HBAMP membership comes with a lot of benefits. There’s the cellphone and insurance discounts, the networking and social opportunities, the building material rebate program and, of course, Steve Frazier’s annual turkey fry.
But one of the biggest benefits of being a member of the HBAMP may also be one of the least-hyped ones, even though it may very well have the most significant impact on members and the entire homebuilding and remodeling industry. That benefit? Advocacy.
“That’s often my biggest sales pitch,” said Justin Wood, associate director of government relations for the HBAMP. “That membership dues are providing the best industry advocacy and support so that members don’t have to.”
What that means is that HBAMP staff and members are stepping up to bat all over the place for the greater good of the industry, whether that’s helping curb construction site theft, communicating with local jurisdictions on permit issues, keeping SDCs in check or fighting for members who’ve been targeted by frivolous patent trolls.
This year has, as always, been a busy one for the HBAMP’s advocacy endeavors. As the year begins to draw to a close, it seemed like a good time to reflect on all the advocacy that’s gone on in 2014 to help set the stage for the future.
Housing affordability, balance and choice
The HBAMP has been busy this year building the case for homebuilding and homeownership in the metro region. One of the biggest victories along these lines was the release of the Residential Preference Study, an important look at the housing preferences of residents in the four-county metro region.
Conducted by Portland marketing research firm DHM Research for a range of partners, including the HBAMP, Metro and the cities of Portland and Hillsboro, the study found that 80 percent of respondents prefer detached, single-family housing. Sixty-five percent of the respondents — more than 7,300 people from two different survey tracks — currently live in such homes. The study also found that 56 percent of respondents live in a suburban neighborhood; just over half prefer that kind of a neighborhood. About a quarter live in urban centers, 11 percent live downtown and 8 percent live in rural settings.
“It will be very useful to help our industry understand market preferences and adapt where needed,” said Dave Nielsen, CEO of the HBAMP. “It should also be an important tool used by Metro and surrounding governments in their planning for growth.”
Alongside that study came Metro’s draft “2014 Urban Growth Report,” which sized up the region’s growth over the next 20 years and whether or not additional land needs to be added to the urban growth boundary. According to the study, the UGB in its current state will likely be able to accommodate future growth.
The HBAMP, however, said not so fast.
Nielsen said that Metro’s projections about population growth assume that much of the growth can be absorbed in high density, multifamily housing units and that a disproportionate number of new residents, particularly in Portland, are going to want to live in that kind of housing. That may be a faulty assumption, especially considering that the Residential Preference study that showed just the opposite.
Metro wont’ be adopting a final report until later this year or making decisions about adding lands until next year, so the HBAMP will continues to monitor the issue. It’s doing the same with comprehensive plans released by metro region municipalities like Portland.
“We want to make sure that what Metro is predicting for growth is what comprehensive plans are geared for,” Wood said.
Development and building certainty
That comp plans are aligned with regional and even neighborhood goals are especially important in Portland, where neighborhoods have rallied against high-density projects and, at the same time, demolition of older homes.
“We are actively monitoring this to ensure that anything done does not adversely affect our members,” Wood said.
Also in this area, the HBAMP has been very active in working with the city of Oregon City on its building moratorium. In August, the city commission enacted a moratorium on land development and building and sewer permit approvals in four areas of the city due to a lack of sanitary sewer capacity.
No surprise, that’s not a good thing for homebuilders.
“In our industry, a moratorium is something we like to avoid at all costs,” said Jon Kloor, government relations coordinator for the HBAMP.
He said the HBAMP has been keeping an eye on the situation and working with the city to find a resolution. Luckily, Kloor said, the four areas that fall under the moratorium are largely built out. so they’re not causing a huge problem for builders. Still, the HBAMP doesn’t want to see any kind of precedent set for other municipalities that may find themselves confronting a moratorium in the future. Kloor said Oregon City is working on a plan that will hopefully replace infrastructure over the next two or three years in the moratorium areas and lift the ban on each area once they’re ready to accommodate new development.
Under the same category, Kloor said many municipal building and planning departments
have found themselves short-staffed after they let people go during the recession. That downturn also led schools like Portland Community College and Chemeketa Community College to cut their building inspector education programs. As a result, departments are undermanned and builders are facing longer delays.
“We as an industry need those inspectors, and municipalities need to hire,” Kloor said, “but there’s nobody to hire.”
The HBAMP has been meeting with a work group comprised of building offices from around the region to figure out how to train more qualified building inspectors. One result: PCC is expected to launch a new training program in January 2015.
Homebuilding is never short of its challenges, but the HBAMP has been hard at work addressing as many of them as possible to help make life easier on its member and the industry in general. One of the more recent concerns: construction site theft, which has been on the rise in recent years. See the story on page 13 for a look at how the HBAMP is helping thwart this growing problem.
Similarly, the HBAMP has played a very active role in an effort to squash a patent troll case that’s arisen for some members. According to Wood, a number of builders in the area have received letters from a company claiming that the builders, in using fans to dry out their newly-constructed homes to meet building codes, are infringing on a patent that the company secured. The patent, Wood said, is simply on the process of using regular fans to dry out a new home. The HBAMP, along with its state and national organizations, is fighting the patent as frivolous.
“So far, we have gotten them to go silent,” Wood said of the accusing company, “but we don’t know if they are going to come back or not.”
In addition, the HBAMP has been closely monitoring a Washington County case involving member builder Pahlisch Homes and Frontier Communications. According to Wood, the county has asked Pahlisch to do more improvements to a road near a new development than is usually expected of a builder. Pahlisch agreed to do the improvements. Because the builder, not the county, is making the improvements, Frontier has decided that it’s not responsible for moving its utilities, even though it’s the county that is requiring Pahlisch to make the improvements.
“Our monitoring of that is definitely ongoing,” Wood said.
Throw in the HBAMP’s constant monitoring of area tree codes, SDCs, fire marshall requirements and just about anything else that comes up related to homebuilding, and it’s clear that the association provides an incredibly valuable advocacy benefit to all of its members.
To keep up with the HBAMP’s advocacy efforts, visit their blog at www.hbapdx.org/government-relations