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ISSUE # 66

CIC Info Bytes 05/25/23

CIC Info Bytes are frequent, succinct updates providing educational and engagement opportunities that help your community thrive!  Please forward and share this newsletter with your peers, neighbors and colleagues so they can connect and joinOur goal is to curate content that provides a robust basis for contextual understanding to support practical takeaways for you and your association.  Please consider following us on Twitter and Reddit. 

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CIC Info Bytes Newsletter 05/25/23 - PRINT EDITION

What’s Next?

Frequent Mistakes & Lessons Learned

For people to really know us, we need to show up consistently...And showing up repeatedly is what creates community...The key is that an obligation involves a mutual contract of responsibility and that it lives in pen (not pencil) on your calendar...we’d be wise to enmesh ourselves in obligation with others, and to work toward a society that makes this possible for everyone.

For People to Really Know Us, We Need to Show Up — Brad Stulberg | NYT | May 20, 2023

Maria Denise Southall-Shaw, 63, a former manager of Shadow Creek Ranch in Pearland, is accused of defrauding FirstService Residential, which handled the community's homeowner associations.

From November 2013 to November 2017, the seller would pay Southall-Shaw half of the installments from the false invoices, which were supposedly for products such as pool gear and supplies but not supplied by Shadow Creek Ranch.

Southall-Shaw said she accepted invoices from suppliers for items and services she knew were not supplied. In exchange, the vendor gave her kickbacks.

Now, she faces up to 20 years in prison as well as a possible $250,000 fine.

Woman faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to scamming HOA company — Jenny Dehuff | The Reporter Online | May 4, 2012

View past coverage:  1,  2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.


After generations of trying to produce the power of a star on Earth, a successful nuclear fusion ignition happened in the middle of a December night and was over in 20-billionths of a second.

That’s more than 100 billion times shorter than the Wright Brothers’ first, 12-second flight — but a brief, shining moment that could have even bigger implications for humanity.

But while the science teams at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are still buzzing over their Wright-Brothers moment, we only remember that name because their third flight stayed in the sky for 39 minutes.

The nuclear fusion reaction must be repeated, extended and scaled before the comparison sticks. And the race is on to make it work.

This lab achieved a stunning breakthrough on fusion energy — Bill Weir | CNN | May 12, 2023


A South Korean firm has announced the world’s first production line for perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells, which promise an increase in efficiency of between 50-75 per cent compared to standard solar panels.

The commercialisation of solar cells that use perovskite follows years of breakthroughs with the mineral, which has been hailed as a ‘miracle material’ for its potential to transform various industries, including renewable energy.

Solar panel efficiency to increase 50% with first production of ‘miracle’ tandem cells — Anthony Cuthbertson | Yahoo! Finance | May 19, 2023


The potential applications of transparent solar cells are vast. For example, they could be used to create a new generation of energy-efficient buildings that generate their own power while also allowing natural light to enter. They could also be used to power electric vehicles, which would increase their range and make them more sustainable.

Additionally, transparent solar cells could be used in a variety of consumer products, such as smartphones and other electronic devices. This could eliminate the need for chargers and power banks, as the devices would be able to charge themselves from ambient light.

Highly transparent solar cells found to generate power 1000x more efficiently — Staff | The Brighter Side of News | May 20, 2023


“Perovskite is a disruptive material without disrupting the business model — the entrenched capacity to manufacture based on silicon,” says Oxford PV CTO Chris Case. “Our product will be better at producing lower-cost energy than any competing solar technology.”

In Europe, Oxford PV is also planning to start making tandem modules. A spinoff from Oxford University, it claims a 28% efficiency for tandems and says it’s developing a multi-layered cell with 37% efficiency. The company is building a solar cell factory in Brandenburg, Germany, but it has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and supply-chain snags. Still, the startup, founded in 2010 and backed by Norwegian energy company Equinor

, Chinese wind turbine maker Goldwind and the European Investment Bank, is hopeful it can start shipments this year pending regulatory certification. The technology would initially be priced higher than conventional silicon cells because tandem offers higher energy density but the company says the economics are favorable over the full lifetime of usage.

Perovskites face challenges in terms of cost, durability and environmental impact before it can put a dent in the market. One of the best-performing versions is lead halide perovskites, but researchers are trying to formulate other compositions to avoid lead toxicity.

