Kiplinger: Fla. No. 4 tax-friendly state – and top 3 are cold

NEW YORK – Oct. 17, 2018 – The economy is booming, with the unemployment rate at the lowest level in nearly 50 years. Wages have remained relatively stagnant, though, and for many workers, the only way to get a raise is by changing jobs, which sometimes means moving to another city or state.
But before you start packing, check out the cost of living in your prospective employer’s city. You’ll want to look at the cost of housing, of course, and don’t overlook the impact of state and local taxes on your bottom line. Our annual guide to state taxes shows that tax rates are literally all over the map – and the difference between living in a high-tax or a low-tax state can be thousands of dollars each year, depending on your tax situation.
Updated for 2018, here is our list of the 10 most tax-friendly states in the U.S. The top five states on our list have no state income tax at all. Take a look.
1. Alaska
State income tax: None
Average local sales tax: 1.43 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 15 cents per gallon
Alaska gives each legal resident who has lived in the state for a full year an annual “Permanent Fund Dividend.” But the dividend has been shrinking in recent years, reflecting lower oil prices and a drop in production. This year, each legal resident will receive $1,600, down from a peak of $2,072 in 2015.
Gas taxes in the Last Frontier are the lowest in the U.S., and Alaskans pay no state income taxes or state sales taxes. While municipalities – generally those without real estate taxes – impose local sales taxes as high as 7.5 percent, the average sales tax is 1.43 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, has no sales tax. The property tax on the state’s median home value of $257,100 is $3,048. That’s slightly above the average for the U.S.
2. Wyoming
State income tax: None
Average local sales tax: 5.39 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 24 cents per gallon
How does the Equality State continue to rank near the top of our list? Generous revenues from taxes on mineral and energy extraction. Wyoming has no income tax, and its gas tax is well below the national average of 31 cents per gallon. The property tax on the state’s median home value of $199,900 is $1,223, the ninth-lowest in the U.S.
While some states with no income tax make up for lost revenue with higher-than-average sales taxes, Wyoming’s combined state and local sales tax rate of 5.39 percent is effectively the lowest in the U.S. Prescription drugs and most groceries are exempt from sales taxes. And at 2 cents per gallon, Wyoming has the lowest beer tax in the land.
3. South Dakota
State income tax: None
Average local sales tax: 6.40 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 30 cents per gallon
You’ll need to bundle up in South Dakota’s winter, but because you don’t have to pay state income taxes here, maybe you can afford to fly south for a couple of weeks in January.
South Dakota’s combined state and local sales taxes are below average for the U.S. However, while prescription drugs are exempt from sales taxes, food, nonprescription drugs and many services are taxed in the Mount Rushmore State. You can expect to start paying sales taxes on more of your online purchases, too. South Dakota brought the case that led the Supreme Court to overturn previous court rulings that made it difficult for states to collect sales taxes for online purchases. It’s planning to start collecting sales taxes from many out-of-state online retailers on November 1.
Property taxes here are above average for the U.S. The property tax on South Dakota’s median home value of $146,700 is $1,943.
4. Florida
State income tax: None
Average local sales tax: 6.80 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 41 cents per gallon
Florida has no income tax, and its property taxes are below the midpoint for the U.S. The property tax on Florida’s median home value of $166,800 is $1,702.
Average combined state and local sales taxes in the Sunshine State are about average for the U.S., although in some counties the combined rate is as high as 8 percent. Food and prescription and nonprescription drugs are exempt.
Vehicles are taxed at the state’s 6 percent sales tax rate, but a county sales tax (based on where the buyer lives) is due on the first $5,000 of the purchase price or on each lease payment.
5. Nevada
State income tax: None
Average local sales tax: 8.14 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 34 cents per gallon
The Silver State is another no-income-tax haven. Also, the property tax on Nevada’s median home value of $191,600 is $1,478, 16th-lowest in the U.S. Gas taxes are the same as the national average of 34 cents per gallon.
Nevada receives more than $1.4 billion in taxes and fees annually from the casino industry. Still, Nevada relies heavily on sales taxes to pay the bills. The average combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.14 percent. Food and prescription drugs are exempt from the state’s sales tax, but counties may tack on as much as 1.42 percent.
In addition to sales taxes, vehicle owners are charged an annual “government services tax” that’s based on the vehicle’s value and age. The tax on a two-year-old vehicle with an original sticker price of $20,000, for example, is $238.
6. North Dakota
State income tax: 1.10 percent (on taxable income of less than $38,700 for single filers or $64,650 for joint filers) – 2.90 percent (on taxable income of more than $424,950)
Average local sales tax: 6.83 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 23 cents per gallon
The Peace Garden State imposes only modest sales taxes that favor agriculture (new farm machinery is taxed at only 3 percent), and its income tax rates are relatively minuscule, even for high earners. Gas taxes are well below the national average. Food and prescription drugs are exempt from sales taxes. Alcoholic beverages are taxed at 7 percent.
