proposal actually is two-tiered: It would raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in New York City and $10.50 an hour in the rest of the state.

The $10.50 hourly rate would be the highest in the United States.

The federal minimum is $7.25 an hour. Washington state currently has the highest minimum wage among states, with an hourly rate of $9.47.

Last week, the state’s Wage Board recommended increasing the minimum wage for tipped restaurant workers to $7.50 an hour, from $5, on Dec. 31. That increase was approved by Labor Commissioner Mario Musolino.

Source Buffalo news


Francis and Barbara Smith have called Thomas Fox Drive in North Tonawanda their home for 27 years.

The Western New York natives, who grew up in the post-World War II years, built the Cape Cod home in 1987 for about $130,000. They raised their daughter, who now lives in Florida, in the house. They put in a pool and gardens, and fixed things as needed. And they entertained friends, family and neighbors.

Now, after their daughter adopted a baby girl, they’re ready to scale back and perhaps even move to the Sunshine State to be closer to family. So they’ve listed their house for $218,900 – more than they expected but not a huge gain after their expenses. But making a profit has never been the goal for them.

“It’s somewhat of an investment, but mostly, it’s just been home,” said Barbara Smith, 70. “We’ll make a little bit of money but not a lot. But if you break even or make a little bit of money, you’re doing very well.”

That essentially sums up Buffalonians’ attitude toward homes – as a cost, a necessity or a desire, but not a personal Wall Street investment house.

“We don’t treat our homes as financial instruments, but more of a thing that we live in,” said Gary Keith, M&T Bank Corp.’s chief economist. “We take advantage of the fact that prices tend to be affordable, aside from the taxes. It’s an older market, typically, that is driven more by buying a home and staying in it for many years.”

Take Annabelle Aquilina and her husband, Tom, who bought their home in Amherst 30 years ago. They raised four children, all of whom are now married and living in the area, and over time they have “put on lots of additions and done a lot of things to grow with our family,” she said.

“We never really thought about looking at our house as any huge investment, but we also don’t have to worry about losing value either,” said Annabelle Aquilina, also the broker who is representing the Smiths. “It’s a place where you can just feel comfortable staying. I don’t want to move.”

Indeed, that’s borne out by data showing only mild changes in value over time in the Buffalo area, as people tend not to move that often, so properties don’t change hands frequently.

In part, that’s because while 30 percent of many other markets might consist of second-home buyers, “nobody buys a house in Buffalo as a second home,” so no one is driving prices artificially high, said Merle Whitehead, CEO of RealtyUSA. Rather, he said, “most of the sales in Western New York are change-of-life sales.”

“We have investors, but 98 percent of our single-family homes are being bought for quality of life,” he said. “It’s just a good place to live and raise a family, and you will get mild appreciation and principal reduction and tax advantages. So buying a house in Western New York makes a lot of sense.”

According to a new analysis by a national housing research firm done for, Buffalo has the most stable housing market in the nation over the last 35 years, with virtually no chance of loss for homeowners overall during that time.

The study of average home price data by Zillow found Buffalo beat out the 49 other largest metropolitan areas in the country for having the least risky real estate market since 1979. That’s based on an examination of over 117 rolling five-year periods since then, with Buffalo tallying the lowest percentage – estimated at zero – of those periods with negative returns.

The data represents another nod to Buffalo’s slow-and-steady market, which doesn’t experience housing booms but also doesn’t suffer busts.

Prices don’t rise that rapidly, but also don’t fall precipitously or bounce around. According to the study, the region’s worst 12-month period over the 35 years occurred from July 1994 to June 1995, when prices fell 4 percent.

Instead, home prices in Western New York have maintained a consistent but gradual rise for years, even through the depths of the national housing crash and recession. As a result, local homeowners don’t worry about losing money on their home.

Phil Aquila and his wife bought a 15-acre horse farm in Akron 30 years ago for $56,000, complete with a home built in 1890 and an Amish-built barn. He knows the property is now worth $300,000, in part because “people are always looking for horse farms and acreage,” but the couple still owns six horses and isn’t interested in moving.

“We did not view it as an investment but that’s a bonus to have that kind of appreciation over 30 years,” said Aquila, who is also general manager of residential real estate for M.J. Peterson Corp. “We needed a place that we enjoyed with some acreage and a big barn. We fulfilled our need and also, because of the Buffalo area, had a very safe, sound investment that we didn’t have to worry about.”

Peter Hunt, CEO and owner of Hunt Real Estate Corp., bought his own house in February 1987, and he and his wife raised their children there, only recently selling it to buy another house five blocks away that they really wanted. He acknowledged being “at least somewhat conscious of its market value” during his 27 years of ownership, but still invested in it, “with really no intention of ever selling it.”

“It’s a typical Buffalo story,” he said. “Mostly, we improved it contemplating only staying there, as it was the neighborhood we wanted for our family.”

Source: Buffalo News

After years of brain drain, young people are moving back to Buffalo

The decades-long brain drain among young people in the Buffalo Niagara region is turning into a brain gain.

At the forefront are Millennials like Steven Poland and Seamus Gallivan, who came back to Buffalo to start their own ventures after almost a decade away.

It continued with people like Nick and Amanda Quaranto, who left Boston and are telecommuting from Buffalo, even though they work for companies in Chicago and California.

Julie Molloy is part of the trend, too. It took a year of looking, but she snagged a hard-to-find branding design job at a Buffalo marketing firm after graduating from Buffalo State College.

And so is Meghan Hess, who landed a communications job just three months after graduating from Mercyhurst University.

They’re part of a trend that emerged from the ashes of the Great Recession and – at least for the time being – has stemmed the decades-long exodus of young people from the Buffalo Niagara region in search of better jobs and brighter futures. A combination of available jobs here and soaring costs elsewhere is fueling the change.

Since 2006, the number of people between the ages of 20 and 34 – often called Millennials – in the Buffalo Niagara region has jumped by a little more than 10 percent, according to Census Bureau statistics. And it comes at a time when the region’s total population shrank by almost 1 percent.

The uptick in the number of young people in the Buffalo Niagara region during that six-year period from 2006 to 2012 – the most recent data available – has been among the strongest among all of the counties in New York and easily exceeds national growth in that age group.

“It’s good to have the influx of younger folks,” said Gary Keith, regional economist at M&T Bank, who has been studying the trend.

