April 29, 2013

"NAHB's Value for State and Local HBAs"

Jerry Howard, the C.E.O. of The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), has contributed as a guest blogger for Association Maximization before. When I asked Jerry if he would contribute again he happily agreed. Jerry wanted to approach this article as a conversation to the local and state home builder associations (HBA) and to the general membership, builder and associate. As you read associate members will notice that everything NAHB has accomplished, and is working towards, seems to be for builders. You would be correct in thinking that. The absolute fact is that this is a builders association but what you'll need to be aware of, so you can appreciate your membership investment, if it affects builders it will affect associates (see late 2008 through 2012). I have heard it said that associates have their own associations in the form of their specific discipline, i.e. the American Land Title Association or National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association. Those associations, and others, are truly specific but they are greatly diminished without NAHB. That's why so many associates opt to volunteer their time and investment dollars in NAHB and what Jerry will share with you today strengthens the fact that with NAHB, as well as our local and state HBAs, our building industry will recovery and thrive once more.

Jerry's message, for the builders, associates and HBAs is a 5 minute read and should be shared with your membership and HBA peers.

"NAHB's Value for State and Local HBAs"
by Jerry Howard
CEO, National Association of Home Builders

Jerry Howard
The NAHB Senior Officers and I are often asked to define the value that our national association brings to the table for our state and local home builders associations (HBAs).  I’m grateful for the opportunity to address that subject today, because the support that NAHB provides to its local affiliates is really a key piece of the equation in terms of quantifying the total value proposition of every HBA membership. 

But where should I begin? 

-I could focus on the hundreds of top-notch educational programs and professional designation opportunities that NAHB provides to our locals so that they can make world-class instructors and courses both geographically and financially accessible to members.  

-I could talk about NAHB’s local economic forecasting, which we offer to HBAs at a steep discount along with the analysis of top PhD economists.

-Or, I could discuss the significant support that NAHB provides for local membership recruiting efforts to ensure that every HBA represents the widest possible network of housing professionals. 

-Then again, I could focus on the regular assistance that our media relations team provides to local associations and their public spokespersons.

But instead, for purposes of today’s blog, I’m going to zero-in on two crucial areas of NAHB support in the advocacy arena that probably deserve greater recognition at the local level.

Local Code Adoption Process
First is the local building code adoption process, which dictates the rules by which every builder must construct homes, every day of the week. 

Keeping building codes flexible, cost-effective and product-neutral is a top NAHB priority, which is why every year, NAHB analyzes thousands of proposed codes and prevents requirements that could add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of building a new home without any appreciable benefit to buyers. 

Undoubtedly, the complex and time-consuming work that our volunteer members and staff put into reviewing the multitude of proposed code changes and attending ICC hearings as part of each development cycle is something that tremendously benefits all of our members. 

But where the rubber really meets the road for our local HBAs is when their individual jurisdiction sets out to update its building codes through adoption of all or part of the latest national building codes. That’s where NAHB’s assistance makes all the difference at the grassroots level. (And no, you don’t have to be a builder for this to matter to you. Because local building code decisions affect the kind, quality and affordability of homes that are built in a given market, they impact everyone who provides services and products to builders.) NAHB’s code experts provide our HBAs with detailed toolkits full of resources for amending I-Codes as they are adopted at the state or local level. To see what I’m talking about, take a look at the 2012 I-Codes Adoption Kit on NAHB.org.

Mandated Fire Sprinklers
One of the best examples of how NAHB supports local HBA efforts to adopt workable building codes pertains to mandated fire sprinklers. Since a requirement for residential fire sprinklers was adopted in the 2009 and 2012 International Residential Code, NAHB’s Construction, Codes and Standards staff has worked with state and local associations to ensure that fire sprinklers remain voluntary elements in new homes (at the discretion of the home buyer) in states across the country.  In those states where sprinkler mandates have been defeated, the savings amounts to an average of $6,316 per home. Information and supporting documentation to amend residential sprinklers requirements in the latest code can be found at: www.nahb.org/sprinklers.
2012 IECC Another current example of NAHB’s support on local building codes pertains to the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Bringing the code up the 2012 version would be tremendously difficult and expensive in states that have not updated their codes in recent years. While states often amend codes to fit their specific needs, the 2012 version adds considerably to cost, is less flexible, favors certain products and produces questionable energy savings in several areas.

