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Responding to a Feb. 25 request from the Department of the Interior (DOI) for public input on reducing the regulatory burden on the nation’s industries, extensive March 28 comments from NAHB to DOI Deputy Secretary David Hayes cite the urgent need for relief for overly burdened small businesses and suggest that the Endangered Species Act is a good place to start.
The effort to have government agencies examine their existing regulations in order to promote economic growth and job creation stems from Executive Order 13563, “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,” which was released by the Obama Administration on Jan. 18.
The NAHB comments point out that residential construction — one of the most heavily regulated industries in America — is currently trying to extricate itself from the direst economic conditions since World War II.
In a cover letter, Larissa Mark, an NAHB policy analyst, notes that the perilous state of the housing industry — particularly among small home builders — presents “a compelling reason for all federal agencies to ensure all existing and future federal regulations are carefully designed, promulgated and enforced to achieve their intended environmental benefits while minimizing the regulatory burdens on small business, stemming from both individual regulatory mandates as well as the cumulative burdens imposed by additive regulations.”
While a single regulation may not be onerous for a builder, NAHB notes, when stacked on top of one another, their costs can be considerable.
In an NAHB survey of its members in 1998, 11.1% responded that 10 or more government approvals or reviews were required before land could be developed, and it is likely the number of required permits has increased considerably since then.
“In some heavily regulated markets, the costs and time delays associated with obtaining permits and complying with the rules can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building a modest single-family home,” NAHB says.
“Likewise, because the regulatory agencies are often not familiar with the home building process — including all aspects from financing to land acquisition, grading to infrastructure installation, foundation to framing and roofing to landscaping — many regulations have been improperly developed and ill-applied to the industry, yet project proponents must find creative ways to comply.”
What’s worse, NAHB says, “there is little assurance that the regulations are achieving their intended results.”
ESA Called Out
In an example of where regulation is often having a disproportionate impact on the residential construction industry — compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) — NAHB calls on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review the current processes for listing species and designating habitat to evaluate their economic impact on communities.
“While NAHB agrees that protecting species and the habitat necessary to their survival is important, we also feel these processes should evaluate economic impacts in addition to the scientific and biological analysis currently conducted.”
This would further encourage the development of mitigation programs “that conserve listed species while limiting potential adverse impacts on the localities’ ability to be economically sustainable,” NAHB says.
In its comments, NAHB cites several opportunities to streamline the listing and consultation processes:
- Deficiencies in the current Section 7 consultation regulations, which require agencies to consult with the Wildlife Service when they are considering action that could jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat
- The lack of data from which decisions are made
- The need for better science
- The lack of interagency coordination
For more information, email Larissa Mark at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8157.