The steady exodus of young people has long been part of the brain drain that has hurt the region’s economy by sending many of its talented college graduates and young workers elsewhere to seek their fortunes. From 1990 to 2006, Erie County’s population between the ages of 20 and 34 plunged by 28 percent, according to census data.

“This is the future leadership of our community,” said Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.“If you lose a generation, we’re going to have a serious issue in our economy. So to see that change, for us is a really great sign.”

Greener grass here

Keith sees two main causes for the bump in young people: The Great Recession battered many high-flying cities that had been powerful magnets for the Buffalo Niagara region’s young people. At the same time, the local economy absorbed a much milder blow. So instead of there being more opportunities in other places, there was a three-year period from 2008 to 2010 when the Buffalo Niagara job market was much healthier than once-booming places like Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Las Vegas.

“It was a case of the grass not being greener in other places,” Keith said.

The number of people of all ages moving from the Buffalo Niagara region to other states tumbled by 27 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to IRS data. “When the jobs grow, fewer people go,” Keith said.

At the same time, the Millennials are a growing part of the population across the country, so part of the uptick in Buffalo Niagara merely reflects the size of that generation, Keith said.

E. Frits Abell, a local entrepreneur who oversees separate Facebook groups for expatriates and Buffalo natives who have moved back, said the cost of living also has become a bigger factor as the economy struggled and then recovered only slowly.

“Major cities like New York have become so inaccessible for young people – for the creative class or, basically, for anyone who isn’t super rich,” he said.

So for Millennials who can find jobs in Buffalo – which Forbes magazine recently named as America’s most affordable city – even a lower-paying job can be more lucrative here.

“If you can get a good opportunity in Buffalo, you’re going to be better off because it’s less expensive,” Abell said.

Millennials, as a whole, tend to be attracted to urban settings, and Abell said he thinks Buffalo’s walkable neighborhoods and the recent spurt in development are strong selling points.

“There’s a groundswell in Buffalo,” said Gallivan, who left Buffalo in 2000 and returned nine years later to start a community services group. “It’s not the same Buffalo that I left, and I feel there’s a unique place for me in it.”

But Keith, the bank economist, warns that the window that opened to bring Millennials back to Buffalo could close as the national economy strengthens. Already, job growth across the country last year was four times stronger than it was in the Buffalo Niagara region. And in Houston, it was nearly nine times greater.

“The acid test is whether this will continue as the U.S. economy heats up,” Keith said.

Gallagher-Cohen agrees, and she hopes the development along the Buffalo waterfront and at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and the University at Buffalo, when combined with the state’s Buffalo Billion initiative, will spur the job creation need to keep attracting Millennials.

“This is only a temporary tailwind here unless we pick up the pace,” she said. “We’ve got a lot riding on the momentum we’ve got going here.”

The lucky one

Julie Molloy’s frustration was approaching the tipping point.

The 2010 graduate of Buffalo State College had a degree in communication design and wanted to find a job doing branding design in the Buffalo Niagara region. There was only one problem: Those jobs are few and far between here, so Molloy, a 25-year-old Batavia native, spent a year after her graduation hunting for a job, building her own website and doing freelance work.

“My dreams were pretty lofty when I graduated,” Molloy said. “There were very, very few opportunities that were popping up for the type of creative work that I wanted to do ... I really thought I was going to need to leave to make the career for myself that I knew I wanted.”

Then, in April 2011, Molloy’s luck turned. A college friend who interned at Block Club, a Buffalo branding and marketing agency, recommended Molloy for an opening at the firm. She interviewed and got the job.

“I’m so very grateful with the luck that I did have. I’m just so happy that I stayed,” said Molloy, who lives in Allentown and loves to be able to walk to the neighborhood’s commercial strip. “Buffalo is an amazing place to be at the age I am now.”

The entrepreneur

When Steven Poland left Kenmore to attend college at age 18, his sights were clearly set on other places.

“I didn’t have an interest in coming back to Buffalo at that time,” he said.

So Poland spent most of the next decade on the move, spending time in West Lafayette, Ind., where he picked up his business degree from Purdue University. He ran a technology startup in Denver until the tech boom went bust. He worked in Houston on two different occasions.

He managed a sports bar in Boston. “But I wasn’t making enough money to pay my rent,” he said. “I came home after that because I was broke.”

After a couple of months doing Web design work in Buffalo, he was on the move again, this time to Austin, Texas, for two years. In 2006, he was ready to move back home for good.

“I had to go away to all these different cities and explore to understand what a great city Buffalo is,” said Poland, 34. “My perception changed. I just fell deeper and deeper in love with the city.”

He landed a job at Synacor Inc., a Buffalo company that provides Internet content. He left after 1½ years and since then has dabbled in a number of technology ventures. His current project is Act Away, a charades game app for the iPhone that he is developing.

“We’ve been working on it for a year. We have a prototype, but we’re still doing a lot of testing,” said Poland, who’s trying to raise $300,000 to fund the venture.

“I think there are opportunities here,” he said. “You’ve just got to sell yourself, and you’ve got to hunt down those opportunities.”

The telecommuter

When North Tonawanda native Nick Quaranto and his wife, Amanda, graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2010, they headed off to Boston. “We just decided we didn’t see ourselves in Boston,” Nick Quaranto said. But after a couple of years in Boston, that changed. “At that point, we decided we wanted to move back to be closer to family and to start a family,” he said. “The cost of living in Buffalo is much more reasonable, and we had the support of family.”

But making the move wasn’t without risk. Nick, a programmer, had a trial contract to work with Basecamp, a Chicago technology firm that would allow him to work from his home. That job eventually turned into a permanent position.

Amanda, 26, had a tougher transition. An Erie, Pa., native, she was without work for about nine months before landing a job with an Amherst software company. She now works as a deployment engineer for Engine Yard, a San Francisco-based technology company that also allows her to work from home.

“We’ve kind of found this serendipitous place,” said Nick, 26, who last year co-founded Cowork Buffalo, which runs a Main Street site that provides telecommuters, freelancers and the self-employed a place to work without having to rent an office.

“There’s a lot of companies in the software industry that allow you to work remotely,” he said. “There’s more and more technology that lets people work remotely, and there’s more and more going on. I think it has nowhere to go but up.”

