The Builders and Remodelers Association of Delaware (BRAD) is working to overcome potential mandatory fire sprinkler installation requirements in all new construction in New Castle County, Del., which would add thousands of dollars to the cost of a home.
Like many states, Delaware is experiencing a housing affordability crisis, and mandatory fire sprinkler installation would add at least $8,000 to the cost of a new home, says Katie Gillis, executive officer at BRAD. Despite the costs to buyers, a pro-fire sprinkler coalition in the state has convinced some municipalities to mandate sprinklers in new construction in their local building codes. BRAD launched a strategic grassroots and consumer education outreach campaign to combat this emerging threat to housing affordability in the state.
First, the HBA created a task force of members who build in the county to develop ideas for an outreach effort targeted to policy makers, media and potential home buyers. Then, the HBA created a coalition of 10 highly influential housing stakeholders, including the local chamber of commerce, Habitat for Humanity, real estate agents, mortgage bankers and fire company.
To help launch a consumer education campaign, BRAD applied for and received $10,000 from NAHB’s State and Local Issues Fund (SLIF), which the State and Local Government Affairs Committee administers. Using SLIF funds, BRAD developed targeted print and digital ads and a webpage to inform the community and members about the issue. BRAD supplemented the ads with an email campaign targeted to potential home buyers.
“We’re trying to get people talking about this issue,” says Gillis. “And we’ve had a lot of good feedback on this campaign.”
The strategic ad campaign generated significant interest in the issue. After viewing the ads, the local fire company joined the coalition effort, and home buyers in the area began calling the association to express concern about the issue.
In addition to the ad campaign, BRAD members joined the New Castle County Council Land Use committee, remained engaged during council meetings and provided public comments. Empowered by the data supplied by NAHB’s codes team, the task force is working with the county council to introduce an amendment to the code to carve out fire sprinklers.
“We would not have had the resources to fuel the ad campaign if it wasn’t for the State and Local Issues Fund,” says Gillis. “In addition to our members and coalition partners, NAHB has been a great resource for our HBA by providing data, information and connections.”