Your HBA as working for you in Washingting (here is how)

(September 20, 2017) Ever wonder what your Home Builders Association is doing for you in Washington DC and around the country?  Below is a report of the issues on which we are engaged:

1. Canadian Softwood Lumber

  • The U.S. Department of Commerce imposed a 20% countervailing duty on Canadian lumber imports in April, and added 7% antidumping duties in June. 
  • In late August, Commerce announced a delay in the final duties to Nov. 18. This will allow more time to negotiate a settlement. Collection of countervailing duties is suspended for now, but antidumping duties will continue to be collected. 
  • NAHB is meeting with representatives with the Trump Administration and Congress as well as Canadian officials to address home builder concerns regarding price and availability of lumber. 
  • These meetings are especially important because U.S. consumers cannot participate in trade disputes, although NAHB provided witness testimony during the International Trade Commission hearing on Sept. 12. 
  • Generally, lumber prices have increased, but that may be partly due to wildfires in the Western U.S. and Canada. 
  • NAHB is urging U.S. lumber producers to increase production for domestic consumption, and working to identify alternate foreign sources of dimensional lumber. 

2. Disaster Response

  • In the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, NAHB is working closely with state and local home builder associations in those areas to help them meet the needs of members affected by the storms. 
  • We sent out an all-member email with information on how to donate to the recovery effort. 
  • NAHB issued statements on hurricane-related advocacy. Our leadership conducted media interviews on flood-related topics, including the need for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization, building codes, rebuilding efforts and labor shortages. 
  • We updated our online Disaster Recovery toolkit with new media talking points and safety information for contractors. 
  • We added resources on hiring contractors and places to donate on our consumer Web page. 
  • We are creating resources on business continuity; hiring reputable contractors; and best practices for flood damage repair work. 
  • We will continue to reach out to the affected communities to see how to help in the rebuilding efforts. 
  • With respect to resiliency, our Resiliency Working Group issued its final report and recommendations in July. Many of the recommendations are related to disaster preparedness, resiliency, recovery and communications. 
  • The hurricanes have illustrated the importance of disaster response and planning for rebuilding, and the Resiliency Working Group will now help ensure NAHB can be a resource and problem solver after a natural disaster. 

3. Electronic Recordkeeping

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 2015 electronic reporting rule requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data that they are mandated to keep under existing recordkeeping regulations. 
  • The rule also contains anti-discrimination prohibitions to protect workers who notify an employer of a workrelated injury or illness. 
  • NAHB has concerns about several elements of the rule, including the requirements for employers to submit records electronically to OSHA that would become publicly available.  In January, NAHB and other stakeholders filed a legal challenge. 
  • On May 5, NAHB and other organizations submitted a petition to the Department of Labor (DOL) seeking a stay of implementation and enforcement of the rule, and requested OSHA re-open the rulemaking. 
  • In June, OSHA announced it was extending the filing deadline for employers to submit electronic records to December, which would give OSHA more time to review the rule. 

4. Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

  • In response to the charge led by NAHB and as part of President Trump’s Executive Order to expedite federal approval for infrastructure projects, the Administration revoked Executive Order 13690 and the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS). 
  • Our advocacy efforts included participating in federal listening sessions and meetings; submitting comment letters to federal agencies; and requesting that President Trump revoke it. 
  • This standard would have dramatically expanded regulated floodplain areas. 
  • However, in response to the hurricanes, the Trump Administration may establish its own flood standard. 
  • If the Administration chooses to do so, NAHB will work with the White House to develop an effective standard that does not place undue regulatory burdens on residential construction projects. 

5. Immigration

  • The H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker program allows employers who cannot find local labor for short-term or seasonal jobs to fill those positions with temporary foreign workers. 
  • There is an annual cap of 66,000 on H-2B visas issued in a fiscal year, but that cap excluded workers who had participated in the program within three years. 
  • That “returning worker exemption” expired in September 2016 and has not been renewed by Congress. 
  • In May, Congress approved a spending package for the remainder of FY 2017 that included language allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise the statutory cap for 2017 to allow additional visas. 
  • In July, DHS announced it would make 15,000 more visas available, but only to employers who could demonstrate that their business would suffer “irreparable harm” without H-2B workers. 
  • The next round of H-2B visas will become available on Oct. 1. NAHB hosted a free webinar to help employers learn if they qualify to apply for H-2B workers and how they can become certified employers under the program. 
  • With Congress and the Administration focused on immigration enforcement, the prospect of creating a new guest worker program to benefit builders and specialty trades is highly unlikely. 
  • NAHB continues to advocate for restoration of the returning worker exemption while looking for opportunities to expand and reform the H-2B program.

6. Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)

  • On Aug. 1, NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald testified before the Senate Finance Committee on “America’s Affordable Housing Crisis.” The hearing focused on the LIHTC. 
  • Chairman MacDonald also discussed how lots and labor shortages, building material price increases and regulations affect housing affordability.

7. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

  • The NFIP was extended until Dec. 8 as part of a broader legislative package. 
  • During NAHB’s Leg Con in June, builders spoke to their congressional delegations about provisions in the House Financial Services Committee’s flood insurance bill that negatively targeted new construction and grandfathered properties. 
  • NAHB was able to convince the committee’s leadership to remove those provisions. 
  • After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, discussions about changing the program were put on hold as policymakers ensured home owners and communities had short-term certainty and financial aid. 
  • NAHB will work with Congress on long-term legislation that ensures an affordable, available, predictable and financially stable NFIP.

8. Regulatory Reform

  • President Trump has made regulatory reform one of his top priorities, and has asked each agency to evaluate existing regulations and identify ones that should be repealed, replaced or modified. 
  • We have submitted recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Energy (DOE), and will soon submit feedback to the Army Corps of Engineers. 
  • NAHB will provide suggestions to DOL, OSHA and others once their notices are published. 
  • We will review the 2017 Fall Regulatory Plan and Agenda upon its release and determine if our suggestions were incorporated. 
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy is also collecting input on regulatory reform through a series of nationwide Regulatory Roundtables; NAHB has had good representation at all roundtables to date. 
  • As part of the Cleveland roundtable, NAHB member George Davis met with SBA officials at one of his construction developments. 
  • NAHB will continue its outreach to HBAs and members as additional roundtables are announced. 
  • On August 28, NAHB testified before the SBA’s Regulatory Fairness Board about the enforcement activities of federal agencies, particularly EPA and OSHA.

9. Overtime Rule

  • Under a new rule that was set to go into effect Dec. 1, 2016, the Obama Administration doubled the annual salary level used to determine whether an employee qualifies for the professional, administrative and executive exemption to overtime eligibility from $23,660 to $47,476. 
  • Under the new rule, the salary threshold would also be automatically adjusted every three years. 
  • NAHB and many other industry groups challenged the rule in federal court. 
  • We contended that DOL went beyond its authority under the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow the salary limit to automatically be re-set every year. The Administrative Procedures Act requires these updates be made through regular notice and comment periods. 
  • In a victory for NAHB, a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily barred the implementation of the rule. 
  • On Aug. 31, the Texas federal court held the rule was invalid and the three-year automatic increase DOL included was similarly unlawful. 
  • DOL’s appeal of the preliminary injunction is now moot and likely to be dismissed.

10. Smart Market Report

  • Preliminary findings from them Green Residential Smart Market Report show that green building activity should increase over the next few years. Approximately 60 percent of surveyed builders expect it to be a significant share of their overall activity by 2022. This is nearly double from 2014, when only 32 percent of firms reported that level of green building. 
  • Single- and multifamily home builders agree that energy efficiency and healthier indoor environments are key factors in building a green home, and have prioritized these elements in the construction process. 
  • The Smart Market report found that ENERGY STAR is more popular in the single-family market while LEED and the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) are more popular with multifamily builders. 
  • The Green Residential Smart Market Report is a biannual report released by NAHB and Dodge Data and Analytics (formerly McGraw Hill). The report reviews the history and future of green home construction in the single-family, multifamily and remodeling sectors.

11. Stormwater

  • NAHB launched an online toolkit in August to help HBAs advocate for programs that provide a clear path to compliance, reduce redundancy and meet water quality goals. 
  • The toolkit provides simple checklists that compare pros and cons of different regulatory approaches based on climate, geography, and local land use patterns. This data will help our members in conversations with state regulators. 
  • As part of the toolkit launch, NAHB released A Developer’s Guide to Post-Construction Stormwater Regulation. This report provides a state-by-state breakdown on the top permitting issues affecting builders.

