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Good news for housing market, bad news for speculators

Not a sign of the times: upstate has survived the bust by not having a boom.
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Not a sign of the times: upstate has survived the bust by not having a boom.

Housing boom and bust
There are fewer foreclosures on the auction block these days, but that doesn't stop bidders from turning out.  The Buffalo News reports that the number of vacant houses has dropped from 3,400 2,158, but the number of buyers has been constant, or grown.

The head of New York's Federal Reserve Bank told an audience at Cornell yesterday that our lack of foreclosure activity is because we never had a housing boom upstate.  Fed president William Dudley says that's a good deal, reports the Democrat and Chronicle:

"Upstate is less dependent on housing, which means it didn't participate in the boom — maybe that's not fun then, but it's good during the bust years," William Dudley said. "Housing prices didn't rise much ... and there was very little construction employment. When the housing boom turned to bust," upstate wasn't as heavily affected.

Energy hearings
The Post-Standard is offering live blogging of today's Public Service Commission hearing into rate hikes for National Grid.  Get the details here.  A ruling on the $400 million rate hike request isn't expected until January.

Last month that same commission approved changes to NYSEG's energy assistance plan.  According to the Press & Sun-Bulletin there are now two ways that low-income utility subscribers can get help:

NYSEG's new EAP has two levels of assistance: EAP Basic Benefit, which offers a monthly bill credit, and EAP Limited Benefit, which offers arrears forgiveness.

Cooking the books
Restaurant owners in Buffalo say the state is treating them like criminals, as it attempts to collect $200 million through increased sales tax audits.  The state says if owners have the right paperwork, audits should be painless.  But the paper points out that's not always the case:

But there also is a great deal of confusion over the types of records that should be kept and whether the records generated by the point-of-sale terminals used by those businesses are adequate in the tax department's eyes. Missing receipts and records, along with concerns by tax officials that those records could be manipulated, often complicate audits.

Upstate rail projects
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter announced $28 million worth of rail projects for upstate New York yesterday, reports the Innovation Trail's Zack Seward.  The Democrat and Chronicle notes that's a good thing, because ridership of Amtrak's passenger service is up.  And the Times-Union laments that two local projects didn't make the funding cut.  A full announcement of the grants is expected on Thursday by the federal transportation secretary.

Back to Binghamton for EPA
The EPA is returning to Binghamton, but this time the topic is the Chesapeake Bay, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin.  Agriculture interests are worried that efforts to clean up the waterway that cuts into Maryland, Virginia and Delaware will force them to change their farming practices.

Gubernatorial race
There is a pair of articles this morning about gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino.  The Post-Standard looks at the differences in the two candidates' economic plans (the Innovation Trail offered a similar breakdown last week).  And Gannett's Albany bureau takes a look at Cuomo's big push to consolidate local governments as attorney general.  The consensus is that voters aren't as big into consolidating local governments as the AG is.

We’re #10!
The Democrat and Chronicle has a look at the Daily Beast's ranking of the nation's smartest (large) cities.  Rochester came in at 10, Buffalo makes 42 - sorry, rest of upstate.

Here's how they figured it out, according to the D&C:

The criteria basically assessed a community's educational and intellectual culture. The number of residents over 25 with bachelor's and advanced degrees was compared with the overall number of residents over 25.

They also looked at purchases of nonfiction.  Time to hit the books Syracuse!

State takeover
A nonprofit-run tech park in Albany is at risk of state takeover, reports the Times-Union.  The Luther Forest Technology Campus is set to be the site of GlobalFoundries' new chip factory.  According to the Times-Union, the head of the state's economic development agency, Dennis Mullen, is on the warpath:

Mullen said the nonprofit that manages the tech park failed to repay $1.75 million in loans from the state due earlier this year. The figure is only a small portion of the more than $11 million the nonprofit owes the state.

Just in time for Halloween, a candy plant outside of Albany is looking at expanding.  The Times-Union reports that the plant currently produces mints, rock candy and gum.  Not tickling your sweet tooth?  The plant also makes Gravy Master ("used by America's top chefs" for "browning and seasoning" according to the company) and something called "Space Food Sticks" for NASA.  Yum!

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