The property tax on the state’s median home value of $164,000 is $1,729, just below the average rate for the U.S.
7. Delaware
State income tax: 2.2 percent (on taxable income of $2,001 to $5,000) – 6.6 percent (on taxable income of more than $60,000)
Average local sales tax: None
Gas taxes and fees: 23 cents per gallon
Delaware’s income tax rate escalates quickly. Residents with taxable income of $60,000 or more (both single and joint filers) pay the top rate of 6.6 percent, and the capital city of Wilmington imposes its own wage tax of 1.25 percent.
There’s a reason Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach outlets are packed even when the sun is shining: The First State has no sales tax. And shoppers are inclined to gas up on their way home because Delaware’s gas taxes are well below average.
Property taxes as a percentage of home value are the fourth-lowest in the U.S. The property tax on the state’s median home value of $233,100 is $1,274, according to the Tax Foundation.
Little Delaware, sandwiched between high-tax states such as Maryland and New Jersey, pulls off this low-tax trick by being a very friendly place for businesses to incorporate, and then collecting fees and taxes from these absentee businesses, whose real operations are elsewhere.
8. Arizona
State income tax: 2.59 percent (on taxable income of less than $10,346 for single filers or $20,690 for joint filers) – 4.54 percent (on taxable income of more than $155,159/single or $310,317/joint) Income levels are for the 2017 tax year.
Average local sales tax: 8.38 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 19 cents per gallon
Arizona’s top income tax rate of 4.54 percent doesn’t kick in until taxable income exceeds $155,159 for single filers or $310,317 for married couples filing jointly.
The property tax on the state’s median home value of $176,900 is $1,367, below average for the U.S. And at 19 cents per gallon, state gas taxes are well below the national average of 34 cents per gallon.
Like most states, the Grand Canyon State excludes prescription drugs and food for home consumption from state sales taxes. However, all 15 counties levy additional taxes, as do many municipalities, and some jurisdictions extend their taxes to groceries. The average combined state and local sales tax rate is 8.38 percent, the 11th-highest in the U.S., according to the Tax Foundation.
While the gas tax is low, car owners must pay an annual vehicle license tax. The tax is based on an assessed value of 60 percent of the manufacturer’s base retail price, reduced by 16.25 percent for each year since the vehicle was first registered in Arizona. The rate is $2.89 for new vehicles and $2.80 for used vehicles, for each $100 of assessed value. For example, for a new vehicle that costs $25,000, the assessed value in the first year would be $15,000 – and the corresponding license tax would be $420.
9. Mississippi
State income tax: 3 percent (on more than $1,000 of taxable income) – 5 percent (on more than $10,000 of taxable income). Income tax rates are being gradually reduced. By 2022, the first $5,000 of taxable income will be exempt.
Average local sales tax: 7.07 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 19 cents per gallon
Mississippi is moving to ease its income tax bite on the lowest-earning residents. Starting in 2018, the first $1,000 of taxable income is exempt from the 3 percent rate. By 2022, that bracket will be completely gone, and the income tax will start at 4 percent of $5,000 of taxable income.
Gas is taxed at 19 cents per gallon, one of the lowest rates in the U.S. Vehicle sales are taxed at 5 percent, two percentage points below the general sales tax rate. Mississippi also charges an annual personal property tax based on vehicles’ age and value. Rates are set at the county level. (In Lafayette County, for example, you’d pay $285 on a vehicle valued at $20,000.)
The property tax on the Magnolia State’s median home value of $105,700 is $841, the 19th-lowest in the nation. Mississippi’s state sales tax rate of 7 percent is the second-highest in the U.S. (only California, at 8.25 percent, is higher), and Mississippi is one of a minority of states that charges sales tax on groceries. But prescription drugs, residential utilities, motor fuel and newspapers are all exempt, and localities add very little on top of the state’s rate, if anything.
10. Louisiana
State income tax: 2 percent (on taxable income of less than $12,500 for single filers or $25,000 for joint filers) – 6 percent (on taxable income of more than $50,000/single or $100,000/joint)
Average local sales tax: 9.45 percent
Gas taxes and fees: 20 cents per gallon
With the third-lowest property taxes in the U.S., the Pelican State is a great place to own a home. The property tax on the state’s median home value of $148,300 is $750. Another plus: At 20 cents per gallon, Louisiana’s gas tax is well below the national average of 34 cents per gallon.
Louisiana’s top income tax rate of 6 percent kicks in at $50,000 of taxable income for a single filer. Louisiana allows residents to deduct their entire federal income tax liability, minus nonrefundable tax credits, from their state income taxes. However, as a result of the federal tax overhaul, most taxpayers are expected to see their federal taxes decline in 2018. That means Louisiana’s deduction won’t be worth as much, and state taxes here will go up. The state has a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion, so lawmakers are unlikely to approve measures that would reduce the tax hike.
Local parishes and jurisdictions can add their own levies to the state sales tax, boosting the average combined rate to 9.45 percent, the second-highest in the country. In some jurisdictions, sales taxes are as high as 12 percent.
About our methodology
To create our rankings, we evaluated data and state tax-policy details from a wide range of sources. These include:

  • Income Taxes
    We looked at each state’s tax agency, plus this helpful document from the Tax Foundation. Rates and brackets are for the 2018 tax year unless otherwise noted.
  • Property Tax
    Median income tax paid and median home values come from U.S. Census’ American Community Survey and are 2016 data.
  • Sales Taxes
    We also cite the Tax Foundation’s figure for average sales tax, which is a population-weighted average of local sales taxes. In states that let municipalities add sales taxes, this gives an estimate of what most people in a given state actually pay, as those rates can vary widely.
  • Fuel Tax
    The American Petroleum Institute
  • Sin Taxes
    Each state’s tax agency as well as the Tax Foundation
  • Inheritance & Gift Taxes
    Each state’s tax agency.
  • Wireless Taxes
    The Tax Foundation
  • Travel Taxes
    Each state’s tax agency, plus a lodging tax study published in 2015 by HVS Convention Sports and Entertainment Consulting.
  • Fiscal Stability
    Each state’s balance sheet gives an indication of what its tax future might look like. We drew on the study Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Copyright © 2018 The Kiplinger Washington Editors; Sandra Block, senior editor, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; David Muhlbaum, senior online editor, Kiplinger.com

Zero-down loan program aims to expand mortgage access

MIAMI – Oct. 16, 2018 – A new effort is underway to raise the low homeownership rate among underserved groups of homebuyers.

The Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America (NACA) is hosting several events across the country to help borrowers with low credit scores apply for 15- or 30-year mortgages with cheaper interest rates. One recent event in Miami drew thousands looking for a chance to get a no-downpayment, low-interest-rate mortgage. NACA officials say more than 10,000 potential borrowers have attended various NACA events in cities such as Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta.

“The low rate of homeownership and number of mortgages for low- and moderate-income people, and for minority home buyers, is a national disgrace,” NACA CEO Bruce Marks told CNBC. “There have been zero foreclosures among the loans that we’ve originated in the past six years.” Bank of America is backing the NACA program with $10 billion in mortgage commitments.

To qualify, borrowers must go through an education session about the program, as well as counseling for budget planning, to make sure they can afford a mortgage payment. They also must submit all necessary documents, including income statements and phone bills.

The program serves only those who are buying a primary residence, not an investment property. The loans for 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are below market, at around 4.5 percent.

“That’s what’s going to help people who’ve been locked out of homeownership really become homeowners and build wealth,” Marks told CNBC.

However, critics of the program worry that loans with a no-downpayment requirement could carry too much risk.But program officials say buyers have “skin in the game in a real way,” meaning it’s their home and an investment for their family.

“We have seen significant wins in this partnership,” A.J. Barkley, senior vice president of consumer lending at Bank of America, said. “Just to be clear, when we get those loans with all the heavy lifting here, we’re over a 90 percent approval, meaning we actually underwrite the loans for 90 percent of the people who go through this program.”

Source: “Thousands Line Up for Zero-Down Payment, Subprime Mortgages,” CNBC (Oct. 12, 2018)

Home Loans and Housing-Related Assistance

VA Home Loans and Housing-Related Assistance

VA home loan programs may be used to obtain homes, condominiums, or manufactured homes; refinance an existing home loan; or install energy-saving improvements. VA offers these three main types of guaranteed home loan benefits:

  • Purchase Loans
  • Cash-Out Refinance Loans
  • Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loans
Native American Veterans

For Native American Veterans who want to live on Federal Trust land, VA’s Native American Direct Loan (NADL) program is another option. It provides direct loans to eligible Native American Veterans for the purchase, construction, or improvement of a home. Learn more about NADL.

Adapted Homes for Disabled Veterans

VA also offers grants to Veterans with certain service-connected disabilities to build an adapted home or install ramps, widen doors, or make other modifications to live more independently. VA operates three types of grants that accommodate Veterans’ unique circumstances: Specially Adapted Housing, Special Housing Adaptation, and Temporary Residence Adaptation.

Help for Homeless Veterans

If you are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, contact your local VA medical center; call 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838); or visit va.gov/homeless. VA can connect you with the care you need to get back on your feet.

Underwriting

Private-sector lenders underwrite and fund VA home loans according to established VA standards. VA’s partial guaranty for these loans means that nearly 90 percent of all VA-guaranteed home loans are made with no down payment required.

Delinquency

If a VA-guaranteed loan becomes delinquent, VA works with the borrower to avoid foreclosure, including providing financial counseling and, in some cases, direct intervention with a mortgage loan servicer on the borrower’s behalf. In 2013, VA loans had the lowest foreclosure rate of all types of loans in the market. If you are a Veteran or Servicemember having difficulty making mortgage payments, call 877-827-3702 to speak with a VA Loan Technician. More information about avoiding foreclosure is at http://benefits.va.gov/HOMELOANS/resources_payments.asp.

Borrowers

Borrowers must have suitable credit, sufficient income, and a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be eligible for a VA-guaranteed home loan.

