Weekly Update: October 20, 2016

home builders with grassley and young
We had an excellent candidate forum Tuesday night at the DM Downtown Marriott. Several central Iowa state candidates spoke and Senator Grassley and Congressman Young participated at the national level. It was co-sponsored by the DM HBA and the DM Association of Realtors. Photo on left – (L to R) HBAI Executive Officer Jay Iverson, Senator Grassley, DMAAR Executive Officer Cindy Pelz, and DM HBA Executive Officer Dan Knoup. Photo on right, same group, then with Congressman David Young.

Member Rebate Program Quarter 3

You’re missing out on a huge member benefit if you’re not participating in our Member Rebate Program. We just received the third quarter report and 23 of our builder members received $7,714 back. Now that’s a return on your dues investment!

It can’t be much easier to do and it puts money in your pocket for using products from over 50 manufacturers. You’re already using them! The average rebate for participants in 2015 was $1,178.12. That alone is a 200-300% return on your HBA dues investment. Go to our new website and fill in the online form.

White House Releases Housing Development Toolkit

The White House just released a Housing Development Toolkit that highlights regulatory barriers to housing development and outlines tools and strategies that local governments can use to diminish the impact these barriers have on housing production and affordability.

MidAmerican Adverse Weather Statement

If you build anywhere in the MidAmerican service territory, click here to read their adverse weather information.

OSHA Seeks Feedback on Recordkeeping and Construction Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently proposed revisions to its existing recordkeeping and construction standards as part of the agency’s Standards Improvement Project (SIP).

The goal of the SIP is to remove or revise outdated, duplicate, or unnecessary requirements in OSHA’s standards, which will help reduce regulatory burdens on employers while still protecting workers.

The following revisions could affect the home building industry:

  • Excluding detached, single-family residences and townhouses from a requirement to post the maximum safe load limits of floors in storage areas. (Residential construction employers would still be required to ensure that any loads placed on floors do not exceed the maximum safe loads of the floors.)
  • Adding a clarification that employers must protect their employees from loose rock or soil and excavated or other materials or equipment that could fall or roll into an excavation.
  • Revising the recordkeeping requirements for occupational hearing loss, so that if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the hearing loss or significantly aggravated a preexisting one, the case must now be considered work-related. OSHA also clarified that it is not necessary for work to be the sole cause, predominant or even a substantial cause of the hearing loss: Any contribution from work makes the case work-related for recordkeeping purposes.
  • Adding a clarification, and making explicit, the requirement that all personal protective equipment used in construction fit workers properly.
  • Revising the 911 service-posting requirements consistent with the current status of land-line and wireless-telephone technologies.
  • Revising the requirements for signs and devices used to protect workers near automobile traffic by incorporating by reference the 2009 Department of Transportation’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
  • Revising the requirements for rollover protective structures to comply with current consensus standards for newly manufactured equipment.
  • Eliminating the requirement that employers include an employee’s social security number on exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and other records. This revised rule would help to better protect employee privacy and prevent identity fraud.

For more detail on these changes and others, read the entire Federal Register notice. Interested members may submit comments to NAHB’s Labor, Safety and Health Policy department (rmatuga@nahb.org) by Friday, Nov. 11.

iowa energy code meeting
We had yet another Iowa Energy Code stakeholder meeting last Tuesday – discussing moving Iowa to the 2015 Energy Code. We are not in favor of doing so, in fact the majority of states are on the 2009 Code with no plans to move forward. It’s been an interesting dialogue – it’s not that we’re against good energy savings ideas, but when they have a 99 year payback and injure housing affordability we stand our ground. None of the proposed amendments that we have requested were accepted, but time will tell.

Senator Ernst’s Squeal Award: EPA’s Reckless WOTUS Publicity Spending

Here is a note from Senator Joni Ernst: Last December, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) – the “congressional watchdog” responsible for investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars – issued a report that found the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) social media campaign to promote its flawed expansion of the Waters of the U.S. Rule (WOTUS) broke the law.

