Disaster Preparedness Must Focus on Upgrading Older Homes and Infrastructure

Contact: Elizabeth Thompson
(202) 266-8495

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today called on Congress to focus on improving the older homes, structures and infrastructure that are less resilient to natural disasters because they were built when there were no national model codes in existence or constructed following codes that are now outdated.

“Sound building codes are already in place in most communities and they are doing their job,” said Randy Noel, NAHB immediate past chairman and a home builder and developer from LaPlace, La.

Testifying at a House hearing on disaster preparedness, Noel said that calling for newer and more stringent building codes to ease damages caused by natural disasters would do little to ease disaster mitigation efforts in vulnerable communities, increase housing costs, and ignore the root of the problem.

“Requiring the use of ‘latest published editions’ of certain codes or standards is too prescriptive,” said Noel. “New construction is built to more stringent codes and standards and is more resilient than older housing – a fact that FEMA and others have reported numerous times.”

What became readily apparent in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane season in 2017 and the California wildfires of last year is that properties that suffered the most damage were largely older housing stock. One hundred and thirty million homes out of the nation’s housing stock of 137 million were built before 2010, and therefore not subject to the modern building codes that are now in effect.

“Adopting more stringent and costly building and mitigation requirements would do very little to provide further protection from natural disasters,” said Noel. “What it would do is make new housing prohibitively expensive for hard-working families at a time when the nation is already suffering through a housing affordability crisis.”

NAHB also believes that state and local governments must have the ability to adopt location-appropriate building codes to fit the needs of their communities and protect their citizens. “What is best for Nevada is not necessarily best for North Carolina,” said Noel.

To mitigate the effects of future natural disasters, NAHB is urging Congress to focus on cost-effective, market-driven solutions that encourage greater resiliency in the nation’s housing stock while preserving housing affordability for both new and existing homes.

“Expanding mitigation opportunities and creating incentives to facilitate upgrades and improvements to older homes and structures would help to reduce risks and minimize losses from future catastrophes,” said Noel.