VA Requirements

Home Loans
  • Suitable credit and sufficient income
  • A valid VA home loan COE that verifies to lenders that you qualify for benefits
  • DD-214 or other applicable service documents
  • Certification that you will occupy the home
  • Other documents as needed for obtaining a home loan
Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grants
  • A rating by VA that you are as medically eligible for SAH grant benefits
  • Evidence that it is considered medically feasible for you to live in the proposed housing unit and locality
  • A proper relationship between the cost of the proposed housing and your current and future income and expenses
  • Suitability of the dwelling to your needs
  • Proof of ownership, such that the property can be adapted

VA Application Process

Home Loans
  • Use this detailed table to determine the specific evidence you need to obtain a home loan COE.
  • Prepare all documents and evidence before completing an application for a COE.
  • Obtain a home loan COE through eBenefits.va.gov, your lender, or the Atlanta Eligibility Center.
  • Once a VA COE for home loan benefits is obtained, contact several lenders who participate in the VA program to find out which one will offer the most favorable terms for your unique situation.
  • Work with the lender you select throughout the remainder of the home buying process. View this page for an illustration of the process.
Specially Adapted Housing Grants
  • Fill out and submit VA Form 26-4555, Application in Acquiring Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grant.

Veterans benefits scam alert: Beware of scammers impersonating VA attorneys

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VA is currently investigating a telephone scam involving an individual or individuals impersonating VA Office of General Counsel  attorneys. The perpetrator reportedly calls Veterans and requests money to process their claims for benefits. Veterans have been given actual VA attorney names and phone numbers to call back. It is important to know that VA — as a cabinet-level agency of the U.S. government, funded by Congress — will never request payment for carrying out our mission to serve Veterans.

If you are contacted by a scammer:
  1. Know that VA will never call you and request money, even if you see “Veterans Affairs” on your caller identification.
  2. Do not give out any personally identifiable information or other personal or sensitive data such as financial and banking information.
  3. Hang up the phone immediately.
  4. Report the incident to your state’s attorney general: naag.org/naag/attorneys-general/whos-my-ag.php.
  5. File a complaint using the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant, ftccomplaintassistant.gov/GettingStarted?NextQID=216&Selected=t#crnt.
If you believe you are a victim of this scam and you provided personally identifiable information:
  1. Request a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
  2. Watch for any fraudulent charges or activity on your accounts.
  3. Visit identitytheft.gov to obtain a personalized recovery plan and other resources.
If you provided money to the scammer:

Report the incident to your state’s attorney general immediately and contact your financial institution.

For additional information on Identity Theft:

Visit VA’s More Than a Number website at www.va.gov/identitytheft for tips and resources on identifying and preventing identity theft and fraud.

Things to know to build a home using a VA construction loan

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In a previous VAntage Point post, The Plan Collector blogged about how a Veteran could build a new home. They mention that construction to permanent loans can be “difficult to find.” Two years later, more and more lenders are now offering this one-time close product.
However, before you run out to build your dream home with no money down, take a few minutes to read and understand some the guidelines and requirements with this program.
First, you will need a licensed, insured builder that is willing to submit documentation to become an approved builder. The VA program does not allow for owner/builders. While the VA only requires that the builder be registered to participate in the program, each lender can require the builder to go through an approval process.
The borrower and the builder must submit a complete set of plans and specs for the home when applying. Additional forms will be sent to the builder to describe the specific materials to be used and the lot and surrounding area of the future home site.
The builder takes on more responsibility with this loan than with a 20 percent down conventional loan. It’s best to have your builder and lender speak and discuss this early in the process.
Closing costs are a part of the builder’s responsibility. The borrower can pay the closing costs normally associated with a purchase loan, but the builder must pay for all the construction loan closing costs and interest during closing. The VA will allow the builder to incorporate these costs into the agreement to build with the borrower.
Make sure you are building a home that is common in size and design for the area. The home must be appraised per the plans and specs given to the appraiser. If a borrower over builds for the area, or builds an uncommon home, the appraisal may come in lower than needed for a zero down payment.
Don’t build on land that is larger than what would be considered “standard and customary” for the area. The appraiser may feel that some of the land is excessive and again, you may find that the appraisal falls short of what is needed.
Finally, keep in mind that this process takes 45-60 days to process, with an experienced loan officer. If you are purchasing the land as part of this loan you will want to set the proper expectations with the land seller.
FHA and VA construction loans are in the deep end of the mortgage pool. Make sure you are working with a loan officer that understands the program.


About the author: Jerry Thomas is a construction loan officer with 23 years of experience and specializes in VA construction loans.

Step-by-Step Guide to the VA Loan Process

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For many borrowers, applying for any kind of mortgage may seem daunting. But, when broken down, this rundown of 6 steps to getting a VA loan is easy to understand.

1. Select a VA-approved Lender

On the surface, it might appear that any lender will do. However, if you dig a little deeper, you may discover that not all lenders are the same. First, only lenders approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can originate VA mortgages. Secondly, some lenders focus primarily on conventional loans, while others concentrate almost exclusively on the VA loan program for military clients. Using a VA specialty lender with extensive knowledge about the VA loan process vs. a lender who only funds a few VA mortgages a year may translate into an easier and quicker loan process. To connect with a VA specialty lender, please click here.

2. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)

An experienced lender can help you obtain what’s called a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). The COE will prove that you meet initial eligibility standards for VA loan benefits. It will also let the lender know how much entitlement you can receive, which is the amount the Department of Veterans Affairs will guarantee on your VA loan. To get your COE, you’ll need to give your lender a bit of information about your military service. Usually, a COE can be acquired online instantly through a lender’s portal or through the eBenefits portal on the va.gov website. Those servicemembers or surviving spouses whose COEs cannot be obtained online will have to get theirs by mail. A VA lender or the VA can help direct you to the right resource for your specific situation.

3. Pre-Qualify for Your Loan Amount (optional)

Pre-qualifying is important, but not required. By choosing to complete this step you can save some time and potential surprises later in the process. To pre-qualify for your loan amount, you’ll have a candid conversation with your VA loan professional about your income, credit history, employment, marital status and other factors. Giving your lender complete details during the pre-qualifying step can help prevent surprises later during underwriting.  The pre-qualifying step can also reveal areas that need improvement before you can be approved, such as credit or debt-to-income ratio.  While a prequalification letter gives you a ballpark price range for house hunting, it does not guarantee that you will be approved for a loan, and your lender will later have to verify the information you provide. To get a loan requires later final approval by underwriting once all documents have been received and reviewed (see Step 5).

4. Go House Hunting and Sign a Purchase Agreement

The fourth step is usually one borrowers enjoy because they get to look at homes they might consider buying. Working with a real estate professional who specializes in the VA process can help you get the most out of your benefits. This is true because the VA allows certain fees and costs to be paid by the seller (if both you and the seller agree), and a knowledgeable agent will know this and help you negotiate seller-paid fees. Once you’ve got a signed purchase agreement, you can move forward in the VA loan process.

5. Lender Processes Application and Orders VA Appraisal

A signed purchase contract is the document you’ll need to finish your initial application. Once your lender has the contract, they will order the VA appraisal. Here again, not just any appraiser will do. Only a professional who is certified to perform appraisals to VA standards can evaluate the home being considered for VA financing. The VA appraiser will make sure the price you’ve agreed to pay for the home corresponds with the current value. Another very important part of the VA appraisal is to inspect the home to make sure it meets the VA minimum property requirements (VA MPRs). However, the VA appraisal does not take the place of a home inspection, which focuses on code violations, defects and the condition of the property. While many borrowers have heard horror stories about the length of the VA appraisal process, the Department of Veterans Affairs gives the appraisers 10 days from order to completion barring extenuating circumstances. While you’re waiting for appraisal documents, you’ll be busy submitting documents of your own to your VA-approved lender to show you have the ability to qualify for the loan. If the home passes appraisal for value and VA minimum property requirements, and it’s verified by the lender that you qualify for your loan, the underwriter will give his or her stamp of approval.

6. Close on Your Loan and Move In

After being approved by the underwriter, all that is left to do is close and move in. During closing, the property legally transfers from the former owner to you. Closing is a step that requires you to sign documents that confirm you understand and agree to the terms of the loan. You will need to provide proof of homeowners insurance and, if required, pay closing costs. Once you’ve signed all your closing documents, you’ll get the keys to your new home.
While these steps may not happen in the order above or be a required part (such as prequalification)*, they represent the typical process for the applicant in obtaining a VA purchase loan. Your lender may need to take other steps. For more information about VA loans, contact an experienced VA-approved lender.

Evacuation Entitlements If the Military Tells You to Go

When and what the military will pay if it tells your base or command to evacuate?
With hurricane season in full swing, it’s a perfect time to talk about when and how the military may pay travel expenses if you are instructed to evacuate.
Many folks have questions about when and how the military might reimburse for evacuations. I’ve pulled together information from the Joint Travel Regulations (it has a whole chapter on evacuations), the Defense Travel website, various service instructions, plus interviewed a few folks who have been ordered to evacuate for past situations. I learned a lot — hopefully you will, too!
Note: This article speaks specifically to evacuations from locations within the continental United States (CONUS) for limited-duration events like a storm.
First things first: The military will not pay for any expenses unless the evacuation is ordered by the appropriate military authorities. If you choose to leave without a military order, you will not be reimbursed for any expenses incurred until such an order is given.
An evacuation order given by local civilian authorities will not qualify you for reimbursement. However, you don’t have to wait for the military to tell you to evacuate. You may always evacuate at your own expense, at any time. I’m a worrier; I’d rather leave and have nothing happen than be stuck with my family in a disaster.
Please keep in mind that ultimately, the safety of your family is up to you. Any actions that the military may or may not take do not impact your personal responsibility to take care of yourself.

Who Is Eligible for Military Compensation for an Evacuation?

