Lawyers Ready for ‘Green’ Lawsuit Surg…
2009/04/13, 7:24 pm
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Lawyers Ready for ‘Green’ Lawsuit Surge

Lawyers may be seeing lots of green in the new green building movement.

The $80 billion in federal stimulus funds for installing renewable energy and retrofitting buildings will generate a lot of garden variety litigation, lawyers say, including product liability suits and suits over whether a green building is really “green enough.”

Considering all the new regulation, green construction litigation is inevitable, says Shari Shapiro, who co-chairs the American Bar Association subcommittee on land use and environmental laws.

“We’re sort of at the very front of a really emerging practice – and it’s not too often in the law that you get a new practice area,” says construction attorney Stephen Del Percio of the New York office of Washington, D.C.-based Arent Fox.

Source: The National Law Journal, Tresa Baldas (04/13/2009)


Gov. Sanford on the bailout
2009/04/02, 7:01 pm
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SC To Receive $4 Million for Affordable Housing
2009/03/05, 4:04 pm
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SCBIZ Daily Staff

ATLANTA – Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta will award more than $43 million in grants to 10 states to create or preserve affordable housing. More than $4 million will go to South Carolina to help finance 10 affordable housing developments.

FHLBank Atlanta will award the funds as part of its 2008 Affordable Housing Program offering. Local community developers, in partnership with FHLBank Atlanta member institutions, will use the awards to developments in Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Darlington, Dorchester, Edgefield, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Saluda, Sumter and Williamsburg counties. Projects in the cities of Bluffton, Kingstree, Myrtle Beach and North Augusta have also been selected.

“AHP program funding provides an important economic boost to entire communities by creating affordable housing and jobs in those areas that need it most,” said Arthur Fleming, first vice president and director of Community Investment Services, FHLBank Atlanta.

AHP is a competitive funding program that helps develop owner-occupied and rental housing for very low-, low- and moderate-income families. FHLBank Atlanta awards the funds annually to member financial institutions and their community housing partners.

For a complete list of the projects that will receive funding, click here.

Published March 5, 2009

Sections of I-26 amongst those receiving stimulus money
2009/03/04, 9:31 pm
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By Mike Fitts
Published March 4, 2009

Federal stimulus dollars will fuel work on Interstate 26 near the Charleston peninsula and two major interstate resurfacing projects in the Midlands.

The top project on the maintenance list is a 10-mile section of eastbound Interstate 20 stretching from Lexington into Richland County north of Columbia. Also on the list is a six-mile southbound stretch of Interstate 77 in Richland County, near the interchange with I-20.

The projects are part of the $50 million in interstate maintenance money that the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission approved in February with the intent of having the money obligated to projects in the first 120 days, though actual work is unlikely to start by then.

A total of $74 million is allocated to interstate maintenance; a separate $150 million will be spent on resurfacing of primary and secondary roads.

The interstate work mostly will also be resurfacing, according to John Walsh, the chief engineer for planning, location and design at the S.C. Department of Transportation.

For the stimulus dollars, the S.C. DOT selected projects that were high on its priority list but did not require the more complicated work sometimes involved in interstate maintenance, such as adjusting bridges or acquiring right of way.

Other interstate projects expected to be bid out in the first $50 million:

  • Portions of I-95 in both directions in Clarendon County.
  • Part of I-20 eastbound in Aiken County.
  • Sections of I-26 in Charleston County in both directions near the Charleston peninsula.

The stimulus bill will add tremendously to the state’s highway maintenance work and to the number of projects that S.C. DOT must contract out and oversee, Walsh said.

“We’re basically doubling our construction program in the same year,” he said.

Stimulus bill contains tax break for real estate investors
2009/02/19, 11:03 am
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By James T. Hammond
Published Feb. 18, 2009

Real estate investors and business owners can reap tax advantages by speeding up new investments and purchases into the current tax year.

Foremost among the new laws, says Mark Cooter, head of the real estate group at Elliott Davis, are reinstated bonus depreciation rules. Set to expire Dec. 31, 2008, the bonus depreciation rules have been extended for one year, to now end Dec. 31, 2009.