A Bill Gates-based photovoltaic technology that may be solar energy's future — Tim Hornyak | CNBC | May 20, 2023

The Cost of Net Zero

Greg Abbott Signs Law Making EV Owners Pay for Their Gas-Free Cars — Lauren Leffer | Gizmodo | May 19, 2023


Only one commercial power plant in North America is currently operating with carbon capture. Its experience hasn’t been as smooth—or climate-friendly—as proponents of the rules might hope…

One of the plant’s generating units is outfitted with a $1.1 billion carbon-capture system, which utility officials say is now collecting around 80% of the unit’s carbon-dioxide emissions—some 875,000 metric tons in the past year…

Carbon Capture Is Hard. This Plant Shows Why — Eric Niiler | WSJ | May 12, 2023


‘Worthless’: Chevron’s carbon offsets are mostly junk and some may harm… — Nina Lakhani | The Guardian | May 24, 2023

In January, a nine-month investigation by the Guardian, the German weekly Die Zeit and the investigative group SourceMaterial found Verra rainforest credits used by Disney, Shell, Gucci and other big corporations were largely worthless, often based on stopping the destruction of rainforests that were not threatened, according to independent studies.

CEO of biggest carbon credit certifier to resign after claims offsets worthless — Patrick Greenfield | The Guardian | May 23, 2023

Also see Carbon offsets NOT achieving their potential from our April 27th CIC Info Bytes


How solar farms took over the California desert: ‘An oasis has become a dead sea’ — Oliver Wainwright | The Guardian | May 21, 2023


Approximately 2 billion parking spots cover the country, enough to pave over the entire state of Connecticut. From baseball stadiums in Los Angeles to malls in Atlanta, parking lots are bigger than the buildings they surround.

Cities have built so much parking through a policy few people know: minimum parking requirements. Cities don’t just require parking spaces for nearly every office, mall, store, movie theater, bowling alley, restaurant and other building, those requirements often include a certain number of spots for every building.

Mandatory parking minimums helped shape the modern makeup of America cities. They become a self-fulfilling prophecy, in effect. More parking spaces mean bigger parking lots. Bigger parking lots mean more buildings isolated from roads and sidewalks, separated from arterial infrastructure by vast oceans of asphalt. Faced with so much mandatory automotive-centric infrastructure, many people abandon walking and choose to drive.

This little-known rule shapes parking in America. Cities are reversing it — Nathaniel Meyersohn | CNBC Business | May 21, 2023

Also see 6+ spaces for every car.  Total parking area the size of Connecticut + Vermont.


The research adds to growing concerns that recycling isn’t as effective of a solution for the plastic pollution problem as many might think. Only a fraction of the plastic produced gets recycled: About 9 percent worldwide and about 5 to 6 percent in the United States, according to some recent estimates.

While there are many different types of plastic, many experts say only things made out of No. 1 and 2 are really recycled effectively in the United States. At recycling facilities, plastic waste is generally sorted, cleaned, chopped up or shredded into bits, melted down and remolded.

It’s unsurprising that this process could produce microplastics, Enck said. “The way plastic recycling facilities operate, there’s a lot of mechanical friction and abrasion,” she said…

The little-known unintended consequence of recycling plastics — Allyson Chiu | The Washington Post | May 22, 2023


More than 200 million face more intense and frequent floods due to plastic pollution blocking drainage systems, report finds…

Plastic waste puts millions of world's poorest at higher risk from floods — Karen McVeigh | The Guardian | May 24, 2023

Housing Affordability & Homelessness

It hasn’t worked. The example above is one of many where cities, nonprofits or other homeless service providers have needed to go around the agency to get stuff done.

Earlier this month, this newspaper had a damning story about how the agency hasn’t paid many of its subcontractors. It can’t seem to execute the contracts, so some nonprofits have been working without pay since January, with one youth agency maxing out credit cards to pay its workers. This happened last year, too.

“So far it is making things worse because it is so disorganized,” one provider said about the RHA — an agency created to simplify homelessness aid.

What’s the point of the Regional Homelessness Authority? — Danny Westneat | The Seattle Times | 05/20/23


The King County Regional Homelessness Authority has scaled back the ambitions of its five-year plan after officials and residents balked at the $10 billion to $12 billion figure proposed in January…

The Regional Homelessness Authority said the figures in the original plan that caused waves — more than 18,000 units of temporary housing costing billions of dollars — were a statement of need, not a budget request.

But some officials said the numbers were a distraction from actionable parts of the plan…

Regional Homelessness Authority unveils scaled-back five-year plan — Greg Kim | The Seattle Times | 05/18/23


President Joe Biden’s administration wants to accelerate efforts to get unsheltered people in Seattle into permanent housing as part of a federal initiative to reduce homelessness by 25% in two years, the White House announced Thursday.