The career changer

Gallivan “joined the brain drain” after he graduated from Canisius College in 2000. Gallivan, who grew up in Kenmore, worked for a minor-league baseball team in Clearwater, Fla., and three in Texas, eventually rising to director of ballpark entertainment and promotion coordinator for Corpus Christi, Texas.

“I never wavered in my belief that I would eventually move back to Buffalo,” Gallivan said. “But I believe everyone who can leave town really should to see who they are and what they are.”

For Gallivan, the signal that it was time to return home came during a phone call with his sister and her children. After being away for six years, “it was just like someone hit me in the heart,” he said. “It hit so hard.”

So, after the 2009 season, Gallivan headed home, leaving Texas on a Friday and arriving in Buffalo in time to tailgate before the Buffalo Bills home opener. What he didn’t have was a job.

So he started The Good Neighborhood, a Buffalo-based organization that promotes causes related to the community good.

“I left the comforts of salary and benefits to carve my own niche here,” said Gallivan, who turned 35 last September. “I’m no shining success story, but I’m getting there, relying in great part on my network and the fact that people seem to look out for each other here more than in other places.”

The graduate

Meghan Hess graduated from Mercyhurst University less than two years ago, but she’s already made her connections pay off.

The 2012 graduate and West Seneca native did a pair of internships in public relations before graduation, and she landed a job at 19 Ideas, a Buffalo marketing and communications firm. The job started off as a part-time position but turned into a full-time job two months later.

“With the job I have now, there was never a job posting,” she said. “It’s all about the connections and who you know.”

And besides, Hess said, moving back to Buffalo was the fiscally responsible thing to do, especially when she could move back in with her parents.

“I couldn’t imagine moving to New York City after graduation and having a high cost of living with the high amount of student loans that I have,” she said.

Hess also appreciates the opportunities to expand her career and gain experience within the Buffalo Niagara region. That includes serving on the marketing committees for the Taste of Buffalo festival and the Explore & More Children’s Museum. “How many opportunities like that are available for a 23-year-old?” she asked.

Original Source

Cuomo hails ‘right project’ with IBM for Buffalo tech hub that will bring 500 jobs

For the third time in 15 months, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday traveled to Buffalo Niagara to unveil a multimillion-dollar state investment in the region, money that is meant to spawn hundreds of new private-sector jobs.

It’s an attempt to revive a local economy that for years has lagged behind that of the rest of the state.

The latest initiative features an information technology hub anchored by IBM, which is bringing 500 jobs to downtown Buffalo, where the state will spend $55 million on construction and computer hardware.

“I’m so excited about this. It’s the right place to be. The right project. The right direction. IBM is the right partner to have,” Cuomo said during a stop in Amherst.

New York’s strategy here is modeled on its nanotechnology initiative in the Capital District, where billions in state aid transformed that region’s economy. Cuomo seeks to do the same for Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and other upstate communities.

IBM already is a partner in Albany’s nanotechnology facility, and the company has a long-standing presence in the Hudson Valley and the Southern Tier.

The global computer and technology services giant could have built its new innovation center anywhere but was drawn to Buffalo by the opportunity to strengthen its participation in the state’s high-tech initiatives and by the untapped local workforce.

“I think there’s talent here that, unfortunately, today many of those individuals leave because the opportunity is not here. We have a great opportunity to leverage and hopefully utilize that talent in Western New York,” Michael J. Cadigan, general manager and head of IBM’s Microelectronics, Systems and Technology Group, told reporters before the governor’s address.

The state investment in the new information technology hub, like the previously announced investments in drug discovery and clean energy research and development, follows the public-private partnership model used in Albany:

The state pays for the buildings, laboratory equipment and computer systems, and recruits companies to staff and operate the facilities.

Since the early 1990s, the state has spent $1.6 billion on SUNY Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, spurring more than $19 billion in investment from makers of computer chips and related companies eager to work at or near the sprawling research center.

“Great success, don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t just happen. State government made it happen over a period of years, with billions,” Cuomo said during a budget address to 390 people in the Classics V banquet hall in on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Cuomo said he welcomed Albany’s economic boom but wondered upon taking office in 2011 what state government could do to encourage a similar renaissance in the rest of upstate.

This led to his creation of the regional economic-development councils to generate geographically targeted business plans, and his Buffalo Billion pledge for Western New York.

“I had nanotech in my head,” Cuomo said. “It’s going to take that kind of investment.”

While the Albany initiative focused on nanotechnology, the state has invested its money in Buffalo in at least three distinct sectors of the economy.

Albany Molecular Research and PerkinElmer are the lead tenants in a drug-development hub now under construction on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where the $50 million in state investment is attracting $200 million in private-sector investment and 250 jobs to start.

At RiverBend, a former brownfield site in South Buffalo, two California clean-energy startups, Soraa and Silevo, have promised to invest $750 million each and create 850 total jobs at a $225 million complex constructed with state funds.

“Our region’s economy is finally moving out of the past and entering into a new and bright future,” Colleen C. DiPirro, president and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, said at Monday’s event.

Similarly, the state is spending $55 million to construct and outfit an IT hub for IBM and future partner companies. The financing is flowing through the nanotech college, which will play a lead role in the facility.

IBM is not making a capital investment in the project, Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said.

“I think we have to look at the investment as being the jobs that are created. It’s very similar to what we talk about on the ECIDA. If we’re going to give a tax break, we want to see the investment from the company be the jobs that are created,” Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz told reporters Monday, referring to the county’s Industrial Development Agency.

With IBM and state officials seeking to open the facility in 2015, rehabbing an existing building makes more sense than building from scratch.

The partners already are eyeing several downtown locations, in search of a building that could easily be expanded for future growth, Alain E. Kaloyeros, senior vice president and CEO of the nanotech center, said in an email.

Cadigan said the 100,000-square-foot IBM facility will be used for cutting-edge software development, not simply as a data center, and the company is confident the region can supply the needed engineers, computer scientists and other IT specialists.

“The key for the Buffalo center will be innovation,” Cadigan said. “That requires deep research, deep science and very, very skilled scientists to take the hardware platform and the data platform and translate it into very useful tools.”

UB issues more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees annually in engineering, computer science and related fields, an ample pool of well-qualified potential workers for IBM, said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.

The IBM center won’t be an island. It is connected to another project fueled by state funding, a genomic medicine network announced earlier this year that links biomedical researchers at UB, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and, in Manhattan with UB’s supercomputer and private-sector companies.