As I said, the EPA was on shaky legal ground when it decided to use taxpayer dollars to lobby the American public to support its harmful WOTUS rule. The agency used election-style tactics in an effort to gain support for this misguided rule, and the GAO called the EPA out for its egregious, and illegal actions.

It is clearer than ever that the ill-conceived WOTUS rule is nothing more than a blatant power grab by an agency that is committed to expanding its reach over Iowa.

Now, at the request of Senate Budget Chairman Mike Enzi, a new GAO report uncovered that the EPA increased their public relations staff by 16 percent in less than 10 years, to a total of 142 employees solely dedicated to pushing the EPA’s message.

With our national debt exceeding $19 trillion, taxpayers should not be forced to bankroll an illegal public relations campaign for the EPA’s reckless and out of touch agenda that promotes harmful regulations.

I remain committed to scrapping the EPA’s WOTUS rule entirely, but until then, I hereby present this month’s Squeal Award to the EPA.

Custom Home Builder of the Year Nominations Due Tomorrow

Put aside for a moment any thoughts about how much revenue you’re generating, how many homes you’re building, how big those homes are getting and for how much they’re selling.

Now, stop and ask yourself: How good do you think you are at your work? When you look at the competition, do you think you’re as good or better? Do you think you’re among the best? If not, do you know someone who is?

Those are the questions posed by Tim Neal, president of Fairfax Custom Homes in Knoxville, Tenn. Neal is also chair of NAHB’s Custom Home Builders Committee and will soon join his fellow committee members to review applications and select a winner of this year’s Custom Home Builder of the Year award.
An award with such a high status also carries with it a stigma that might mislead many would-be applicants.

“A lot of our [members] could really compete for this award, but they don’t apply because they assume they aren’t big enough, or they don’t build in [big cities] or they aren’t building mega-million-dollar houses,” Neal said.

“The ‘big boys’ will [submit their applications], but the ‘average’ builder is just as likely to win this award. That’s because it has nothing to do with size, but rather, everything to do with the builder, the people he or she surrounds themselves with, and the quality of their body of work.”
Criteria for custom home builders who want to apply don’t include what their balance sheets look like. Instead, applicants are asked to demonstrate things such as how they:

  • Build one-of-a-kind homes on unique building sites
  • Maintain an active NAHB membership
  • Exhibit excellent leadership qualities
  • Stay engaged in their local community

Neal has been on the selection committee for several years and witnessed how the award has benefitted each of the previous winners. He calls the award a “game changer.

“Almost immediately, it catapults them even further than where they were at the time they received the award,” Neal said. “There’s no comparison to the kind of advertising mileage a builder gets just by listing this award among their accolades. And with no expiration, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

What is expiring is the time left to apply. Custom builders (or their colleagues who wish to nominate them) have until Friday, Oct. 21, to submit applications. For more information, contact Marcia Childs at 800-368-5242 x8388.

Weekly Update: October 13, 2016

   Governor Branstad proclaimed October “Careers in Construction” month at the Associated Builders and Contractors training facility in Grimes last Thursday.  To the Governor’s right, the second person in the front row with the black fleece jacket and the beard is Hunter Iverson, son of HBAI Executive Officer Jay Iverson.  He’s going through their world class program as a plumber and lives in Cedar Rapids.  ABC currently has 1,300 students in it’s electrical, plumbing, sheet metal, HVAC, and insulation programs.  ABC is investing $1.1 billion annually nationwide into workforce development. 

Iowa IBS Hotel Block Ends Friday

Are you planning to join us in Orlando in January for the NAHB International Builders’ Show? It’s time to pull the trigger: The NAHB hotel block for HBAI at the Rosen Center closes October 14, so you need to make those reservations quickly.  It’s conveniently located very close to the Convention Center.  When you register, just click on the accommodations tab and it will default to the Rosen Center.  Clickhere to register.

Solid Statistics  

While Friday’s job report showed 156,000 net new jobs created in September, below expectations of 168,000, private sector job growth was 167,000, barely under the 170,000 expected. Separately, the labor force participation rate increased to 62.9% from 62.8%, driving up the unemployment rate to 5% from 4.9%, hourly earnings rose and the average work week increased from 34.3 hours to 34.4. The rising unemployment rate lets rates stay lower longer.  Elliot F. Eisenberg, Ph.D.


