I would argue that current building codes make it nearly impossible to build affordable housing. All the restrictions on room sizes, allowable materials, and cost of permits and inspections put housing out of reach for a large segment of society. It’s a complex and touchy subject that can quickly lead to heated debates. Our intent is not to create a big stink, but rather point out flaws in the system and identify some realistic alternatives such as moving to rural areas with few or no building codes. This topic has been discussed at length in our blog post Counties with Few or No Building Codes. I’ve also covered the subject in Trailer Houses versus Earthbag Building and American Housing Ripoff and other articles.
The purpose of this blog post is a little different. My intent here is to show how going along with the building code system leads to even greater problems. Supporting and participating in the building code process increases the flow of money to a bureaucracy that will want to hang onto power at minimum and, if at all possible, grow in size and perceived importance. This is not a personal attack against building officials who in my experience are most always friendly and professional. I’m talking about the tendency of bureaucracies to grow, overreach, become oppressive, intrusive and burdensome. While some good may come from all this – a certain amount of improved public safety, for instance – all the negatives outweigh the good, and eventually we need to stop feeding the beast so alternatives can take root. That’s where we’re at now. It’s time to get informed and throw our support behind better alternatives (Vote with your Wallet) and stop funding the beast. Think I’m exaggerating? Read on to see what the powers that be are planning. Building codes are a slippery slope that consolidates more power at the top, while increasing taxes and control of the masses against their will.
Summarized from the 10th Amendment Foundation:
“If they know and understand the mandate of the 10th Amendment, how can any member of Congress or the Senate possibly even consider the passage of any Federal law that would impose a national building code on every local city, county and town and require them to tax their people (with property taxes of fees) to employ not one but three separate building inspectors who would have to approve, under Federal guidelines every house that was going to be put up for sale before it was put on the market? How could any member of Congress possibly consider that they (or the Federal Government) has the right or power to say what kind of windows, or insulation, or hot water heaters your house would have to have before you could offer your house for sale–or what they would have to have before you could buy a house, even if you wanted different windows, or insulation, or hot water heaters?
I bet you thought that if you bought a house, you actually own it and can, with reasonable exceptions, do with it what you want… Let me introduce you to a little section of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill called the “Building Energy Performance Labeling Program”. It’s section 304 of the bill and it says, basically, that your house belongs to the state. See, the Federal Government really wants a country full of energy-efficient homes, so much so that the bill mandates that new homes be 30 percent more energy efficient than the current building code on the very day the law is signed. That efficiency goes up to 50 percent by 2014 and only goes higher from there, all the way to 2030. That, by the way, is not merely a target but a requirement of the law. New homes must reach those efficiency targets no matter what.
…I confess I’m finding it harder and harder to see why you fellows bothered holding a revolution. Under this bill, it will be illegal for me to sell my property to a willing buyer without first bringing it into line with some twerp bureaucrat’s arbitrary and ever shifting “environmental” regulations originally designed for California, and which have helped turn the Golden State into the foldin’ state, but which are nevertheless now to be applied from Maine to Alaska. And no matter what you spend a couple of years down the road the standards will be “revised” and you’ll be out of compliance all over again.”
[Note: I’m all for energy efficient housing. I’ve spent a large part of my life designing, building and promoting energy efficiency. But I’m not in favor of another big government program that will cause more harm than good.]
From the 10th Amendment Center:
“Virginia House Delegates Robert G. Marshall and Anne B. Crockett-Stark recently introduced HB 27. The Residential energy efficiency standards exempts certain homes from federal cap & trade legislation, and would limit the power of the EPA to set the standards for home construction in Virginia, as stated in the bill’s brief description.” [So states are starting to fight back.]
From the Examiner:
“Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) issued a warning saying, “we’re setting up a global warming Gestapo.” The comment was made in reference to Section 201 of the [Waxman-Markey act] would have the power to assess civil penalties for buildings that do not meet the new code… The federal government can come in and inspect your house and send you the bill. And if they find that you’re out of compliance with this new federal code, ‘The Secretary shall assess a civil penalty for violations of this section… Scalise called into question the very constitutionality of the measure. He reminded his fellow congressmen that the 10th Amendment to the Constitution says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to states respectively or to the people.”