And the IBM hub also ties into the state’s drug-discovery and clean-energy centers. For example, the software developed there could be tested at the other two facilities, Kaloyeros said.

Original Source:

Region leads the nation in real estate appreciation

While other regions struggle to recover from the housing crisis, real estate prices in the Buffalo area have risen 16% – growth that reflects other positive changes in the region

For the first time in decades – maybe even ever – Buffalo leads the nation in real estate appreciation. In a region known for low-cost homes and a stodgy, slow-to-appreciate market, being the tortoise has paid off. By avoiding the home sales boom and bust that plagued much of the country, a new study shows Buffalo-area home prices appreciated more than any major U.S. city since prices peaked nationally seven years ago.

Data from research firm Clear Capital, published in the January 2014 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, shows Buffalo prices are up 16 percent since May 31, 2006 – highest among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.

Buffalo’s increase blew away the competition. All but seven of the 100 cities are still down from their peak, most by double-digit rates. Only one other market exceeded 10 percent growth: Austin, Texas, at 13 percent. The national average home price is still down nearly a third.

“The whole area here is changing, from a blue collar to a white collar,” said Bonnie Clement, a broker with Hunt Real Estate. “Take a look at the city, at how the prices have been increasing in good areas. It’s unbelievable.”

The seven-year growth rate translates to 2.3 percent a year – steady but not stellar, though in the most recent 12 months, home prices in Western New York rose a healthy 6.9 percent. Many cities have seen faster price increases the last couple of years, but they are still down from their peak.

Buffalo’s growth reflects changes in the region. Billions of dollars in public and private investment is pouring into downtown and the suburbs, attracting newcomers, raising confidence and sending a signal that Buffalo is coming back. Mortgage rates remain near historic lows, making it an attractive time to buy. A scarcity of good homes for sale is creating competition among buyers, lifting prices.

Fifteen years ago, Russell Hulsing, a 44-year-old West Side resident, bought a home on Baynes Street from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for $15,000. A few days ago, he sold it – for $130,000.

In between, he and his wife invested $50,000 in the home, shifting walls and putting on a new roof. He says he “had an inkling” that he could sell for a profit. But he never expected to make that much.

“It just kind of blew my mind,” he said.

The couple and their two children are renting an apartment until they find a new home. But now they face the dilemma from the other end: They want to buy a house a few streets over, between Richmond and Elmwood avenues, but those homes now sell for more than $300,000.

“We made a lot of money, but as buyers, we’re also facing a seller’s market,” he said.

Allentown’s boom

Some parts of the market are hotter than others. Data from the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors show that for the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, the median sales price in Allentown rose 43 percent from six years ago. Over the same six years, prices rose 31 percent in North Buffalo and 15 percent in the Delaware District.

Even the Elmwood Village area, where the median price was already $230,000 in 2009, is now 13 percent higher, at $260,000. And Susan Lenahan, broker and head of M.J. Peterson Corp.’s city office, said houses west of Richmond Avenue are now selling for more than $200,000. “Whoever thought that would happen?” she said.

In the last few years, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent developing the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Canalside and Larkinville, drawing new doctors, scientists, professionals, students and tourists to downtown Buffalo.

In turn, that is spurring redevelopment along Main Street and the periphery of downtown. New apartments, office space and hotels are opening, with more planned. Developers are eying opportunities to convert industrial or commercial buildings into new loft apartments, condos, shops, entertainment venues or businesses. “There is a resurgence going on,” said Peter Scarcello, general manager for the Buffalo Niagara region for Hunt.

In the suburbs since 2006, Amherst prices are up nearly 12 percent, East Aurora prices more than 14 percent and Hamburg, 5 percent.

“It all goes to the business district,” Scarcello said. “If you’ve got a strong, viable business district, property values will remain high and continue to appreciate.”

Tortoise vs. hare

The region’s relative stability and consistency likely insulated it from the real estate bubble and bust. While markets like California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada ballooned during the go-go years before the housing crisis in 2006 and 2007, Buffalo prices rose incrementally, just as they have for years. That pace is more sustainable, so it didn’t result in a collapse.

“It is sort of like comparing a one-hit wonder to a band that steadily sells records year after year,” said broker Jean-Michel Reed of Gurney Becker & Bourne. “The band with a small but solid fan base is more sustainable.”

Because prices are low to begin with, consumers didn’t need the kind of unusual and complex mortgages – such as interest-only payments, balloon terms or “no-doc” loans – that were popular in high-cost markets but proved to be toxic. State and local officials also worked to prevent lending and other abuses that contributed to the crisis. Some who tried to profit here by flipping properties without taking care of them were driven out of town years ago by aggressive prosecution of mortgage fraud and housing violations.

All of that held down foreclosures. Nationally, “distressed” sales accounted for 41 percent of all transactions in 2009 and are still about 20 percent. In the Buffalo region, distressed sales never topped 15 percent and are now 6 percent.

The result: Nationally, home prices fell for 20 straight quarters from 2007 to 2011, often by more than 10 percent, according to Clear Capital’s data. But here, aside from a couple of months of declines of less than 1 percent, prices kept rising.

“That stability has really played a good role for this market,” said Alexander Villacorta, vice president of research and analytics at Truckee, Calif.-based Clear Capital. “Even though there have been some minor fluctuations, for the most part, home prices have been relatively steady. It really is a case of the tortoise versus the hare.”

Still affordable

Brokers say home values here remain constrained by the state’s high property tax burden, which can offset any perceived savings on a home purchase. Tammy Capozzi, an agent for M.J. Peterson, cited a recent deal in which the property taxes were equal to the mortgage payment.

Nonetheless, home-price appreciation was healthy across upstate New York. Rochester prices rose 8.9 percent increase and Syracuse prices 6.4 percent.

And despite leading the nation in home-price appreciation, the Buffalo region was ranked by Kiplinger among the 10 best cities for both affordability and the lowest rate of foreclosures. Among the 100 cities, only Syracuse could say the same.

“It’s well-deserved for Buffalo,” said Lenahan of M.J. Peterson. “We know it as the best-kept secret, but Buffalonians are sometimes our own worst enemy. You have to travel to other places to see what a great deal you have in your own backyard.”

Original Source:

The value of a typical home in the Buffalo area has increased by 7.31 percent during the past five years, according to a new report issued today.

That's not exactly a blistering pace, but it's unusually strong for post-recession America.

