How Construction Ordinances Impact Affordable Housing & Aesthetics

Passed September 1, 2019, the Texas legislature signed a law that prohibits local municipalities from mandating the type of building materials used in new construction, maintenance and renovation projects. What's known as House Bill 2439, this prevents local governments from excluding the use of building materials that have been otherwise approved by national code within the last three cycles.

At its core, this allows professionals and homeowners (rather than a governmental body) the freedom to choose which building materials are most appropriate per project. Now, every product—including siding—is able to compete on an equal regulatory playing field. 

A Nationwide Conversation 

This conversation isn’t just happening in Texas. State laws in Arkansas and North Carolina have recently overridden restrictive construction ordinances, and similar efforts are currently underway in Tennessee. Professionals are finding themselves on the front lines of frustrated customers who learn the government is dictating the building materials they can and cannot use on their own homes.

“Many municipalities enact construction ordinances on the premise of creating a specific aesthetic or ‘brand’ for their city,” says Phil Crone, executive officer at the Dallas Builders Association. “In the quest to capture greater tax collections, long-term local ordinances can impact affordable housing by forcing professionals to use more expensive products in both design and construction.”

Ripple Effects on Affordable Housing 

Local ordinance effects can disproportionately impact lower income groups by forcing the use of more expensive products, pricing potential homeowners (such as young families or retirees) out of the community. Professionals can be impacted in different ways as well. For example, this confines builders, remodelers, architects and dealers to which products they can and cannot use, potentially compromising their ability to capitalize on more demand and higher margins. Additionally, it becomes increasingly difficult to differentiate from competitors.

The ripple effects of these local construction ordinances can even be felt among the professional labor force. For instance, some builders or remodelers may no longer be able to live in the same community where they work. In an already challenging labor market, a longer commute paired with other existing woes could impact the composition of existing work crews.

A Monotonous Aesthetic

While city officials often use masonry material overlays to promote a specific "brand aesthetic," the opposite often emerges: a homogeneous community that becomes monotonous. With no variety or differentiation, homes can easily lose their aesthetic identification.

"Homes are an expression of the homeowners who live inside, which is brought to life by a builder or remodeler," says Crone. "City officials who assign construction materials (and therefore a certain aesthetic) are at odds with homeowners who have a vision of living in diverse neighborhoods. Another challenge is forcing builders and remodelers into the strict use of relatively generic products, which prevents customization and uniqueness."

Mark Cofer, General Sales Manager of the Southwest Region at LP Building Solutions, agrees. "While advocating for House Bill 2439, some of the most compelling stories were of homeowners currently living in homes with products restricted by overlays who were speaking out for quality, affordable housing. After all, it is their home and it should be their decision so long as safety standards are aligned with code requirements."

How You Can Get Involved

Thanks to the recent passing of House Bill 2439 and similar conversations happening nationwide, both professionals and homeowners have the opportunity to take affordable housing and diversity into their own hands-all the while keeping codes front and center. As long as national codes are met, freedom of choice will organically create affordable and aesthetically diverse communities.

If your community has enacted or is considering a materials-restrictive policy, contact your National Association Remodeling Industry or Home Builders Association for free educational opportunities and grassroots activities.

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