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Funds Help Support Builder Battles on Significant Issues

Home builders associations across the country fighting industry battles with national implications received support from NAHB’s State & Local Issues Fund during the International Builders’ Show in Orlando, Fla. last month.

Financial assistance was provided on the following issues:

  • Visitability. The Builders Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh was awarded funding to help enact model legislation that would permit all local governments in Pennsylvania to offer tax credits for homes that have been built or renovated with “visitable” design features.

    In October 2002, the Pittsburgh City Council began deliberating a proposed ordinance that would have effectively mandated that all new residential construction and significantly renovated homes be designed with “visitable” features.  With the help of the mayor and the city redevelopment agency, the builders association was able to convince a majority of the city council to appoint a visitability task force.

The task force recommended an abatement of $2,500 in property taxes for home owners who purchase new or renovated homes with visitable design. In the fall of 2004, the city’s solicitor issued an opinion that the city did not have the statutory authority to offer the tax abatement. Legislation introduced in 2005 that would grant the tax credit authority exclusively to the City of Pittsburgh has stalled because it pertains only to Pittsburgh.

Energy Code. In 1999, Michigan enacted the Michigan Uniform Energy Code (MUEC), which included NAHB’s standard for determining cost-effectiveness, making it the nation’s only truly cost-effective residential energy code. The MUEC was included in the Single State Construction Code Act, creating a single statewide construction code in Michigan. The act prohibited local amendments to the code and required that any revisions to the MUEC be tested against NAHB’s cost-effectiveness definition before those revisions could be adopted.

In 2004, the state discarded this consensus code and replaced the MUEC in its entirety with the International Residential Code (IRC). The Michigan Association of Home Builders (MAHB) sued the state, arguing that it lacked the authority to amend the MUEC by adopting the IRC provisions. An injunction was subsequently issued barring the state from enforcing the IRC provisions pending further proceedings in the lawsuit. A trial is set to begin this year.

The Michigan association received funding to educate the public about the importance of the MUEC and is designing a campaign that can serve as a model for other states tackling energy code issues.

  • Zoning. The City of Dallas recently passed an ordinance allowing residents, through a petition, to initiate the creation of an “overlay zoning district” aimed at controlling the size and scale of new homes built in older, mature neighborhoods. The new district, with a minimum size originally set at just a few acres, would govern the size and scale of new homes, with provisions addressing building and lot issues, including the number of stories, height and garage placement.

    The Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas received funding to perform a comprehensive market analysis of the direct market and tax impacts on the housing industry before, during and after a district is created. The results of the study could be of use to planning departments across the country where such ordinances are being considered.

  • Endangered Species. The northern pine snake is not a federally-listed threatened or endangered species and is common in much of its range in southeastern New Jersey. It is, however, listed as a threatened species in New Jersey. With the state acknowledging that the snake’s population is secure nationally and abundant locally, the New Jersey Builders Association has argued that there is a lack of sound science to support the state listing.

    The association was awarded a grant to help delist the northern pine snake as a threatened species in New Jersey. The grant will go towards securing and compiling data about the snake, mapping snake sightings and reviewing and analyzing the data.

  • Data Quality. In 2000, the U.S. Congress approved the Data Quality Act, which directs the Office of Management and Budget to issue government-wide guidelines that provide policy and procedural guidance to federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility and integrity of information disseminated by those agencies.

    The HBA of Bucks and Montgomery Counties and the HBA of Chester and Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania were provided funds to spearhead a legislative and public relations effort to reform the state’s rules and regulations governing state agencies’ use of scientific reports and studies. These HBAs would like to replicate the federal Data Quality Act at the state level and develop model legislation that other associations can use in their states.

The deadline for State & Local Issues Fund applications that will be reviewed at NAHB’s upcoming spring board meeting is April 6.

To learn more about projects that have been supported by the fund, visit the Issues Fund Projects section on NAHB’s Web site.

For more information on the State & Local Issues Fund, e-mail Gerry Keegan at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8326.

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