In order to be compensated for the expenses incurred when leaving an area due to a situation like a storm, the local military authorities must officially order the evacuation.
Coast Guard wife Kelsey Ramirez was told to evacuate when Hurricane Matthew was headed toward her area. Her advice: “You can evacuate early, which I recommend, and if they call the order, save your receipts (which you should do just in case they call it.)”

How Will You Know an Evacuation Has Been Ordered?

The spouses with whom I spoke all agreed that communication was very clear during an evacuation.
Brooke Goldberg has been ordered to evacuate twice! She told me, “It was made clear that I could leave and where I was allowed to go in order to receive reimbursement.”

Where Can You Go?

An evacuation order can include a designated “safe haven” location or a distance from your base that you can travel. If a specific location is designated, this is the location for which reimbursements will be paid. You may not be required to go to this safe haven, but expenses that exceed the costs of evacuating to the safe haven will not be reimbursed.
Instructions vary in how they present this safe haven option. Some make it seem mandatory that a safe haven is designated; others are less specific. Please pay attention to what your specific command or installation says if they order an evacuation.

What Will Be Reimbursed?

You will be reimbursed for mileage, lodging, and meals and incidentals. If a safe haven location is designated, your reimbursements will not exceed the costs at the designated safe haven location.
You may be authorized mileage for one vehicle per family member aged 16 or older. However, it is recommended that you take as few cars as possible to lessen gridlock on the roads. Mileage is paid at a flat rate based upon the distance from your duty station to the safe haven location, if one is designated.
Each evacuated person aged 12 and over receives meals and incidentals at 100% of the published rate for the safe haven location; those under age 12 receive 50% of the meals and incidentals rate.
Lodging is reimbursed up to the authorized rate for the safe haven location, if one is designated, or the authorized rate for the actual location, if no location is designated. Lodging rates are authorized for each family member over the age of 12, with those under the age of 12 eligible for up to 50% of the lodging amount. Lodging is not reimbursed if you stay with friends or family.
You must save all lodging receipts for reimbursement.
An example taken from the NonCombatant Evacuation Operations Quick Reference Guide for Army Personnel and DA Civilians:
“Family Members: Spouse, 14 year old, and 9 year old Per Diem rate: lodging $100 per day and M&IE $50 per day. Family gets hotel suite for daily rate of $175”
“For lodging, the spouse in our example is authorized $100 per day, first child $100 per day and second child $50 per day, which equals $250 per day, but that is more than what she is paying for the hotel room. Therefore the spouse will be reimbursed for the actual cost of the lodging, which is $175 per day.
“For M&IE, the spouse is authorized $50, first child $50, and second child $25, totaling $125. The family receives the entire amount.”
I have to admit, this seems like a lot of reimbursement to me, but I’ve verified it from three different sources. Please let me know ASAP if you know this to be wrong.
In general, it’s important to remember that your local military leadership has a detailed plan for how this all works out. If your location may be affected, you will be notified.

What Can You Do in the Meantime?

If you’re sitting around waiting on a hurricane, there are several things you can do to prepare for the possibility of an evacuation. You want to be ready to go as soon as you decide it is time, and not be scrambling around packing a car at the last minute.
The most important thing to do: Be sure your contact information is up-to-date on all official records, and that the individual command and its family support team has your details. Brooke Goldberg’s final advice to me: “Definitely keep track of correspondence with your unit. As a key spouse, I saw so many spouses dismiss options for contact with their service member’s unit, but in emergencies, it was very helpful.”

Other Ways to Be Productive While You Storm-Watch:

  • Gather your important documents and put them in a waterproof bag. Make a home inventory, or update your existing one.
  • Get your laundry done, and have an idea of what you might pack.
  • Review your emergency kit and see what items need to be replaced or refilled.
  • Have a plan where you might go. Keep in mind that you may be joining many other people being evacuated — roads will be crowded, hotels may be full.
  • Be sure your car is ready to travel: full of gas, maintenance up-to-date, tires in good shape.
  • Do what you need to do for your particular house and location. At the very least, bring in outside furniture. There are many excellent “to do” lists available on the internet.

Once again, this article deals only with limited evacuations from locations within the continental United States (CONUS). Evacuations for bigger situations, and evacuations from outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) have different and more rules and guidelines.
While we can’t predict when and where an emergency situation will occur, we can be prepared with knowledge and physical readiness. If you are worried about a situation, take steps to be prepared and keep yourself safe. While the military may provide guidance, and financial support in some situations, the ultimate responsibility is yours.
If you’d like to read more, this information was compiled from:
The Joint Travel Regulations, Chapter 6
Defense Travel CONUS Evacuation download
Ready Navy website
Ready Army website
Ready Marine Corps website
Air Force Be Ready website
NonCombatant Evacuation Operations Quick Reference Guide for Army Personnel and DA Civilians
NAS Key West Hurricane Evacuation Entitlements FAQs

