Mother-in-law suites a growing trend in home building

According to the National Association of Home Builders, 62 percent of home builders surveyed worked on a home modification related to aging in 2010, and 20 percent of builders added a bedroom on the main level of a home.

About 3.5 million households included parents living with their adult children in 2010. AARP expects that number to continue to rise.

Remodelers Decry Cut in Tax Credit for Energy Savings

Provisions in the $858 billion federal tax bill signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 17 could be bad news for home owners interested in remodeling projects to conserve energy.

The law slashed the popular tax credits for energy-efficient remodeling from the current 30% of an improvement’s cost ($1,500 maximum per taxpayer) to a 10% credit, with a $500 maximum for expenditures on insulation materials, exterior windows and storm doors, skylights and metal and asphalt roofs that resist heat gain. The law also clamped new dollar-specific limits on key improvements that had been eligible for 30% credits. These include a $150 tax credit limit on the costs of energy-efficient natural gas, propane and oil furnaces and hot water boilers, plus a $300 credit limit on the costs of central air-conditioning systems, electric heat pump water heaters, biomass stoves for heating or water heating, electrical heat pumps, and natural gas and propane water heaters.

The new law also limits allowable tax credits for energy-efficient windows installed during 2011 to a total of $200, compared with the previous $1,500. On top of that, it prohibits taxpayers who have taken total tax credits in past years exceeding $500 from claiming any additional credits on energy-conservation projects they undertake in the coming year.

Donna Shirey, chairman of NAHB Remodelers Council and president of a contracting firm in the Seattle area, said the gutting of energy-efficiency credits “is a big step backward. It’s bad for the environment, bad for consumers and, of course, bad for jobs in our economy. We’re heading the wrong way here, sending absolutely the wrong message.”

Washington Post (12/30/10); Kenneth R. Harney