New figures from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) show that only 19 of the nation's 102 major markets have experienced increases in home values since 2008.

Denver tops the list with a five-year gain of 10.26 percent, followed by Austin at 10.07 percent.

Buffalo is seventh in the national rankings.

FHFA issues reports on the growth in home values on a quarterly basis. Today's report covers the span from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2013.

The five-year change in home values is one of the components of the On Numbers Economic Index, which tracks the economic vitality of all markets with more than 500,000 residents. Buffalo is 41st in the November version of the index, which was also released today.

The following list contains all 102 major markets, ranked in order of their five-year growth rates for home values:

• 1. Denver, up 10.26 percent

• 2. Austin, up 10.07 percent

• 3. San Jose, up 8.06 percent

• 4. Pittsburgh, up 8.04 percent

• 5. Houston, up 7.72 percent

• 6. San Francisco-Oakland, up 7.59 percent

• 7. Buffalo, up 7.31 percent

• 8. Dallas-Fort Worth, up 5.48 percent

• 9. San Diego, up 4.30 percent

Home prices in 2013 rose at their fastest annual pace since 2005, CoreLogic reports.

On an annual basis, home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, jumped 11 percent in December 2013, but slipped 0.1 percent on a monthly basis, according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI).

CoreLogic’s forward-looking price index — the CoreLogic Pending HPI — forecast that prices, including distressed sales, will dip 0.8 percent month over month in January. But the index still foresees home prices rising 10.2 percent on an annual basis that month.

“Last year, home prices rose 11 percent, the highest rate of annual increase since 2005, and 10 states and the District of Columbia reached new all-time price peaks,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic. “We expect the rising prices to attract more sellers, unlocking this pent-up supply, which will have a moderating effect on prices in 2014.”

Source: CoreLogic

Home prices in 2013 rose at their fastest annual pace since 2005, CoreLogic reports.

On an annual basis, home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, jumped 11 percent in December 2013, but slipped 0.1 percent on a monthly basis, according to the CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI).

CoreLogic’s forward-looking price index — the CoreLogic Pending HPI — forecast that prices, including distressed sales, will dip 0.8 percent month over month in January. But the index still foresees home prices rising 10.2 percent on an annual basis that month.

“Last year, home prices rose 11 percent, the highest rate of annual increase since 2005, and 10 states and the District of Columbia reached new all-time price peaks,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist at CoreLogic. “We expect the rising prices to attract more sellers, unlocking this pent-up supply, which will have a moderating effect on prices in 2014.”

Source: CoreLogic

Chinese_homebuyers_in_USWhile the United States real estate market is of growing interest to buyers from around the world, certain countries, such as China, are having a rapidly increasing impact on U.S. brokerage business. Chinese consumers of U.S. property—including those from mainland China and from other locations around the world—are one of the most important buying segments to connect with this year. A recent report from Chinese international property portal,, sheds light on the 10 American cities that are currently of most interest to Chinese buyers.

“Chinese are widely interested in the U.S. market,” explains co-CEO Andrew Taylor. “The data show they are investing in many more places and in greater amounts than most people realize.”

According to Juwai, the U.S. attracts more interest from individual Chinese real estate purchasers than any other country. What’s more, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, Chinese spent $8.2 billion on U.S. property in 2012, generating about $492 million in commission for U.S. real estate agents that year.’s “Top U.S. Destinations Report” reveals the top-10 U.S. cities that received the most interest from Chinese property hunters online, according to usage activity on Eighty-two percent of’s users are within the People’s Republic of China, 18 percent live outside of mainland China, in the U.S. and elsewhere. According to the report, the top-10 U.S. destinations for Chinese buyers are:

New York
Los Angeles
Las Vegas
San Diego

“Memphis is a growing city with a strong economy centered around logistics, manufacturing, healthcare and tourism,” says Taylor. “And everyone loves Las Vegas—Chinese investors have noticed that prices there have been at bargain levels.”

According to Taylor, mainland China investors in U.S. property are motivated by the following characteristics: profit potential of underpriced markets; educational opportunities for their children; and international diversification of their investments.

“Real estate agents who want to work with Chinese buyers will find it takes some effort but is easier than they expect,” adds Taylor. “There are more than 63 million people in mainland China with the wealth to be able to purchase U.S. property. Only a fraction of them have already begun investing overseas, and all the trends show that there will be much more investment in the years to come.”

Progress is ‘swift’ on RiverBend land deal

New York State has agreed on terms to buy the 88 acres of city-owned land in South Buffalo that will house a new high-tech and clean-energy complex at RiverBend.

The deal marks what officials call “swift progress” in advancing a monumental project that seeks to transform a former steelmaking site from a brownfield into a green-power economic driver. It comes just two months after the initial announcement of the RiverBend project, indicating seriousness on the part of the state to move forward quickly.

Under a memorandum of understanding reached between city and state leaders and being announced today, the state’s Fort Schuyler Management Corp. will pay the city’s Buffalo Urban Development Corp. $2.5 million to buy the sprawling property along a curve in the Buffalo River.

Once completed, the purchase will clear the way for the state to proceed with plans for what it describes as a “state-of-the-art anchor hub facility” that it has dubbed the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend.

Officials expect to announce a “designated developer” soon and plan to break ground this spring, with two California-based solar-power companies relocating significant operations here and taking occupancy of their new facilities by the second quarter of 2015.

The state will invest $225 million, out of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s pledge for a Buffalo Billion, in the project, while the two companies – Soraa and Silevo – will invest $750 million each, for a total of more than $1.7 billion. The project is expected to create 850 permanent jobs and more than 500 construction jobs.

“We are now poised to bring about one of the most dramatic developments in Buffalo’s history,” Cuomo said in a statement. “With cutting-edge technology, hundreds of good-paying jobs, and the attraction of dynamic 21st-century high-tech companies, RiverBend will further strengthen the city’s and region’s continuing economic revival.”

Fort Schuyler is a nonprofit entity created to manage property transactions on behalf of the State University of New York Research Foundation, which will own the facilities and equipment on the complex that the companies will use.

Besides the specifics of the purchase itself, the memorandum also calls for the city and state to partner in a Community Development Agreement, which would provide for local minority- and women-owned businesses to participate in the redevelopment of the site, as well as future operations and research. It would also require the city and state to permit Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to access the site for a continuing federally funded shoreline-restoration project along the river.

