Should Builders Be Forced to Account for Climate Change?

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Cleanup and repair after a major storm can be expensive, so should builders and developers shoulder more regulation to curb climate change?

It’s a ground-breaking new policy in New Jersey that could keep builders from doing just that — breaking ground. Could Texas be next?

Of course, with 130 miles of coastline and a shore that has become a pop culture reference, New Jersey has a lot to lose if sea levels continue to rise and storm trends continue to worsen and do more damage to coastal cities and their infrastructure.

Stemming The Tide of Storm Damage

To stem the tide of adverse effects on the state due to climate change, New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy announced new regulations that target builders, making it more difficult for developers to win government approval for projects.

The policies, which are still being constructed, will go into effect Jan. 2022.

New Jersey’s initiative is believed to be the broadest, and most specific, attempt to leverage land-use rules to control where and what developers can build, and to limit the volume of emissions that are spewed into the air.

“It gives us the ability to say no, or to say, ‘You have to do it differently,’” said Kathleen Frangione, the governor’s chief policy adviser.

Tracey Tully, The New York Times

Considering how Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast have fared following catastrophic storms, some are wondering if these kinds of regulations would prevent similar losses experienced by homeowners and property owners in flood-prone areas.

Hurricane Harvey is still fresh in the memory of Houstonians, and as more storms devastate the Texas Gulf Coast, builders worry that they will be targeted by more regulations.

Regulation Isn’t Cheap

However, these kinds of rules could put a huge dent in economic development and tax revenue, says Phil Crone of the Dallas Builders Association.

“It can be frustrating for housing advocates because many climate proposals and approaches are framed in an all-or-nothing, with-us-or-against-us standpoint when, in reality, the solutions need to be more nuanced,” he said.

And to be certain, more regulation isn’t going to make our already expensive housing stock any cheaper, Crone added.

“Every $1,000 increase in the price of a new home puts more than 158,000 American households out of the market,” he said. “In many cases, this relegates them to locations further away from work and school which exacerbates traffic-related pollution.” 

Additionally, developers aren’t always the biggest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, but tend to be disproportionately targeted by regulations, Crone added.

“Homes built in the last 20 years are only directly responsible for 1 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. 

Slow To Change

But when the specter of new regulation looming it’s worth noting that existing regulations targeting energy efficiency and climate change are just now going into effect.

“Texas recently became the third state in the union to adopt the 2015 energy code. While it may be an inconvenient truth for some, the reality is that new housing and those who desire it are not the problems,” Crone said. “If regulators want to help the housing industry, they should allow more density and smaller housing units instead of trying to keep it exclusive to desired income levels as many DFW suburbs do.”    

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Joanna England

If Executive Editor Joanna England could house hunt forever, she absolutely would. Instead she covers the North Texas housing market and the economy for CandysDirt.com. While she started out with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, Joanna's work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News as well as several local media outlets. When she's not knitting or hooping, or enjoying White Rock Lake, she's behind the lens of her camera. She lives in East Dallas with her husband, son, and their furry and feathered menagerie.

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