Through the initiative, ALL INside, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will partner with Seattle and five other cities and states: California, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and the Phoenix metropolitan area.

White House announces initiative to reduce homelessness in Seattle — Anna Patrick, Lauren Girgis and Greg Kim | The Seattle Times | 05/18/23


Spending 30% of income on rent is the new normal in many US metros — Moodys | The Seattle Times | 05/20/23


Data collected by Moody’s Analytics indicates while rent continues to climb, salaries are not keeping pace. The study found since 1999, rent for the average American has increased by 135%, while earnings have only gone up roughly 77%.

‘We need to find solutions’: Local renters struggle with rising prices — Lauren Donovan | KIRO 7 News | 05/24/23


How Many Square Feet Does $1,500 a Month Get You? — Michael Kolomatsky | NYT | 05/11/23


Falling Prices?!  While some ~600sqft studios and 1 bedrooms units are selling for as little as $673/SqFt, larger ~1,900SqFt units on higher floors are priced at $1,505SqFt.

As the Graystone condominium tower on Seattle's First Hill nears completion, fewer than 10% of the 271 homes have been sold, prompting developer Daniels Real Esate to cut prices and offer buyer incentives.

On Tuesday, the Seattle-based company said in a press release that it's "taking the lead in the condominium comeback" with the price reduction.

A two-bedroom, two-bath condo in the upper third of the 31-story building that was originally listed for just over $1.35 million is now being offered for over $1.185 million. The price for a one-bedroom unit three floors down has been reduced 27% to $465,900.

New Seattle condo tower cuts prices by as much 30% — Marc Stiles | Puget Sound Business Journal | 05/16/23


History has shown that cheap housing comes two ways in an economy dominated by the seemingly eternal rules of exchange value: capital devaluation and de-commodification. The second requires that housing is supplied like a public utility: water, electricity, waste removal, and so on…

Seattle's Resistance to Density and Why HB 1110 Won't Lower the Cost of Living in Seattle — Charles Mudede | The Stranger | 05/23/23


10 states where homeowners put the most money toward housing costs — Mike Winters | CNBC Make It | 05/17/23


ADUs and DADUs making waves…

Economic Policy ‘Granny flats’ play surprising role in easing California’s housing woes — Erica Werner | WaPo | 05/21/23

Housing Market

Are home prices falling? See what it’s like in your area. — Dylan Moriarty, Luis Melgar and Hamza Shaban | WaPo | 05/23/23


Existing-home sales have declined for 14 out of the past 15 months and are down roughly one-third since the start of 2022.

A steep rise in mortgage rates since the start of 2022 has made home purchasing far less affordable to most buyers, weighing on demand. At the same time, the higher rates have discouraged current homeowners with locked-in low mortgage rates from selling, keeping the supply of homes on the market lower than normal.

Home Prices Posted Largest Annual Drop in More Than 11 Years in April — Nicole Friedman | WSJ | 05/18/23


Few investors rode the pandemic-era housing boom as high as Jay Gajavelli. Fewer still have fallen as far.

Before Gajavelli found his real-estate career, the 61-year-old immigrant from India was just another information-technology worker, putting in 60-hour weeks for a middling job in Dallas. Last year, Gajavelli’s company owned more than $500 million worth of Sunbelt apartment buildings with more than 7,000 units, and was one of Houston’s biggest landlords.

A Housing Bust Comes for Thousands of Small-Time Investors — Will Parker, Konrad Putzier and Shane Shifflett | WSJ | 05/23/23


The biggest home buyers in America are now selling more property than they're buying — Will Parker, Konrad Putzier and Shane Shifflett | WSJ | 05/23/23


At first glance, there's nothing out of the ordinary about Cantabria Bradenton. Located 46 miles south of Tampa and 14 miles north of Sarasota, the recently constructed rental community consists of 172 attached townhomes and 12 detached single-family homes on 36 acres. Cantabria Bradenton has a clubhouse, gym, and pool. It looks like a modern Florida rental community, with townhomes renting anywhere between $2,400 to $3,000.

However, under the surface, there's something that makes it novel: The rental community is owned by J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

Earlier this month, Wolfson Development Company sold Cantabria Bradenton, which was constructed between summer 2020 and spring 2023, to J.P. Morgan Asset Management for $59 million.

