Archive for December 2017

Hot housing market driving up home prices in Dallas

DALLAS – Rachel Freeman and Austin Poynter are on the hunt for the home of their dreams in Dallas.

A large kitchen and yard are must-haves, but as the real estate market heats up in Dallas and nationwide, speed is now the name of the game. If a house sounds promising, the couple has to act fast.

Homebuyers have to act fast in today’s hot housing market CBS News

"If you don’t, then it’s going to be off the market before you can even take a look at it," said Poynter.

Traffic at open houses is typically sluggish this time of year, but has recently picked up the pace. According to online realtor Zillow, some of the areas with the fastest appreciating home values are San Jose, Nashville, Charlotte, Seattle and Dallas.

Dallas has one of the hottest housing markets in the country CBS News

Marc Bullock is a real estate agent in Dallas. He said prospective buyers need to come in pre-approved. "Things are moving off the shelf so quickly that if you’re not submitting that along with your contract for purchase, you’re not going to get very far," Bullock said.

For Austin Poynter, the question is whether the market will keep going strong.

"It’s like, ‘Oh, is it better to go in now? Is it better to wait six more months to see if the prices are going to drop at all?’" Poynter said. "We’re at the point where we might as well buy now."

One of the factors driving the current real estate boom is the sale of starter homes. Realtors also say more millenials are contributing, but getting mortgages.

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Detroit Pistons at Dallas Mavericks live chat

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki attempts a shot over Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris during a game in 2016.(

GAME INFORMATION

* Who: Detroit Pistons (17-13) at Dallas Mavericks (8-23)
* Where: American Airlines Center in Dallas
* When: 8:30 tonight
* TV: Fox Sports Detroit
* Radio: WWJ-AM 950 and Pistons radio network
* Social media: Follow MLive sports on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
* Twitter: Follow Ansar Khan and Brendan Savage

The Pistons will try to stretch their winning streak to four games when they visit the team with the worst record in the Western Conference. Avery Bradley will miss his third game with a groin strain that will keep him out for at least another week, probably longer. Reggie Bullock is coming off a career-high 20 point-game against Orlando, his third consecutive start, and has made 20-of-31 shots (64.5 percent) his past four games.

The Mavericks have lost three in a row. Harrison Barnes leads the Mavs in scoring (18.3) and rebounding (7.1). Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. is averaging 14.4 points. Dirk Nowitzki, 39, in his 20th season, is averaging 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. The Pistons swept two games from the Mavericks last season and have won their past three in Dallas.

FILE — Charlie Villanueva during his stint with the Detroit Pistons.
Pistons rookie Luke Kennard believes tough coaching will make him a better player.

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Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold faces more claims of abusive behavior from former aide

AP

A third former top aide has accused Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold of crude, abusive behavior, CNN reported Wednesday.

One of the Corpus Christi congressman’s former communications directors, Michael Rekola, described a work environment so hostile that he said he required counseling and medical treatment.

He described "screaming fits of rage, slamming fists on desks and castigating aides," CNN reported.

He has offered to provide the House Ethics Comittee with "examples of sexually inappropriate comments" and discuss Farenthold’s "emotionally damaging" and "intimidating" behavior.

Rekola said he’d been subjected to lewd comments, including remarks about his fiancee shortly before his marriage. He said he left his job soon after Farenthold made those comments in 2015.

The congressman denied the comments, CNN said.

But Elizabeth Peace, another former communications director who has accused Farenthold of inappropriate behavior, said she was a witness to the remarks about Rekola’s fiancee.

"Every staffer in that area heard it," she said. "It was the most shocking thing I’d heard him say at that point."

Earlier this week, Peace backed up another former aide’s accusations that Farenthold engaged in inappropriate sexual banter with his staff.

The first accuser — Lauren Greene, who also once served as Farenthold’s communications director — received an $84,000 settlement after suing him in 2014 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment.

Farenthold has maintained his innocence and recently vowed to repay taxpayers for the settlement, which was covered with money controlled by Congress’ Office of Compliance.

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If Congress doesn’t fund children’s health insurance, Texas officials have an idea

The New York Times

AUSTIN — If federal funding doesn’t come through, Texas may have found a way to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program a few more weeks.

Texas agencies are considering an accounting trick to leave more money in the program. By not taking matching money from the federal government for kids who used to be enrolled in CHIP but are now covered by Medicaid, Texas can stretch the remaining federal funds for CHIP.

The tactic isn’t a long-term solution. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wrote a letter asking state Health and Human Services Commissioner Charles Smith to support the option as a “temporary bridge.”

“While I am cautiously optimistic regarding federal efforts, I do want to ensure that the state is prepared to move quickly and prudently should Congress fail to act in a timely manner,” Straus wrote.

Spokeswoman Carrie Williams confirmed that the Health and Human Services Commission has discussed possible ways to extend CHIP with the Legislative Budget Board, including forgoing the federal match funding for a few months.

“We’re all working together to assess contingency funding options and analyze the risks they may carry for state taxpayer dollars if federal funding doesn’t come through in time,” Williams said in an email. “We’re open to exploring options and doing what’s best for Texas under the direction of state leadership. We’re hopeful that federal funds will be made available to carry the program through February, and that Congress renews the program soon.”

Congress allowed CHIP funding to expire Sept. 30. Since then, the commission has requested an extra $90 million from the federal government to keep CHIP through February.

The commission has signaled that it feels confident that additional money will be approved but is waiting for written commitment from the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid, expected by Saturday, before mailing CHIP cancellation notices to families.

For Texas kids enrolled in CHIP, the federal government matches 92 percent of the money the state puts in — a much higher rate than the 56 percent funding match for those enrolled in Medicaid. The higher match funding for CHIP goes to Medicaid to cover Texas children who switched from CHIP to Medicaid.

If the state uses the accounting trick, Medicaid will temporarily lose some of its support, but Texas would be able to reclaim the money retroactively if Congress reauthorizes CHIP funding.

Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for for Public Policy Priorities, a center-left think tank, said this method could result in a significant amount of funding for CHIP because its match rate is dramatically higher than for Medicaid.

“It’s wonderful to see creative thinking going on about how we can postpone what will be a tremendous waste of state money and effort and tremendous stress for 400,000 children,” said Dunkelberg, a former state Medicaid official. “If we can use creative but legitimate financing methods to make the money stretch further, it would be huge.”

As of August, CHIP covered 402,500 children in Texas and nearly 35,000 women. Dallas County has 50,000 kids enrolled in the program.

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