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The real cost of regulations on housing

February 6, 2023

Rules and regulations. They’re difficult to keep up with, costing valuable time and money at a time when our state is at least 270,000 housing units behind.

BIAW investigated how much money regulations at the state, local and federal levels add to each county’s home cost. Through our research, we have seen that as regulatory costs increase, so do the sales prices of new homes.

One way we can exercise control over added costs that makes homes more expensive is by reviewing the regulations we have in place or, better yet, choosing not to add unnecessary new ones. This doesn’t mean that every regulation should be thrown out, as many address specific issues. However, we all know there are regulations that could be reviewed, reduced and potentially eliminated.

Since 2009, changes to Washington State Building Codes, specifically the Washington State Energy Code, have added $39,876 to the cost of building a new home, with most of that cost borne from the energy code. As one builder described the situation, “building codes establish the minimum standard for building, with the primary goal of protecting the health and safety of residents. It makes no sense to have such a strict energy code that essentially mandates we build each home like a Tesla when a Toyota is a perfectly suitable option.”

Policies such as these could be moderated or changed to allow builders more flexibility to meet goals in the most cost-effective manner possible. As the state grapples with policies to spur more residential construction to meet unmet demand and provide housing for the unhoused, legislators and policymakers must take a hard look at their priorities.

We need a mix of Teslas and Toyotas so more families can find homes they can afford. Washington will never achieve housing justice for its citizens if our current regulatory landscape continues.

To see the real cost of regulations on housing, view the report.

Housing Research Center

BIAW’s Government Affairs team does more than advocate on behalf of the home building industry. The team also researches and develops policy information to help decision-makers better understand how and why homebuilding gets so expensive.

To help you find this information, BIAW has created a Research Center. It’s a one-stop spot where you can view all of our reports and fact sheets in one convenient place.

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