When it comes to institutional homeownership, firms like Blackstone or Invitation Homes come to mind. But this Cantabria Bradenton purchase is a reminder that the U.S. housing market has the attention of Wall Street's top dog: JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan wants to be your landlord — Lance Lambert | Fortune; Republished by Yahoo! Finance | 05/13/23

JPMorgan Chase wants to be your landlord. What could go wrong? — Clint Rainey | Fast Company |11/17/22


One HomeVestors franchisee falsely claimed to a 72-year-old woman suffering from a hoarding problem that city code enforcement officers would take her house, according to court documents. 

An Arizona woman said in an interview that she was forced to live in her truck after trying unsuccessfully to cancel the sale of her home. 

One court case documented the plight of an elderly man in Florida who was told if he sold his condo he could continue living there temporarily. But he spent his final days alive waiting to be evicted when — after the contract was signed — the franchise owner informed him the homeowners association rules didn’t allow it…

The Ugly Truth Behind “We Buy Ugly Houses” — Anjeanette Damon, Byard Duncan and Mollie Simon| ProPublica |05/11/23

Built Environment

Even when his landscapes sit against the backdrop of an urban setting, as many of his best-known works do — the High Line in New York City, for example, or the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago — we feel ourselves enveloped in nature, our craving for it fed...

What Makes a Garden a Work of Art? Piet Oudolf Explains

— Margaret Roach | NYT | 05/24/23

The pandemic is officially over, yet Zoom City—the city that Zoom built—endures. But right now it’s not a place of creativity, exploration, happiness, or trust. Instead, remote work has turned some global cities into dried-out urban husks—decaying downtowns full of shuttered sandwich shops and empty office blocks. As businesses leave or downsize, city tax revenues decline, meaning less money to spend on public services. And the people left behind because they can’t work remotely get trapped in the doom loop.

This is particularly apparent in San Francisco, which has been dubbed “the most empty downtown in America.” Much of the technology that enabled the transition to remote work emerged from the Bay Area, but it also created a combination of traits—demographics, industry norms, property prices—that has made workers here particularly unlikely to return to the office.

The New York Times recently reported that office occupancy in SF is at 40 percent of its pre-pandemic level, roughly 7 percentage points below the average major US city. It’s facing a $728 billion budget hole at the same time as grappling with a suite of problems—homelessness, drug abuse, crime—that have been exhaustively well documented (arguably by those with a vested interest in singling out a rich and progressive city).

To Save Downtowns, Destroy Them — Amit Katwala | WIRED | 05/19/23


From the Financial District’s sky-high centers of economic power to the pricey pads that rise above Billionaires’ Row, the great volume of towering buildings is part of what gives New York City its identity. But according to new research cited by the New York Post, the weight of those same buildings that give the Big Apple its soaring sense of bravado could contribute to the city sinking.

That’s according to the work of three University of Rhode Island oceanologists and a researcher from the US Geological Survey, who collaborated to publish their findings in the scientific journal Earth’s Future. The scholars first estimated the cumulative weight of New York’s buildings to be 1.68 trillion pounds, and then calculated the downward pressure these buildings exert on the mixture of clay, sand, and slit that make up most of the ground beneath the city’s streets.

New York City May Be Sinking Under the Weight of Its Skyscrapers — Tim Nelson | Architectural Digest | 05/17/23


Billionaires’ Row Condo to Sell for About $75 Million — Katherine Clarke | WSJ | May 24, 2023

Condo Connection's financial coverage is indexed to our Dollar$ and $ense page dedicated to all things CIC finance.

Debt Ceiling

“No corner of the global economy will be spared’’ if the U.S. government defaulted and the crisis weren’t resolved quickly, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics…

“If the trustworthiness of (Treasurys) would become impaired for any reason, it would send shockwaves through the system … and have immense consequences for global growth,’’ said Maurice Obstfeld, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund…

… if a government default were to last… well into the summer, the consequences would be far more dire, Zandi and his colleagues found in their analysis: U.S. economic growth would sink, 7.8 million American jobs would vanish, borrowing rates would jump, the unemployment rate would soar from the current 3.4 percent to 8 percent and a stock-market plunge would erase $10 trillion in household wealth….

Here’s what would happen to the global economy if the U.S. defaults on its debt — Paul Wiseman | Associated Press | 05/22/23

This is a fascinating way to consider inflation relative to energy prices.

OPEC+ Is Trapped in an Inflation Storm of Its Making — Javier Blas | Bloomberg | 05/21/23


When the Federal Reserve pushes shorter-term interest rates above long-term Treasury yields, it has typically been a sign that the central bank has tightened to the point that a downturn beckons. Confidence in the predictive power of such yield curve inversions is a big part of why many investors believe the economy is now destined for a recession.

