Home builders bombarded with energy codes, making it harder to build affordable homes

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — More people are moving to Spokane, but builders are struggling to keep up with the demand to build affordable homes under new energy codes.

Washington has been a leader across the country in establishing eco-friendly legislation. However, new mandates are severely limiting builder’s freedom and flexibility, and contractors say it’s taking a toll on buyers.

“It’s putting tremendous pressure on the entire industry,” said Corey Condron of Condron Homes.

While it is more expensive for builders to build these homes, contractors argue the costs go up even more for buyers because of additional fees associated with the price hike.

“A $10,000 cost to a builder can easily be $25,000 to a homebuyer,” said Ben McGerty of Hayden Homes.

These new codes are surrounding energy laws and hefty goals the state has to reduce Washingtonian’s reliance on natural gas. The resource is non-renewable, potentially explosive, and contains high amounts of methane — a noxious greenhouse gas. Cutting our reliance on the resource will save us a lot of trouble down the road, but for now, it’s creating some headaches.

Under old mandates, builders only had to check off three points before receiving a permit to build. Now, they have to check off six points in areas like installing solar panels or non-natural gas heaters. These are updates local builders say buyers aren’t even concerned about.

“They’re not asking me for all this energy efficiency. They’re asking me for sensible energy efficiency meaning ‘How’s this going to save me money down the road,'” said Corey Condron of Condron Homes. “‘How am I going to capture my investment with reducing my energy costs to live in my home?'”

“Now, you’re forced to purchase a home that has features in it that the state has mandated as energy efficient,” McGerty said.

With home prices rising because of these new mandates, this further lessens the amount of people in Spokane who can afford to buy a home — which is a major concern as home buying is one of the main wealth generators for families. In addition, if people can’t buy and are forced to stay renting, it has negative effects on the community as a whole.

“If you force people to rent their entire lives, they don’t build up wealth that they can live on, support their families on and end up retiring on,” said Greg Lane, the Executive Vice President of the Building Industry Association of Washington.

Right now, legislators are considering House Bill 1084, which would further restrict builders because it seeks to totally ban natural gas usage for residential home owners.