“The MOU is a significant step in bringing the $1.7 billion RiverBend project to Buffalo’s burgeoning waterfront,” Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said in a news release. “I’m also proud to say that this agreement protects the taxpayers of our city and provides more business and job opportunities for city residents.”

The agreement in just two months is unusual for a project of this scope and complexity, and it signals the state’s interest in seeing the Buffalo initiative take off.

Plans call for converting the RiverBend property, which is the site of a former Republic Steel facility, into a cutting-edge research and manufacturing complex capable of luring additional companies and jobs to Buffalo, akin to what has happened in Albany with the nanotechnology industry.

“This agreement marks swift progress by the state in acquiring the RiverBend property and carrying out the exciting redevelopment of the former steel manufacturing site into a state-of-the-art clean energy innovation hub,” Cuomo said.

Empire State Development Corp. will spend $225 million, including the purchase price, to set up infrastructure – such as water, sewer, utility and roads – at the site, as well as to build a state-owned 275,000-square-foot facility to house initial tenants Soraa and Silevo. It will also buy and own the equipment for the companies, which will not get direct state funding.

Fremont, Calif.-based Soraa is a 6-year-old manufacturer of high-efficiency “green” LED lighting. It will invest $750 million to move its corporate research and development functions, and its manufacturing operations, to RiverBend, creating 375 jobs.

Silevo, a 7-year-old startup that already has a manufacturing plant in China, develops and makes silicon solar cells and modules. The company initially plans to invest $750 million to construct a 200-megawatt production facility at RiverBend, housing its only North American manufacturing operation and creating at least 475 jobs.

The state will build additional facilities over time – six are envisioned for now – for other manufacturing companies in biotech, high-tech and green energy.

Officials also expect local colleges and universities, including the University at Buffalo, to benefit from and contribute to the new venture.

Original Source:

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Climb by Most in Seven Years

Home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose in October from a year ago by the most in more than seven years, signaling the real-estate rebound will keep bolstering household wealth in 2014.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property prices in 20 cities climbed 13.6 percent from October 2012, the biggest 12-month gain since February 2006, after a 13.3 percent increase in the year ended in September, a report from the group showed today in New York. The median projection of 22 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 13.5 percent advance.

A dwindling inventory of foreclosed properties has helped restrict the supply of homes for sale, pushing up prices even as higher mortgage rates cool demand. The real-estate market will probably get its next boost from gains in employment that are lifting consumer confidence in the economic expansion.

“There’s certainly room for home prices to continue rising in the coming year,” said Dana Saporta, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York, who projected a 13.7 percent advance in prices in the year ended in October. “As home prices continue to rise, more and more homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages will see their financial situations improving. Just getting out of that underwater position should be a big help to the economy.”

Stock-index futures held earlier gains after the report. The contract on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index maturing in March climbed 0.2 percent to 1,838.5 at 9:19 a.m. in New York.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from year-over-year gains of 11 percent to 14 percent. The S&P/Case-Shiller index is based on a three-month average, which means the October figure was influenced by transactions in September and August.

Monthly Increase

Home prices adjusted for seasonal variations rose 1 percent in October from the prior month, the same as in September. That matched the Bloomberg survey median.

The month-over-month price gains were led by Miami, which showed a 1.9 percent increase, followed by Atlanta and Detroit at 1.8 percent. Property values rose in all 20 metropolitan areas, with the smallest gain coming in at 0.3 percent in Denver.

Advances in home equity may be harder to come by as Federal Reserve policy makers begin to trim stimulus, causing mortgage rates to climb. Fed officials said on Dec. 18 they will trim monthly bond purchases intended to spur the expansion to $75 billion from $85 billion starting in January.

Fed Policy

“The key economic question facing housing is the Fed’s future course to scale back quantitative easing and how this will affect mortgage rates,” David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee, said in a statement. “Other housing data paint a mixed picture suggesting that we may be close to the peak gains in prices.”

Unadjusted prices climbed 0.2 percent in October from the previous month after a 0.7 percent gain in September.

The year-over-year gauge, which uses records dating back to 2001, provides a better indication of price trends, according to Karl Case and Robert Shiller, creators of the index.

All 20 cities in the index showed a year-over-year gain, led by a 27.1 percent advance in Las Vegas. Values climbed 10.9 percent in Chicago, its biggest advance since 1988. Charlotte and Dallas showed their largest increases in record-keeping going back to 1987 and 2000, respectively.

Property values are climbing even as rising mortgage rates cool demand. Sales (NHSLTOT) of previously owned homes declined for the third consecutive month in November, reaching the lowest level of the year, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed earlier this month.

Mortgage Rates

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.48 percent in the week ended Dec. 26, compared with 4.1 percent at the end of October, according to McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac. It was at 3.35 percent a year earlier.

A report from the real-estate agents’ group yesterday signaled the slowdown may have run its course. Contracts (USPHTMOM) to purchase previously owned homes rose last month for the first time since May. Economists consider pending home sales a leading indicator because they track contract signings. Existing-home sales are tabulated when a deal closes, usually a month or two later.

Other parts of the market are rebounding. Purchases of new homes exceeded projections in November, holding near a five-year high. Sales declined 2.1 percent to a 464,000 annualized pace, following a revised 474,000 rate in October that was the strongest since July 2008, Commerce Department data showed last week.

Housing Starts

Builders began work on more houses in November than at any time in the past five years to try to keep up with demand, other Commerce Department figures showed.

Homebuilders such as Los Angeles-based KB Home (KBH) see the rise in interest rates as a short-term “pause” for buyer demand that won’t crimp a pickup in the housing recovery next year.

“Higher mortgage rates, higher home prices and lower consumer confidence due to uncertainty in Washington triggered a pause among homebuyers who are now being more cautious,” Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Mezger said on a Dec. 19 earnings call. “Affordability is at attractive levels, demographics remain strong and there’s pent-up demand due to delayed household formation” that will support the market in 2014.