The provision allows businesses and individuals a 50% bonus over standard IRS depreciation allowances, to encourage people to purchase fixed assets, Cooter said.

The tax benefit is large enough that it “will definitely change some behavior,” Cooter said.

Other tax provisions in the new stimulus bill include:

– Extended increases in IRS Code, Section 179, for claiming small business expenses; up to $250,000 can be claimed on certain fixed assets placed in service during 2009.

– Increased net operating loss carry-back provisions. NOL losses in 2008 can be carried back five tax years, to 2003, and tax refunds for those years could be made possible under the provision. Previously, carry-backs were only allowed for two years.

– Cancellation of indebtedness. If a bank forgives a portion of a debt, such as a mortgage loan, a taxpayer must report the amount of debt cancelled as income. The new provision allows that new income to be spread over five years, until 2014, for tax purposes.

– New markets tax credits. The provision aims to promote capital spending in certain areas, such as poor urban areas. “It’s a very complex provision and few people will take advantage of it,” Cooter said.

– New home buyer’s tax credit. The new law allows a first-time home buyer an $8,000 tax credit for the purchase of a new home.

Cooter predicted the tax credit for first-time home buyers will not change many people’s behavior. If they had the money to buy a house, they’ll do it anyway. If they did not have the money to buy a house, it’s not enough money to help them qualify, he said.

Is a stimulus for housing next?
2009/02/18, 7:06 pm
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Is a Stimulus for Housing Next?
Sources say the Obama administration’s housing plan, to be unveiled Feb. 18, will allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgages and will use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance borrowers who owe more than their homes are worth but are current on their payments.

It also will reduce loan payments for struggling home owners through lower interest rates or longer loan terms, with the government possibly giving lenders a subsidy of $800 to $1,000 per loan to minimize losses.

Home owners could be forced to ultimately repay the difference between their original and reduced payments–a provision meant to keep borrowers from defaulting for the purpose of qualifying for assistance, and the administration also wants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to adopt national loan modification standards.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Deborah Solomon (02/18/09)

House and Senate drops repayment requirment on the home buyer tax credit
2009/02/12, 8:00 pm
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Stimulus Advances With Tax Credit Changes
The $790 billion stimulus package hammered out by House and Senate conferees late yesterday afternoon drops the repayment feature on the home buyer tax credit.

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS ® has sought removal of the repayment requirement because it discourages buyers from taking advantage of the tax credit.

The legislation also extends the effective date of the tax credit, which is for up to $7,500, to September 1 from June 30. Households that purchase in 2009 using financing assistance from state and local mortgage bonds will be permitted to use the credit as well.

Other provisions reportedly in the bill that could help housing markets and communities include:

* FHA and conforming loan limits. Specifics have not been released but reports indicate that the 2008 limits have been reinstated for 2009 except in those communities where the 2009 limits are higher. Additional increases in individual communities may also be available at the discretion of the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

* Foreclosure mitigation and neighborhood stabilization. Funding for states and localities to be used for neighborhood stabilization activities for the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes are authorized. Some news reports put the funding level at $2 billion.

* Rental assistance. Up to $1.5 billion to provide short-term rental assistance and other aid for families during the economic crisis.

* Transportation infrastructure. Up to $29 billion for highway construction projects, $8 billion for rail projects, and $5 billion to weatherize low-income homes.

* Rural housing development. Increased funding for the Rural Housing Service direct and guaranteed loan programs.

* Low-income housing grants. Allow states to trade in a portion of their 2009 low-income housing tax credits for Treasury grants to finance the construction or acquisition and rehabilitation of low-income housing, including those with or without tax credit allocations

* Tax-exempt housing bonds. Tax-exempt interest earned on specified state and local bonds issued during 2009 and 2010 will not be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). In addition, financial institutions will have greater capacity to purchase tax-exempt state and local bonds

* Energy efficient housing. Grants for energy retrofits for federally assisted housing (Section 8), funding for energy efficiency and conservation block grants to states, and Increases in the residential tax credit through 2010 for certain energy efficient upgrades.

Source: NAR, AP, Washington Post, New York Times, Bloomberg, and Wall Street Journal.