News and notes from town:
• Well, it has taken about a half a year, but there is some genuinely good news on Lawrence’s real estate front.
New numbers are out for June home sales in Lawrence, and they confirm summer homebuying definitely has picked up. In fact, the summer months have been strong enough that Lawrence homebuying is now in positive territory for the entire year.
The new numbers from the Lawrence Board of Realtors show 621 homes have been sold through the first six months of 2012. That’s an increase of 10.9 percent from the same period a year ago.
Sales in the month of June had a lot to do with that success. Sales in the month of June increased by 26.1 percent compared to June 2011. Sales increased from 153 in June 2011 to 193 in June 2012.
The June numbers mark the third month in a row that home sales have increased from the same period a year ago. The last two months have been particularly strong. Home sales in May were up nearly 26 percent from May 2011 totals.
I’ve said for awhile now that three months in a row of increasing home sales would be the best sign yet that a true recovery is under way in Lawrence’s real estate market. Well, we’ve had those three months now. It will be interesting to see if the momentum can be maintained through the rest of the year.
One other number, though, will bear close watching in the second half of 2012: median selling prices of homes. The new report shows through the first six months of the year the median sales price of homes in Lawrence is down 4.3 percent, to $154,000, from a year ago. That price correction is probably helping to fuel sales, but it won’t help with the budgets at the County Courthouse, the school district and other governments that rely heavily on property taxes. We’ll see what the second half brings on that front as well.
Here’s a look at other numbers from the Board of Realtors monthly report:
— Sales of newly constructed homes have eked into positive territory for the year. The new numbers show 35 sales of newly constructed homes for the first six months of the year, which is up from 34 a year ago. So, there is improvement, but builders still have quite a ways to go before they reach what could be considered robust activity.
— The median days on market stands at 61, unchanged from a year ago. The mean days on market is at 99, down from 100 a year ago.
• We are past the half-way point when it comes to creating the city budget for 2013. City commissioners are scheduled to give final approval to the budget at their Aug. 7 meeting.
At their meeting yesterday afternoon, commissioners got some public feedback on the recommended budget, and it wasn’t the type you normally hear in Lawrence: The city should cut back on its efforts to be environmentally sustainable.
Jim Mullins, a local field director for Americans for Prosperity, urged commissioners to take out all funding for the joint city/county sustainability coordinator position. He also urged commissioners to disband the Sustainability Advisory Board.
Mullins told commissioners that there is mounting evidence that this sustainability movement ultimately will start taking away people’s property rights. Specifically, Mullins expressed concern about the city’s membership in ICLEI, which is an organization of about 1,300 local governments who have “made a commitment to sustainable development,” according to the group’s website.
The group was founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, and it takes part in the United Nations’ climate negotiations, which is a red flag for some groups.
Mullins went on to cite concern about a U.N. provision called Agenda 21, which is a U.N. initiative related to the environment and sustainable development. It has become a hot-button issue in some political circles, particularly with the Tea Party. Alabama earlier this year became the first state in the country to pass a law making it illegal for local governments to implement policy related to property rights issues that can be traced to Agenda 21. The Kansas House earlier this year passed a resolution condemning Agenda 21 as a scheme to take away property rights and as one legislator said “the most aggressive attack on our liberties . . . that we have ever seen.”
Mullins predicted that Kansas lawmakers in the next legislative session will pass a law similar to the Alabama bill, and Lawrence’s membership in ICLEI could become a major issue.
Mullins told commissioners that he and many other people are convinced the environmental movement is intent on taking away people’s private property rights, and the Agenda 21 and ICLEI efforts are “just the tip of the iceberg.”
That brought a quick response from audience member K.T. Walsh, a longtime East Lawrence resident and activist. She told commissioners that Mullins’ “tip of the iceberg” comment was the most relevant one he had made, since global warming likely will ensure that “we don’t have those anymore.”
Commissioners showed no inclination to remove the funding for the sustainability coordinator or to disband the Sustainability Advisory Board.