   We had an excellent meeting with Iowa Fourth District Congressman Steve King last Monday in Ames.  From left to right:  District Representative Victoria Hurst; Tanner Iverson (son of Jay Iverson, off from school for Columbus Day); HBAI Executive Officer Jay Iverson; Mary Fitch; Jerry Cable; Don Beal; Congressman King; and Rich Fitch.

Iowa Federal Legislative Update – Fall 2016

Make sure that you pay attention to the issues and vote accordingly.  It’s a strange political climate on both the state and federal front, but it couldn’t be more important for you to participate.  Here are some key issues with this Fall update:

Health Reimbursement Arrangements

On June 21, the House today approved the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act (H.R. 5447), legislation championed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) that would allow small business owners to help their employees pay for health insurance.

The Small Business Healthcare Relief Act would allow home building firms and other small businesses to provide Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs), which let employers contribute something to their employee health costs. Specifically, HRAs allow small businesses to offer pre-tax dollars to insured employees to help pay premiums and/or other out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care and services.

HRAs are very flexible and affordable, allowing employers to design their plan to meet the unique needs of their company. All employer contributions to the plan are 100 percent deductible to the employer, and tax-free to the employee, making this a great benefit to help workers to obtain health insurance.

Unfortunately, the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance in 2013 stating that employers are no longer able to use HRAs because they don’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Not only did the IRS make HRAs illegal, the agency decreed that all employers can face fines of $100 per day per employee if they offer this benefit to their workers. That can add up to $36,500 per employee over the course of a year and up to $500,000 per company. This $100 per day penalty went into effect on July 1, 2015.

DOL Overtime Rule

This spring, the Department of Labor issued its final overtime rule that will double the current overtime salary limit of $23,660 to $47,476 on Dec. 1, 2016. NAHB and others small business leaders have warned that such a huge jump in such a short time frame could actually hurt many of the workers the rule was meant to help by forcing small business owners to scale back on pay and benefits, as well as cutting workers’ hours.  Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) introduced legislation that helps small businesses and their workers by mitigating the effects of the U.S. Department of Labor’s unprecedented doubling of the overtime threshold.

HR 5813:  The Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act would raise the overtime salary threshold to the Department of Labor’s $47,476 rate under the following timetable:

Dec 1, 2016 – $35,984
Dec. 1, 2017 – $39,814
Dec. 1, 2018 – $43,645
Dec. 1, 2019 – $47,476

Moreover, the legislation would eliminate a provision in the rule that requires automatic increases to the overtime salary threshold moving forward.  While we support the Schrader bill, another bill was voted on in the House to delay the rule (HR 6094 introduced by Rep. Walberg).  This bill would delay the implementation of the rule.  Information on that vote and bill is here and here.

Voted for HR 6094:  Blum, Young, King
Voted Against HR 6094:  Loebsack
HR 3700 Housing Opportunity

The House and Senate both unanimously passed H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2015. This legislation includes many NAHB-supported bipartisan fixes to HUD programs.  Introduced by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), the measure contains a number of reforms to increase access to affordable rental housing, provide assistance to low-income renters and facilitate homeownership. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Allow the contract terms of HUD’s section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program to be extended from 15 to 20 years.
  • Pare down duplicative requirements that have made the Section 8 program difficult to administer.
  • Protect Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher residents from displacement due to fluctuations in the Fair Market Rent, which determines payment standard amounts for the voucher program.
  • Change the Rural Housing Service Single Family Guaranteed Loan Program so that it will be current with other government loan programs while providing efficiencies for home buyers and lenders.
  • Reduce current FHA regulations surrounding existing condominium projects, including streamlining project certification rules and reducing owner-occupancy requirements.

2014 NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly testified before Congress in support of the bill last fall.

