Builders Battle Anti-Housing Moves Around the Country
An informal survey of high-profile regulatory efforts by local and state governments earlier this summer shows that providing affordably priced housing remains an uphill battle for builders in many parts of the country at the same time as many other communities are pursuing innovative solutions to meeting their housing needs.
Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell
Representing a positive trend, Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell recently signed H.B. 6570, legislation that seeks to guide new residential development according to smart growth principles by encouraging mixed-use development near existing transportation infrastructure. These areas are being designated as “priority funding districts” for the receipt of financial support from the state.
The ambitious bill brought together disparate interest groups, including the Home Builders Association of Connecticut and the Sierra Club.
“There’s a small but probably growing section of the market that wants that kind of development, and they should be served,” said Bill Ethier, executive vice president of the builders association.
More sobering news for the housing industry includes the following:
- Prince George’s County, Md. has enacted a law that bases new home development on the availability of police and fire protection, a measure that will most likely decrease the supply of affordably priced housing in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The rule requires police emergency calls, on average, to be answered within 10 minutes and non-emergency calls within 25 minutes, and sets a response time limit of 10 minutes for advanced life support. The bill has had the unintended consequence of shutting down more than the county council had expected, especially in rural outlying parts of the county, according to F. Hamer Campbell of the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association.
- Builders in Des Moines, Iowa have come up against strict new soil erosion ordinances from the Iowa Association of Municipalities making storm water permits tougher to get and imposing an added financial burden, both of which will have a damaging impact on the local housing supply. Builders fear that developers could be asked by the city to provide performance bonds or cash securities to cover the costs of environmental damage. “This could become a mechanism the developers look at and say, ‘This city has stringent construction requirements. We don’t think we can pass those costs along,’” predicted attorney Chuck Becker.
- The city of Indio, Calif. has proposed requiring builders to find alternative sources of water for new home construction. Local developers are using approximately 37 million gallons of water per day during the hottest days of the summer, says Mark Wasserman, a city employee. But critics of the proposal claim that poor municipal planning, not builders, is responsible for the city’s water shortage. “They are putting this entirely on the building community and they’re not doing anything to curtail wasted water by those who already live in the city of Indio,” said Ed Kibbey, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, Desert Chapter.
- A coalition of Arizona civic and business leaders who want to head off residential development is set to ask state voters to approve a plan to conserve federal land that has been given to the state and is required to be sold for the “highest and best use.” Supporters of the effort complain that “existing laws force municipalities and conservation groups to compete in a nearly impossible uphill battle with deep-pocket developers for some of the state’s most desirable remaining desert.”
- Area landowners are asking the city of Sacramento, Calif. to annex between 6,000-10,000 acres in fast growing North Natomas. However, a study by California State University, Sacramento economist Robert Fountain finds that growth in that area has provided a financial windfall for the region. “Last year alone, builders sold $995 million worth of homes in North Natomas,” the study says. “That included $473 million in wages for the (construction-related) workers and the generation of $75.7 million in taxes.” Also, the area’s “progressive, entrepreneurial environment” is attracting the economic vigor that comes from new corporations and residents.
For more information on state and local government issues, e-mail Alex Strong at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8279.