Arkansas Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Housing Affordability Bill

Housing Affordability
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At the urging of local citizens and the housing community, the Arkansas Senate yesterday passed SB 170, legislation that would prevent cities and counties from regulating building design that would needlessly raise the cost of housing. The Arkansas Home Builders Association (AHBA), along with realtors and other trade groups and consumers, lobbied aggressively for this legislative remedy after the city of Springdale proposed changes to its Residential Design Standards for new homes that would prohibit exterior finishes such as vinyl, wood and aluminum siding that are otherwise permitted under all editions of the International Residential Code. The proposed changes also included architectural restrictions such as roof pitch, front facing garages, wrought iron fencing and landscaping. Collectively, these changes would increase building costs and price entry-level buyers out of the market. With Arkansas and the rest of the nation already facing a housing affordability crisis, the AHBA argued that the proposed standards are a form of exclusionary zoning that would increase housing costs and price out certain groups of prospective home owners from the Springdale housing market. In a letter to the Springdale Planning Commission, NAHB stated that the "U.S. Supreme Court has noted that such provisions may be impermissible, as they are 'arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relationship to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare.'" NAHB also noted that by increasing the cost of housing, Springdale’s proposed changes could have a magnified impact on those households with less discretionary income. SB 170 can serve as a legislative template to fight unfair proposals that may be submitted at a future date in other localities throughout the nation that would seek to establish unreasonable residential development standards which would make housing too expensive for lower- and middle-income families to afford. The legislation, which would still allow counties and cities to enforce building regulations related to safety and permit the regulation of structures in a historic district, will next go before the Arkansas House. For more information, contact Michael Bezruki at 1-800-368-5242 x8542.

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