12. Tax Reform

  • A team of congressional leaders and Administration officials known as the “Gang of Six” is developing a structure for tax reform, while President Trump is trying to garner nationwide support on the issue. 
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan intends to move tax reform this fall. 
  • Before Congress can address tax reform, it must pass a budget resolution to set up the procedural process known as reconciliation. This will allow tax reform to pass the Senate with only 50 votes. 
  • However, there is growing resistance in the House to passing a budget resolution before members see the Gang of 6’s tax framework. To use the reconciliation process, the House and Senate must pass identical budget resolutions, which will be challenging.

13. Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS)

  • On Oct. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether the 2015 WOTUS rule should be litigated in federal trial court or the appellate court. 
  • NAHB has argued that challenges to the WOTUS rule must be first heard at the trial court. 
  • We need this clarity so we do not have to file two lawsuits when we challenge an EPA Clean Water Act regulation. 
  • Meanwhile, the EPA plans to use a two-step process to develop a new WOTUS definition. 
  • In the first step, the EPA has proposed to withdraw the 2015 WOTUS Rule and revert to the status quo. We expect the agency to finalize the withdrawal by early 2018. 
  • The EPA also plans to develop a new WOTUS rule, and will soon take comments on the proposal. 
  • NAHB is taking advantage of its unprecedented access to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and is working with the agency on a new rule that is clear and limits jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act consistent with congressional intent. 
  • In August, NAHB and the Dallas Builders Association hosted a meeting with Administrator Pruitt in Dallas to voice concerns and offer insight about the new rule. 
  • NAHB and the Colorado Association of Home Builders are planning a similar meeting with Administrator Pruitt in Colorado Springs in October. 
  • In late October, NAHB will provide recommendations on a revised WOTUS definition at a business-focused in-person listening session at EPA headquarters. 

For more information about these or other Federal government affairs issues, contact Michael Dey (

SC Attorney General Alan Wilson speaks out against new EPA stormwater rules

SC Attorney General Alan Wilson speaks out against new EPA stormwater rules

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson spoke out recently in an editorial opposing proposed new regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers that would expand significantly the federal government’s control over private property.

Labeled as Waters of the US, the regulation would expand federal jurisdiction of our country’s waters from legislatively-approved “navigable waters” to virtually any roadside or farm ditch.

“Studies show that for every $1,000 increase in the cost of home ownership, 650 Americans are priced out of the American dream of owning a home,” Wilson wrote. “This is the latest example of the new norm in Washington: unprecedented overreach by unelected bureaucrats who circumvent the legislative process by attempting to regulate what Congress is unwilling or unable to legislate. Whenever regulation increases, personal freedom decreases. These regulations carry great costs to the freedoms and finances of all Americans.”

Read the full article in the Daily Caller by clicking here.

Keeping it Clean with Stormwater Management

While the rules regarding how builders and developers need to manage stormwater runoff from their jobsites have been around for more than 20 years, the industry is still getting dinged. That could be because the rules themselves are as clear to some as, well, mud.

Nevertheless, it’s important – both economically and ecologically – to understand state and local requirements and develop a plan to manage stormwater and assemble and maintain proper control measures.

Do You Need a Permit?Stormwater management regulations apply to developers and builders who disturb one or more acre of land. If your jobsite consists of less than an acre but is part of a larger “common plan of development,” then you also must get a state permit, and in some cases a local permit too. Local permits could have erosion and sediment requirements for new construction that apply to sites less than an acre.

Staying in Compliance
If your project requires a permit and you don’t have one, you are taking an expensive chance: Federal penalties of up to $32,500 per violation per day under the Clean Water Act.

Perhaps the most confusing aspect for builders and developers leading to non-compliance is not realizing they need to obtain a permit – and that, in fact, is a common violation. Some builders also assume that their project is covered under a developer’s permit, but that’s not always the case.

Other typical stormwater management violations, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), include:

  • Failure to develop an adequate Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)for minimizing the amount of sediment and other pollutants in runoff.
  • Failure to install or implement appropriate stormwater controls or best management practices (BMPs) required by the SWPPP. Often, it is because silt fences were not installed in all required areas; BMPs to prevent sediment from entering storm drains were not installed; BMPs to keep dirt from getting tracked off site were not installed at construction entrances; concrete washout basins to prevent concrete from flowing into storm drains were not established; or in some instances portable toilets are placed atop storm drain inlets without BMPs to prevent spills from entering the storm drain.
  • Incorrect BMPs installation (for example, silt fences were not properly trenched in or sediment ponds were not completed before grading the site).
  • Failure to keep BMPs in effective operating condition (for example, silt fences and storm drain inlet protections were full of sediment and no longer effective, silt fences had fallen down or had holes, construction entrances needed additional rock).
  • Failure to adequately or routinely inspect BMPs to ensure proper operation and maintenance.

