Unnecessary regulations at all levels of government stifle the ability of private housing industry to meet the increasing demand for affordable housing throughout the country. To address this problem, President George Bush asked Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp to convene an Advisory Commission that could identify regulatory barriers to affordable housing and recommended how these barriers could be removed. The President observed:
[At] all levels of government we have got to take a second look at some of the well-intended housing policies that actually decreased our housing supply. I’m talking about the excessive rules, regulations, and red tape that add unnecessarily to the cost of housing –by tens of thousands of dollars – or that create perverse incentives to allow existing housing to deteriorate…
The negative impact of overregulation has caused concern in the affordable housing debate for several decades. In the past 24 years no more than 10 federally sponsored commissions, studies or task forces have examined the problem, including the President’s Commission on Housing in 1981-1982. These study groups have made many thoughtful recommendations, usually to little avail. In the decade since 1981, the regulatory environment has if anything; become a greater deterrent to affordable housing: regulatory barriers have become clearly more complex, and apparently more prevalent.
But opponents of regulatory barriers that inhibit affordable housing have scored some success. Perhaps the greatest success has been in the increase in State activism, which has been a primary force behind code reform. Local building codes, widely regarded in the past as barriers to the use of innovative cost-saving technology, have in recent years become less of a problem as States more widely adopt model codes and local governments more systematically adopt their codes. Some States and a number of localities have adopted policies to promote affordable housing, with impressive results.
Encouraged by the success and stimulated by the challenge, this Commission eagerly accepted the invitation of President Bush and Secretary Kemp. At their first meeting, the Commissioners voiced a strong agreement with the sentiment of Commissioner Roger Glunt: “I don’t come with an attitude that we can’t do anything. I have not been on a Federal Commission before – I have never failed at this before – so I am going to try as hard as I can."
The Commission represents a broad range of citizens with extensive knowledge of an interest in the building regulatory process and its impact on housing affordability. It includes builders, developers, and heads of nonprofit organizations who have developed affordable housing units; government officials who have promoted reform of housing regulations; appointed state and local officials with responsibility for regulatory process; recognized policy experts who have analyzed the implications of regulation; and individuals representing interests of low- and moderate income families.
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