MACo Associate Director Natasha Mehu testified in support of HB 107 with amendments before the House Environment and Transportation Committee on January 31, 2017. The bill would allow the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to provide funding assistance through either its Community Development Administration or Down Payment and Settlement Expense Loan Program for construction, purchase or financing of a single-family home, not in a Priority Funding Area, if DHCD determines the cost of compliance with building and fire codes makes it difficult for a low- or moderate-income family to purchase a newly constructed single-family home.
The bill was sponsored by DHCD and is intended to help offset the heightened costs of installing sprinkler systems in new workforce and low-income housing in rural areas. MACo and the Rural Counties Coalition (a MACo Chapter Organization) has supported creating some form of relief for the problem. From the MACo testimony:
Since the passage of the sprinkler system mandate in 2012 (HB 366/SB 602), rural areas have witnessed a dramatic reduction in building permits for moderate- and low-income housing. Sprinkler systems not on public water can require high pressure pumps and water storage tanks that may add $10,000 to $12,000 to the cost of a new home – a significant cost in a rural area for a home designed for a moderate- to low-income family. HB 107 would help address this issue by providing a limited funding mechanism to offset costly sprinkler and similar building code mandates.
Mehu also proposed an amendment to the bill to require DHCD to consult with county governments and address county concerns before implementing any such funding program within a county. The Maryland Municipal League also testified in support of the bill and offered a similar consultation amendment to MACo’s for municipal growth areas.