Wetlands Decision

Statement from NAHB Chairman Ed Brady on Supreme Court Wetlands Decision:  Ed Brady, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in the case of Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co. Inc.:

“NAHB commends the Supreme Court for its unanimous decision in this case regarding whether property owners have the right to challenge the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in court after it has issued a jurisdictional determination. This common sense ruling represents a clear victory for property owners to assert their rights if they disagree with an arbitrary edict by the federal government.

“NAHB has been championing this issue for 25 years, arguing that jurisdictional determinations should be judicially reviewable. Previously, the only way to contest such a ruling in court was to obtain a federal wetlands permit, which is costly and time-consuming, or proceed without a permit and risk ruinous Clean Water Act penalties.

“Today’s ruling will allow property owners to be able to dispute a jurisdictional determination in court without first seeking a permit that they believe is not required in the first place.”

Energy Codes

A comprehensive energy bill recently passed the House prohibiting the DOE to lobby on energy codes and requiring any code or proposal supported by DOE to be paid back through utility savingswithin 10 years or less.  An energy bill was also passed by the Senate, but unfortunately does not include these reforms.  House and Senate members have been appointed to conference.  We are currently working with these negotiators on the bill to preserve NAHB supported provisions in the final bill.
Conferee:  Loebsack

Flood EO Appropriations

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (T-HUD) on May 18 approved $38.7 billion for HUD in fiscal year 2017. This is an increase of $384 million above the fiscal 2016 enacted level and $500 million less than what Senate appropriators approved for the department on May 19.

In a victory for NAHB, the House T-HUD bill contains language that delays HUD from implementing last year’s executive order signed by President Obama that would allow the agency to expand the floodplain well beyond the 100-year floodplain for all HUD programs. Specifically, the legislative language stipulates that no funds shall be appropriated for the executive order until at least 90 days after the HUD secretary submits a cost-benefit analysis, as well as a detailed nationwide floodplain map.

Update on How Regulations Affect the Price of New Homes

Click here for info on regulatory effect.

On March 25, OSHA published the final silica rule in the Federal Register.  Though the agency has made major changes to the construction rule, NAHB remains concerned that the final rule is not technologically and economically feasible for the home building industry.  Eight construction industry organizations including the Texas Association of Builders have filed a petition for review of the final rule by OSHA with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  The affiliated national associations will join the petition.  Chairman Ed Brady also testified on the rule in April before the House Education and Workforce Committee’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.  Below are highlights of the rule.

Permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica has been reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour shift.

Employers will be required to use engineering controls (such as water or ventilation), establish work practices that limit worker exposure, and provide respiratory protection when controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level.

Employers must prepare a written exposure control plan and find a competent person to implement it. The plan must contain procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur. (Note: Neither the written exposure control plan nor the competent person requirements were part of the original silica proposal.)

Employers can either use a control method laid out in Table 1 of the construction standard, or they can measure workers’ exposure to silica and independently decide which dust controls work best to limit exposures to the PEL in their workplaces. Table 1 matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. Employers who follow Table 1 correctly are not required to measure workers’ exposure to silica and are not subject to the PEL.

The rule does not apply where silica exposures will remain low under any foreseeable conditions (e.g., when only performing tasks such as mixing mortar, pouring concrete footers, slab foundation and foundation walls and removing concrete formwork).

The standard allows for use of compressed air, dry sweeping and dry brushing where other cleaning methods are not feasible.

It does not require protective clothing.

Employers will be required to provide workers who must wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year with medical exams and to keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

Workers must be trained on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.

Construction employers must comply with all requirements of the standard by June 23, 2017.

HR 5226/Regulations – Transparency in the Rulemaking Process

The House considered this regulatory bill in mid-September and passed it.  The bill would restore transparency in the rulemaking process and curb the increasingly common practice of federal agencies advocating for pending regulations.

Co-Sponsor:  Blum
Voted for:  Blum, Young, King
Voted Against:  Loebsack

Middle Income Housing Tax Credit

Click here for Middle Income Housing Tax Credit info.


On September 28, Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded.  Part of this CR included the extension of the EB-5 program.  Click here for an explanation.