But what if the yield curve isn’t inverted because the Fed has raised rates too high, but because long-term Treasury yields are too low?

Different people focus on different parts of the yield curve when making recession calls. Some look at the difference between the yields on the 2-year and 10-year Treasury notes, which inverted last July. But there have been 2-year/10-year inversions where no recession ensued. The better gauge historically has been the difference between 3-month Treasury bill and 10-year note yields, which was comforting until that, too, inverted last fall. The yield on the 3-month bill is now about 5.2%, versus the 10-year’s 3.5%.

Even on that measure, the correlation between yield curve inversion and recession at times seems spurious. The curve inverted in 2019, for example, but imagining it forecast the sharp recession triggered by the Covid crisis seems a bit much. Believing that the 1989 inversion forecast the 1990 recession—which started after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait sent oil prices sharply higher—is also a stretch…

Don’t Swing at the Yield Curve — Justin Lahart | WSJ | 05/17/23

Yield Curve Inversion Now Longest Since 1980 — Eric Wallerstein | WSJ | 05/22/23


The Treasury will have to replenish its cash after the debt ceiling is lifted, Goldman Sachs said.  It may sell up to $700 billion in T-bills to rebuild its coffers within six to eight weeks of a debt deal.  That could drain liquidity out of markets in a short period of time.

The Treasury Department could issue $700 billion in T-bills within weeks of a debt-ceiling deal — Filip De Mott | Insider | 05/22/23

In a sobering study released more than 15 years ago designed to weed out mere luck, academics Laurent Barras, Olivier Scaillet and Russ Wermers looked at thousands of mutual funds between 1975 and 2006 and determined that only 0.6% of managers had enough demonstrable skill to outweigh their funds’ costs…

Should they? Eleven years ago, analysts at Research Affiliates and Towers Watson ran an analysis titled “The Surprising Alpha From Malkiel’s Monkey” that picked multiple virtual portfolios of 30 stocks each year from 1964 through 2012, including some selected at random from the 1,000 largest U.S. companies. They beat a market-capitalization-weighted index by a respectable margin.

It was no accident: The study’s portfolios in part did so well because they were regularly reweighted and picked a lot of smaller companies. Both the small-capitalization and equal-weighting effects can lead to extra returns over time. The smallest three Heard dart picks have market values of $82 million, $240 million and $350 million.

But don’t try this at home, kids: Another eye-opening research paper, this one by Hendrik Bessembinder, shows that most stocks tracked over decades don’t produce any return at all in excess of risk-free Treasury bills. About half of all positive returns were generated by 83 companies between 1926 and 2019, or less than one-third of 1% of all stocks tracked. To match the monkey portfolios, one would have to pick many stocks randomly each year and then keep repeating the process, still possibly failing to buy and hold rare big winners.

The only way to guarantee finding those needles in a haystack is paying for the whole haystack—an index fund. You would beat most fund managers but only match the market. The man who inspired all the monkey jokes, Dr. Malkiel, endorsed that simple strategy in an email last week when informed of the return of Heard’s contest, saying:

This Strategy Beat the World’s Top Hedge Funds—Don’t Try It — Spencer Jakab | WSJ| 05/09/23

False Discoveries in Mutual Fund Performance: Measuring Luck in Estimated Alphas 

— Laurent Barras, O. Scaillet and Russ Wermers | Journal of Finance | 03/05/08

Do Stocks Outperform Treasury Bills? — Hendrik Bessembinder | ASU W. P. Carey School of Business | 02/25/2020


As of May 23, 2023


The anticipated costs —  $964 billion for the federal government and $334 billion for states between 2021 and 2040 — are “relatively shocking,” John Scott, director of Pew’s retirement savings project, said during a presentation on Thursday.

The shortfall is being driven in part by demographics, with the share of households including someone 65 or older that has less than $75,000 in annual income —  a level the report said indicated financial vulnerability — expected to jump 43% to 33 million by 2040.

The report found that minor increases in savings habits by those “vulnerable” households could alleviate the anticipated strain to federal and state budgets. Saving an extra $140 a month, or about $1,685 annually, over 30 years, the retirement savings gap and additional taxpayer burden could be eliminated, according to the analysis.

US Retirement Savings Shortfall Will Cost $1.3 Trillion — Suzanne Woolley and Steven Crabill | Bloomberg | 05/12/23 

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