Doing Our Part
Stormwater management is important because sediment-laden lakes, streams and estuaries can’t support a healthy aquatic habitat. Additionally, nutrients, including phosphorus, attach to sediment and travel downstream, causing algal blooms and decreased oxygen levels. Stormwater controls on construction sites help reduce the impact of sediment and nutrients on our valuable water resources.

Learn more about stormwater management from this helpful EPA publication. You can also look to EPA for information regarding post-construction stormwater management common practices. And for the long-term control of stormwater discharge, low impact developmentprovides an opportunity for builders and developers to do a good turn.

Your Home Builders Association Successfully Amends DHEC Policy on Sediment Basins

In late 2013 the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control issued policy guidance on the installation of sediment basins.  The guidance document is designed to be an aid in designing and constructing sediment basins.  Many engineers use the guidance methods in their work for our developer members.

However, as is sometimes the case with generalized guidance, the design guideline worked well in some parts of the state, where soils drain rapidly, but note in the Upstate where the most common soil type is clay.

Your Home Builders Association met with Greenville County and City of Greenville engineering departments, and then with DHEC officials to propose alternatives that are more suitable to the Upstate.  Your Home Builders Association, in consultation with Greenville County Land Development Services, proposed additional language for DHEC’s policy guidance document.  After some editing, the guidance document for Sediment Basins now includes the following langage:

Guidance Disclaimer
This is a guidance document and may not be feasible in all situations.  Alternative means and methods for sediment basin design and construction also may be employed.

All means and methods must comply with the DHEC South Carolina NPDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activities (Permit). Approved means and methods include those published and approved by an MS4 in compliance with the Permit.

In addition, a licensed Professional Engineer may design a sediment basin that, when constructed, accommodates the anticipated sediment loading from the land-disturbing activity and meets a removal efficiency of 80% suspended solids or 0.5 ML/L peak settable solids concentration, whichever is less, while remaining in compliance with the Permit.

Greenville County Land Development Services has published alternative guidance for Sediment Basins, which is available by clicking here.  A copy of DHEC’s Sediment Basin Guidance document with the disclaimer above can be viewed by clicking here.

This success is an example of the advocacy efforts that your Home Builders Association works on every day on behalf of our members and the Home Building industry.  Your Home Builders Association’s advocacy efforts save our members tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary development and building expenses each year.

Thank you for being a member of your Home Builders Association and supporting these advocacy efforts on your behalf.

EPA Drops Plans for New Post-Construction Stormwater Rule

In a major win for the home building industry – and common sense – the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will jettison plans for a National Post Construction Stormwater Rulemaking, plans that your Home Builders Association repeatedly told the agency would have added onerous, costly and in many cases impractical steps to the residential development process. “It’s been a five-year bureaucratic battle, but we won. That’s a victory for our buyers as well,” said Kevin Kelly, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del.

Since EPA first announced its plans in December 2009, HBA staff and members have submitted comments and letters, testified at hearings, served on small-business panels and met with appointed and elected officials to explain why EPA’s proposal was an incursion into land-use regulations and plain wouldn’t work. In essence, a rule would have required all builders to retain a certain volume of stormwater onsite by using low-impact development techniques such as rain gardens, pervious pavements and other methods that often add money especially on sites with soil types that don’t easily infiltrate.

Some of the technologies EPA was considering would be almost impossible in many urban areas, making smart-growth and redevelopment projects less likely to succeed. They are also expensive: Builders who employ these practices have estimated they add at least 10-15% to the cost of a developed lot, depending on location and soil type.

EPA was also considering expensive retrofit requirements that would saddle municipalities and taxpayers with huge additional bills during a time when many cannot keep up with current infrastructure demands. “Green infrastructure systems are still a work in progress, and as technology progresses, we’ll discover solutions that work better and are less expensive,” Kelly said. “I’m glad that EPA has decided to concentrate on education programs rather than proposing this rule, and I am proud of the role we played to make that happen.”

Your Home Builders Association is talking to EPA about assisting with its low-impact development education efforts, and such practices already are part of the voluntary ICC 700 National Green Building Standard.