HUD moving forward on proposed fair housing changes

boise-hud-homes2WASHINGTON – Aug. 22, 2018 – In the wake of a federal court decision upholding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s approach to rulemaking, HUD Secretary Ben Carson today announced that HUD intends to move forward in amending its 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulations.
14931652922_d93d9c4977_bLast week, Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, dismissed a lawsuit against HUD related to the Department’s decision to suspend the use of a computer tool to be used by local governments in meeting their fair housing obligations to ‘affirmatively further fair housing.’ Rather than helping local governments, HUD claims that the tool proved confusing, difficult to use and frequently produced unacceptable results. Read the Court’s ruling.
HUD Secretary Carson said he was “tremendously gratified that the Court agreed with HUD on all its legal arguments.”
On Aug. 13, 2018, HUD published a notice inviting public comment on amendments to the Department’s AFFH regulations. Specifically, HUD says it’s seeking public comment on changes that will:

  1. Minimize regulatory burden while more effectively aiding program participants to meet their statutory obligations
  2. Create a process focused primarily on accomplishing positive results rather than on analysis
  3. Provide for greater local control and innovation
  4. Seek to encourage actions that increase housing choice, including through greater housing supply
  5. More efficiently utilize HUD resources

HUD plans a number of informal listening forums across the country to hear directly from interested stakeholders, including civil rights advocates, public housing authorities, and state and local planners.
Information on how to comment is posted online in HUD’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
© 2018 Florida Realtors®

