Today: News Items You May Have Missed and Opinions You Won't Be So Lucky as to Avoid.

Item 1

Citing research indicating that millions of dogs and cats could find new homes if all rental properties allowed pets, the Humane Society of the United States has launched the World Wide Web site www.rentwithpets.org.

This site provides information to renters and rental housing owners and managers who are seeking alternatives to no-pet policies.

"Pet owners face major challenges finding pet-friendly rental housing," said Nancy Peterson, issues specialist in the companion animals section of the Humane Society. "Cat and dog owners who relinquish their pets to animal shelters often report that they're moving or that the landlord doesn't allow pets."

The Humane Society points out that 50 percent of renters have pets, and that rental housing owners could do more to capture that share of the market. The Web site offers advice on implementing an effective pet policy and provides sample lease and pet registration forms. For renters with pets, the site provides guidelines for conducting a successful search for rental housing that allows pets.

I know the difficulties dog and cat owners can face when looking for apartments. Here's another solution: Stick to goldfish.

Item 2

Rentacrate has expanded into the Chicago market, opening an office in west suburban Schiller Park that will serve as the company's Midwest hub. Rentacrate rents or sells sturdy plastic crates, also referred to as totes, which it says offer added protection for home contents during moving. And, because the crates are reusable and last 10 years or more, the company says they are more environmentally friendly than the cardboard boxes we've been moving with for so long.

Among the specialized crates offered by Rentacrate are those designed for the protection and easy transport of office files, computer equipment, wardrobes, library collections, blueprints, produce and perishables. The company will have more than 15,000 crates in stock for rental or sale in its initial move into the Chicago market.

Partners Michael Shanley and Karen Osborn have taken a European concept--that of using tea crates for moving--and transplanted it to America. They claim three more advantages over cardboard: quicker packing, easier stacking and better tracking.

I'm all for European innovation. But I have to confess that good old American boxes can be quite competitive. I still have in my attic three mighty tough and ecologically sensitive cardboard containers that began life 25 years ago as carriers for Barnaby's restaurants Beefburgers. Since then, stuffed with high school and college memorabilia, they have made treks from Rockford, Ill., to Madison, Wis., to Hinsdale, Ill., and to Rogers Park in Chicago. I'd stack those boxes up against tea crates from any continent any day.

Item 3

Speaking of durability, it is all too common to hear a consumer say, "They just don't build 'em like they used to." Within the next 10 years, the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing program is striving to remedy this stigma by improving the durability of American homes and reducing the cost of homeowner maintenance 50 percent.

The partnership is a public-private venture bringing manufacturers, home builders and government agencies together to create a durability rating system for housing components.

Ultimately, the partnership also hopes to increase homeownership by reducing five costs:

* Monthly maintenance and energy costs 20 percent

* Environmental impact and energy use of new houses at least 50 percent

* Energy usage in existing homes at least 30 percent

* Risk of loss of life and property destruction from natural disasters at least 10 percent

* Residential construction worker injury claims at least 20 percent

The initial durability research is being done on exterior housing components such as paint and joint sealants, roof coverings, concrete slabs, wood and window seals.

I think it's great that the home-building industry is doing research to improve the longevity of the products that go into our houses. And 10 years doesn't seem like such a long time to achieve the lofty goals this partnership has set.

But here's a way to do it faster and better: Why don't you just build 'em the way you used to?