NAHB's successful effort to amend or prevent adoption of this code in several states has been a victory for sensible, flexible, cost-effective regulation, as recent research has shown that it costs $7,034 more to build a home to the 2012 IECC than to the 2006 IECC. For states that may be contemplating a switch to the 2012 IECC, NAHB has proposed several amendments that HBAs can push in order to make the code more cost effective – all of which are available via our 2012 Energy Code Adoption Action Kit. 

Legal Support/Local Ordinance Reviews

A second area in which NAHB provides direct assistance to local and state HBAs is via our legal support programs, which include our Legal Action Fund,Amicus Brief Program and Legal Ordinance Review Program, the latter of which I’d like to tell you about here.

Our affiliated HBAs frequently find themselves battling unwelcome local land use ordinances that cost our members time, money and the ability to build new projects. NAHB helps in these situations by offering free reviews of local ordinances and state legislation pertaining to planning, zoning, growth controls, development exactions, property rights and more. Specifically, our legal experts examine these ordinances’ legal sufficiency, including constitutional and statutory requirements, in order to help HBAs frame an appropriate response to their state and local governments.

Square Footage Caps
One example of the kind of ordinance that we’ve helped our locals combat is maximum square footage caps. While ordinances restricting large homes (in the 6,000-square-foot range) are not unusual, NAHB has received several inquiries from members who are facing much smaller caps, such as 3,000 square feet.  NAHB data shows that this is not much larger than the average square footage of a typical new single-family home. While such caps on home sizes can be difficult to challenge, NAHB legal staff provides background information to help determine the source of a locality’s authority to enact the ordinance, due process and other concerns.

Historic Overlay Districts
Historic overlay districts are another example of zoning regulations that our locals may ask us to help combat. These are often used by a city council or county commission to incorporate restrictions on new development, with the stated goal of preserving the historic character of a neighborhood. In such cases, NAHB legal staff can examine the ordinance for valid enabling and inherent authority, due process and spot zoning issues.  
NAHB Advocacy: Leveling the Playing Field for Builders and Their Associates
I want to emphasize that the above examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advocacy resources and assistance that NAHB routinely provides to our state and local associations. Our integrated advocacy team including lobbyists, economists, communications professionals, and legal, regulatory and housing policy experts is constantly working to level the playing field and improve the business environment on behalf of all our members. 

In the current Congress, there is no shortage of landmark, housing-related legislation being debated that could essentially change the DNA of home building for generations to come -- and I can’t overstate the difference that our national association’s engagement in these matters makes to home builders and their associates nationwide. 

For example, in the ongoing debate over immigration reform, we are leading the charge to ensure workable and fair employer verification requirements and the creation of an appropriate guest worker program that meets the needs of our industry. In negotiations regarding the future of our nation’s housing finance system, we are standing tall on the need to maintain an adequate and affordable flow of credit for home mortgages and the absolute necessity of ensuring a strong federal backstop for housing finance. And, as lawmakers float various proposals on tax reform, ours is one of the strongest voices defending the mortgage interest deduction and other housing-related incentives in the U.S. tax code.

The list goes on, but the bottom line is that NAHB’s advocacy efforts – whether on the local or national front -- greatly enhance the value of your association membership, and have a very positive impact on our members’ businesses.

In conclusion, I’d like to thank readers of this blog for your continued support and active participation in our national, state and local associations. Our associates are among our most active and engaged members at every level of our federation, and are an essential factor in our industry’s ongoing recovery and future success.

1 comment:

Phil Hoffman said...

Thanks Jerry for helping to show what NAHB does for our industry.