                 Current Previous     3-Mth     YoY%    Index
                    MoM%     MoM%  Annual %   Change    Level
US Composite       0.18%    0.68%     8.98%   13.61%  165.91
Las Vegas          1.18%    1.33%    23.95%   27.05%  127.23
Miami              1.12%    0.76%    11.23%   15.78%  173.63
Detroit            0.95%    1.45%     8.05%   17.29%   94.79
Phoenix            0.94%    1.18%     9.09%   18.06%  144.49
Los Angeles        0.86%    1.11%    17.13%   22.06%  214.65
Charlotte          0.55%   -0.18%    13.01%    8.79%  125.54
Minneapolis        0.51%    0.79%    19.14%   11.34%  139.11
San Diego          0.29%    0.90%    12.76%   19.72%  194.07
Portland           0.17%    0.66%     0.98%   12.65%  160.46
                 Current Previous     3-Mth     YoY%    Index
                    MoM%     MoM%  Annual %   Change    Level
Tampa              0.10%    0.20%    15.56%   15.18%  154.40
New York           0.00%    0.55%     6.66%    4.90%  173.23
Dallas            -0.08%    0.22%     8.39%    9.72%  132.47
San Francisco     -0.20%    0.77%     6.20%   24.56%  179.55
Cleveland         -0.22%    0.17%     5.57%    4.90%  106.59
Atlanta           -0.24%    0.46%     8.82%   18.95%  113.72
Seattle           -0.30%    0.32%     3.05%   13.09%  160.39
Boston            -0.35%    0.45%     3.42%    8.59%  168.43
Denver            -0.35%    0.24%     3.20%    9.51%  146.78
Washington DC     -0.42%    0.40%     2.81%    7.43%  204.38
Chicago           -0.48%    0.26%     5.62%   10.92%  127.42

Buffalo’s future looks very green with state’s investment in high-tech facilities

The Cuomo administration is committing $225 million – the biggest single investment by the state in a new business venture in the Buffalo Niagara region – to try to turn Western New York into a Silicon Valley for green-energy companies.

The massive investment, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the funds pledged through the Buffalo Billion initiative, is part of an all-in effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that, within the next 18 months, would build a pair of state-owned high-tech facilities, bigger than a Walmart store, packed with the type of state-of-the-art equipment and machinery that clean energy firms covet but can’t afford on their own.

“It’s probably the most exciting economic development announcement that we’ve had statewide since I’ve been governor,” Cuomo said. “This project, I believe, is a game-changer for Western New York.”

At the heart of Cuomo’s plan is a six-building hub for clean-energy research, development and manufacturing that will be built on 90 acres of a 200-acre brownfield site of the former Republic Steel plant on South Park Avenue.

Two California companies – one making a new type of LED lighting and the other solar panels – have committed to move into the center’s first two buildings, pledging to invest $1.5 billion of their own money in a venture expected to bring 850 jobs to the site. That brings the entire investment in the project, including the state’s portion, to $1.7 billion. State officials said almost 800 of the positions are expected to be filled by new hires from Buffalo Niagara or by those who move here from elsewhere.

The idea is to create a cluster of green-energy businesses – all drawn to the site by the coveted resources inside the state-owned facility – that will build on itself, becoming a powerful magnet that will attract other businesses in the same industry.

Adding further to the appeal: Companies that move into the 90-acre site’s four other buildings – but not the two California firms – likely will be able to avoid paying any state taxes for 10 years under the Start-Up New York program that begins next year.

“How do you compete with zero taxes?” Cuomo asked.

Leading the way to the new complex, to be called the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at Riverbend, are two companies now based in California.

Soraa, a Fremont, Calif., company that makes high-efficiency LED lighting with different material than most lights of that type, is pledging to invest $750 million of its own funds in a facility that will employ 375 people. Soraa executives said the company will relocate its R&D and manufacturing operations to RiverBend.

Thomas Caulfield, Soraa’s president and chief operating officer, said the company’s technology can produce LED lights that are brighter and more cost-effective than LED lights that use conventional technology. The investment in the Buffalo facility will help it further expand and refine its technology.

“The light quality and efficiency will continue to improve,” he said.

Silevo, also based in Fremont, makes solar panels that it says are cheaper and more efficient.

The company said in June that it wanted to build a factory in the United States to increase its market share and avoid the shipping costs on products made at its factory in China. Zheng Xu, the company’s chief executive officer, said the company picked the Buffalo site despite being courted by four other states that offered “very competitive incentives.”

Xu said the benefits of the clean-energy hub, combined with the pool of engineering talent produced at Western New York universities and the region’s low-cost electricity, helped sway the company, which expects to produce its solar panels here just as cheaply as it can make them in China.

Silevo, which has about 40 employees at a California office that will remain open, hopes to eventually hire 475 people to work at its Riverbend factory, which is expected to be ready to begin production in early 2015.

Once the facilities are ready, the companies are expected to take a year to 18 months to get up to full employment, said Alain E. Kaloyeros, the senior vice president and CEO of the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

The jobs could cover a wide range of skill levels, from high school and community college graduates, to people with advanced university degrees, Kaloyeros said. Green-energy jobs also tend to pay about 50 percent more than the average job, which would further the economic impact from the green-energy investments.

Kaloyeros, the driving force behind the Albany nanoscience initiative, said the two companies were picked to be the pioneering businesses at the clean- energy hub from a group of about 30 firms from within the industry that were vetted by state officials.

“Those weren’t just two companies that were picked because they showed interest in New York,” he said. Kaloyeros said Soraa and Silevo were picked because their technology has been shown to be viable and the companies have shown a strong bent for innovation.

The companies also use sophisticated manufacturing methods, not unlike those used by computer chip manufacturers, “that China cannot steal and put them out of business,” he said.

Silevo, for instance, has orders for solar panels that could generate about 300 megawatts of electricity. With the company’s Buffalo manufacturing plant expected to have a capacity to produce solar panels with a combined generating capacity of about 200 megawatts each year, Silevo’s current order backlog is big enough to keep the plant operating at full capacity for 1½ years, Kaloyeros said.

Xu, the former Applied Materials executive who co-founded Silevo in 2007, said the company currently is not profitable, although he hopes the business will break even by next summer. Once the Buffalo facility is fully operational, he said, the company could be earning gross profits of as much as 30 to 35 cents for every dollar of sales.

“The production costs in Buffalo are as good or as cheap as in China,” where the company’s factory can, in a single year, make enough solar panels to generate 30 megawatts of electricity, Xu said.

Silevo may have to raise “a little bit” of money from investors to fund its investment, but Xu said he expects its next major round of fundraising to come through an initial public stock offering, possibly in 2015 or 2016.