Impressive Tiny Houses

These tiny houses prove size isn’t everything.
Tiny houses are popping up around the country as more people decide to downsize their lives. While the structures often measure less than 300 square feet, the tiny house movements isn`t necessarily about sacrifice. With thoughtful, innovative designs, some homeowners have discovered a small house actually leads to a simpler yet fuller life, connecting them with family, friends, and nature while freeing them from mortgages.
Reclaimed Wood Cabin on Stilts
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Inside this treehouse-inspired tiny cabin, you’ll find salvaged church windows, reclaimed wood, and a funky dining table set crafted from old boats.
Tiny House Hotel
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Try scaled-down living on for size at Live a Little, a collection of three mini retreat, including the Old Blue Chair shown here, surrounding a central fire pit on a scenic mountaintop property just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee. Rates from $142 per night.
Adorable A-Frame Cabin
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Plans from $30
Pump It Up
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This tiny house is a musician’s dream: it houses a giant working amp and the deck even doubles as a stage.
A Greenhouse and Porch Swing
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$81,000
Tiny But Mighty
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In only 100 square feet, this tiny house known as the Nugget fits a kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping area.
Quaint Little Cottage
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From $62,950
Dreamy Treehouse
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$14
Tiny: A Story About Living Small
Pop-Out Porch
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The sleek design by New Frontier Tiny Homes features a farmhouse sink, shiplap and subway tile squeezed into 200 square feet. Best of all, though, a sliding glass garage door reveals a deck that pops out from the home, making al fresco dining a cinch.
Modern Tiny Farmhouse
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From $72,950
“Bestie Row”
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Four couples in Texas created “Bestie Row,” a mini neighborhood where they could all live in houses lined right up next to each other. Each tiny house boasts a bedroom, living room, and bathroom, and was constructed with a minimalist motif—think concrete floors, grained plywood, and a metal exterior.
Pequod House
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The Pequod, named for the ship in Moby Dick, is a marvel of modern amenities and upscale materials, all cleverly maneuvered into one tight squeeze. It measures 26 feet long and weighs 11,500 pounds.
Minimalist Living
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This 196-square-foot house near Boise, Idaho, is home to Macy Miller, her partner James, their daughter Hazel, and their Great Dane, Denver. A 27-year-old architect, Macy designed the home from scratch and built it on a 24-foot flatbed with help from friends and family. Clad in siding made of recycled pallet wood, the minimalist home is flooded with light and feels spacious despite its size. Hidden storage under the bed, above the pantry, and behind the fridge are contrasted with open shelving in the kitchen to make the space feel bigger. In total, Macy spent about $11,000 on her tiny house and is now able to live rent- and mortgage-free.
Enviresponsible Shelter
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Designed by Broadhurst Architects, this prefab corn crib-inspired structure takes its basic form from traditional American corn cribs, which were common farm buildings that served to store and dry corn. The chic, modern 250-square-footstructure is delivered and assembled on-site, and includes a sleeping loft, an expandable kitchen wall, a bathroom, and living room. An insulated glass garage door opens to a small deck, connecting the interior space to the landscape beyond. Made of sustainable and recyclable materials, the structure can be dismantled and relocated to another site.
Dream Bungalow
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The 204-square-foot “Wind River Bungalow” is the Chattanooga, Tennessee, home of tiny house enthusiasts Travis and Brittany Pyke, who started Wind River Custom Homes to help others fulfill their dreams of living simply in mini dream homes. Constructed of rain-screen cedar and hardy siding for extreme durability, the bungalow is full of custom features, including a pine and cedar interior, polymer concrete counters, and a loft ladder integrated into the shelving system.
Living Large With Less
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$16, The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir
This is the Olympia, Washington home of tiny house pioneer Dee Williams, author of The Big Tiny, a memoir that details her decision to downsize to an 84-square-foot house that she built from the ground up after a near-death experience. Constructed atop a metal truck trailer, the super-small pine-and-cedar bungalow houses a kitchen counter with a propane one-burner, a sleeping loft, solar-powered lights, a composting toilet, and a sink (but no running water). To help others realize their tiny house dreams, Dee also founded Portland Alternative Dwellings, a tiny house education, resource, and consulting company.
Floating Tiny House
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This floating 240-square-foot cabin is an off-the-grid summer escape for Maine couple Foy and Louisa Brown. Assembled onshore, a foundation of plastic floatation tubs, Styrofoam, and pontoons was then towed to sea, and the cottage was built above it, using mostly pine shiplap. Louisa carries water out daily via canoe for a tank that fills the shower and kitchen; at night, candles, oil lamps, and solar lights illuminate the home.
Mobile Ski Chalet
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This 112-square-foot mobile cabin belongs to extreme skier Zac Giffin, the host of FYI’s Tiny House Nation, a show that features people from across the country who are living the tiny house lifestyle. The tiny abode is home to Giffin and his girlfriend, skier Molly Baker. Built on a trailer, the house features a little wood stove, living space, and a lofted guest bedroom and storage area accessed by a floating staircase. Built by Giffin for almost $25,000, the structure took seven weeks to complete.
Country Shack
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Designed by Broadhurst Architects as a weekend retreat for a family from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., The Shack at Hinkle Farm sits on the southern slope of South Fork Mountain in West Virginia. With no electricity, the family relies on oil lamps for light and a small wood stove for heat; rain water is collected from the roof for the outdoor shower. An aluminum and glass garage door opens to a cantilevered wooden deck, where a removable canvas awning offers shade and shelter.
Tiny House Hotel
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One of six tiny houses—each built on wheels and outfitted with a bathroom, kitchen, and sleeping loft—at Caravan Tiny House Hotel in Portland, Oregon, the Skyline cabin is one of the newest additions to the hotel. The 160-square-foot structure is constructed of mostly salvaged materials and houses two queen beds. Rental rates are $125 per night.
Wild West Wagon
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Located near Watergate Bay in Cornwall, England of all places, the Sundance, a Wild West-themed wagon-style dwelling, is available to rent through Unique Homestays. Decorated with a “saloon chic” aesthetic (think wagon wheel art and sheepskin throws), the quaint interior features a wood-clad master bedroom, a bathroom with a walk-in rain shower, and a full kitchen. After a day riding horses on the nearby beach, relax with a glass of wine while sitting in a rocking chair on the lantern-lit front porch. Rental rates are about $800 for a three-night stay.
Luxury Treehouse
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With its 1920s cabins and vintage Boy Scout tents, Camp Wandawega, located in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, evokes the set of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. But the camp’s most charming feature is its three-level treehouse, built around a massive elm tree and outfitted with Pendleton blankets, tree swings, and Mason jar light fixtures. Used as a common space, guests can read a book in the treehouse’s library on a rainy day or spend a lazy afternoon on the bottom-level hammock.
Hidden Storage
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The “Writer’s Block” cabin designed by Cheng + Snyder features storage for a canoe under its bed and workbench space. Located in Westport, Maine on the banks of the Sheepscott River, the 190-square-foot hideaway features windows arranged to maximize views and allow for passive heating and cooling.
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This fully restored 1920s sheep wagon sits on the 30,000-acre Heward family ranch in Shirley Basin, Wyoming. The tiny wagon is outfitted with a full-size bed, two built-in cold boxes, a folding table, and a wood burning stove. Accommodating up to four people, the wagon can be moved around the property depending on the renters’ recreational interests (fly fishing, stargazing, and hiking are just some of the many options). Rental rates are $100 per night.
Countryside Hideaway
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Surrounded by peaceful, bucolic farmland in Somerset, England, the Shepherds Hut Retreat is comprised of four tiny “huts” available for rent. Each structure overlooks a nearby pond, and includes its own private deck and fire pit. Inside the 20- by eight-foot huts, you’ll find a fully functioning kitchen, a bathroom, a dining area, and a built-in bed. Rental rates start from around $243 per weekend.
Refined Woodland Cabin
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This 400-square-foot cabin with a refined decor sits nestled among fir, cedar, and madrone trees on the East Sound of Washington state’s Orcas Island. Designed by architect David Vandervort, the cross-shaped floor plan creates distinct alcoves for the kitchen, dining room, and bathroom, while a ladder provides access to the loft bedroom above the central living room. French doors lead out to a patio of flagstone, which is also used at the cabin’s entrance. (Building plans of a prototype of this cabin are available for purchase from Vandervort.)
Agricultural Architecture
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The Yolo County Cabin, designed by Butler Armsden Architects, sits on a 400-acre farm in the rural Northern California town of Winters. With a structure inspired by the local water towers and lean-to sheds that dot the area’s surrounding agricultural landscape, the home’s elevated viewing terrace offers a 360-degree view of the land.
Victorian Farmhouse
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