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Builders Urge Caution on National Ocean Policy

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The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently urged Congress to proceed with caution and conduct a cost-benefit analysis before implementing any new regulations or requirements that call for the federal government to develop a National Ocean Policy, which the Administration is now contemplating.

Testifying before the House Natural Resources Committee, NAHB Chairman-elect Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla., says that utilizing environmentally friendly building techniques, NAHB members regularly take steps to improve the long-term conservation and care of the nation’s coastal and Great Lakes communities.

“The nation’s home builders recognize the need to preserve the health of the marine ecosystem as it is one of the many lifelines upon which we as a nation depend,” he says. “However, NAHB is concerned that federal agencies will enact regulations that will only have a minor impact on the environment but impose a significant cost on private landowners and businesses. Such an outcome is unacceptable and completely contrary to this Administration’s pledge to make regulations more effective and less burdensome.”

A common-sense regulatory structure that continues to allow state and local governments to plan for and determine appropriate uses for their entire communities, including residential development, is important to maintain housing choice for consumers, create jobs in local communities and generate revenues for all levels of government.

NAHB analysis of the broad impact of new construction shows that building 100 average single-family homes generates 305 full-time jobs and increases the property tax base that supports local schools.

Rutenberg says, as one of the most highly regulated industries, home builders already comply with numerous federal, state and local environmental statutes.

For example, home builders must abide by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program when siting, designing and constructing their homes; meet the mandates of the Clean Water Act for controlling storm water discharges; demonstrate that their activities are consistent with their state’s coastal zone management plan; and meet the requirements for their local zoning, critical areas or shoreland protection ordinances.

“Clearly, governments at all levels have already taken significant steps to protect coastal areas,” says Rutenberg. “Any potential government policies that will broadly shape the future of our communities must be based on solid research and sound science and data and allow for choices and flexibility in the marketplace.”

Since its scope is currently undefined and also references coastal areas, the proposed National Ocean Policy has the potential to link land-based activities to the health of the ocean.

“NAHB has significant concerns about the potential for the federal government to overstep its bounds with regard to land use planning, a practice that allows home buyers and home owners the opportunity to live in a home of their choice in a location of their choice,” says Rutenberg.

“Past experience suggests that caution must be taken to ensure that local governments are free to direct their community growth without any federal interference or coercion.”

Given the number of existing policies specifically designed to protect the nation’s oceans, coastlines and watersheds; efforts already taken at the federal, state and local levels; and the need to preserve the rights of local governments, Rutenberg told lawmakers that NAHB questions the need for an additional layer of regulation that could impede the housing and economic recovery.

For more information, visit www.nahb.org.

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