Behind the state’s plan is the hope that the same type of economic development strategy that has lured billions in investment and created thousands of new jobs through the nanoscience industry in the Capitol District can be duplicated with the green-energy industry in Buffalo.

The idea is to build a research and development center that has the right combination of expensive equipment needed by clean-energy firms to develop new products – gear that is too costly for them to buy on their own.

By giving those businesses access to the facilities, the Cuomo administration hopes green-energy firms will flock to the Buffalo hub, much as chip manufacturers have beaten a path to Albany and the cutting-edge facilities that the state built years ago under Kaloyeros’ direction.

“He’s taken the best of his model to Western New York,” Cuomo said. “It’s a different application. Albany is in the chip-making business. This is in the clean-energy business.”

But the overall concept is the same: “The companies come to us because they want access to the facilities we own,” Cuomo said. As that happens, “then you start to get what you call a cluster economy.”

Within hours after Thursday morning’s announcement, Kaloyeros said it was apparent companies in the green- energy industry already are taking notice: He received an email from the CEO of an unidentified company that previously spurned the state’s entreaties. Now, the executive was asking to meet with Cuomo and talk about the green-energy opportunities at the Buffalo hub.

Home values have risen in just 19 markets since 2008 -- and Buffalo is one of them

The value of a typical home in the Buffalo area has increased by 7.31 percent during the past five years, according to a new report issued today.

That's not exactly a blistering pace, but it's unusually strong for post-recession America. New figures from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) show that only 19 of the nation's 102 major markets have experienced increases in home values since 2008.

Denver tops the list with a five-year gain of 10.26 percent, followed by Austin at 10.07 percent.

Buffalo is seventh in the national rankings. Click here (or on the image to the right) for a slideshow of the 19 markets that have posted increases in home values during the past half-decade.

FHFA issues reports on the growth in home values on a quarterly basis. Today's report covers the span from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2013.

The five-year change in home values is one of the components of the On Numbers Economic Index, which tracks the economic vitality of all markets with more than 500,000 residents. Buffalo is 41st in the November version of the index, which was also released today.

The following list contains all 102 major markets, ranked in order of their five-year growth rates for home values:

• 1. Denver, up 10.26 percent
• 2. Austin, up 10.07 percent
• 3. San Jose, up 8.06 percent
• 4. Pittsburgh, up 8.04 percent
• 5. Houston, up 7.72 percent
• 6. San Francisco-Oakland, up 7.59 percent
• 7. Buffalo, up 7.31 percent
• 8. Dallas-Fort Worth, up 5.48 percent
• 9. San Diego, up 4.30 percent

Housing starts jump 22.7%

Reach an annual rate of 1.09M in Nov.

Housing starts soared in November, rising 22.7% from October’s revised estimate and 29.6% from last year, government data shows.

The quick surge prompted market analysts to speculate that the report gives the Fed even more momentum to begin tapering its monthly asset purchases.

Privately-owned housing starts reached an annual rate of 1.091 million in November, compared to 889,000 in October and 842,000 last year, the Commerce Department data reveals.

Single-family housing starts alone hit a rate of 727,000 in November – a 20.8% climb from October.

Meanwhile, the November start rate for buildings with five or more units hit 354,000.

Building permits – a forward looking indicator for the construction industry – fell on the other hand. Housing units authorized by building permits edged down to 1.07M in November, a 3.1% drop from October. Still, that figure is 7.9% above year ago levels.

Single-family permits alone rose 2.1%, reaching a November rate of 634,000 units.

Buildings with five or more units reached a permit authorization rate of 346,000 in November.

"Housing regained some momentum over the last three months," analysts with Econoday noted. "Between recently strong retail sales and housing starts numbers, fourth quarter growth may be moderately strong. Today's data add to odds that the Fed may taper somewhat with this afternoon's policy statement."

Skyrocketing rents hit 'crisis' levels

Since the housing crisis began in 2008, approximately 4.6 million homes were lost to foreclosure, according to CoreLogic. The vast majority of those homeowners became renters. Even as housing recovered, credit tightened, pushing even more potential buyers out of homeownership and into rentals, both apartments and single-family rental homes.

There are now 43 million renter households, or 35 percent of all U.S. households, the highest rate in over a decade for all age groups, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies; 4 million more renters today than there were in 2007. For those aged 25 to 54, rental rates are the highest since the center began record keeping in the early 1970s. As a result, rental vacancies have fallen dramatically, and rents have skyrocketed.

Housing affordability shrinking Residential construction jobs grew in November, and employment data in hard hit housing areas were slightly ahead of national growth. However, CNBC's Diana Olick reports rates are decidedly higher from last week and affordability is shrinking.

"We are in the midst of the worst rental affordability crisis that this country has known," said Shaun Donovan, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Half of all U.S. renters today pay more than 30 percent of their incomes on rent. That's up from 18 percent a decade ago, according to the Harvard center. For those in the lowest income brackets, the jump is even worse.

"Over four years, a 43 percent increase in the number of Americans with worst-case housing needs," said Donovan. "Let's be clear what that means, they're paying more than half of every dollar they earn for housing."

The numbers are not lost on Annie Eccles, who is in her late 20s. She has been renting for over two years, and the rent on her Bethesda, Md., apartment has increased by the maximum the county allows every year.

"It's frustrating because we pay for rent, we also pay for parking, and just knowing that every June it's going to increase significantly, it's frustrating," said Eccles.

And Eccles pays almost as much each month on student loan debt as she does in rent. Put together, it makes it very hard for her and her husband to save up enough to buy a home of their own.

"It would be hard buying in this area, just because it's so expensive," she added.

Most younger Americans, like Eccles, want to be homeowners someday. While so-called millennials favor mobility and city living, they still see homeownership as a goal.

"Nineteen out of 20 people that are surveyed say that they intend to buy a home at some point in the future, if they're under the age of 30," said Eric Belsky, director of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. "There is no question that the will toward homeownership remains there, it's the way."

Home prices are rising faster than expected, due to heavy investor demand, ironically in single-family rental housing. While more than 3 million owner-occupied homes are now investor-owned rentals, there is still a lack of supply in the market. New rental stock is coming soon, but demand is not easing. Renters may want to be buyers, but many still can't, due to rising home prices and mortgage rates.

"You add in other things, like higher student debt for many people, you add in the fact that incomes for low- and moderate-income people have not been going up as fast as inflation, and you have a situation where it's going to be very difficult to buy homes," said Belsky.