Politicians’ environmental regulations drive the high housing costs they complain about

Last week I wrote about how the Twin Cities’ ‘affordable housing’ shortage was caused by their politicians. This was based on a new report backed by Housing First Minnesota, which represents more than 1,200 builders, remodelers, developers and industry suppliers throughout the state, which found that

“municipal fees and regulations in the Twin Cities…are pushing up prices of new homes more sharply here than in other communities, making it nearly impossible to build a single-family house for less than $375,000”

This echoes the findings of a Pioneer Press survey of 60 government officials, builders, Realtors, housing and energy lobbyists, and home buyers in April 2017. This found that one reason for expensive housing in the Twin Cities was that

“regulations, including energy-saving rules and safety codes, are tougher and costlier than in surrounding states”

Policymakers in Minneapolis are looking to add to this regulatory burden. As the Star Tribune reports,

Minneapolis homeowners who want to sell their properties will soon be required to conduct tests for energy efficiency, a measure touted by elected officials as a step toward reaching the city’s sustainability goals.

The tests, approved by the City Council on Friday, would become a part of a basic inspection already required when selling a home. They include inspecting insulation in attics, heating systems and windows and drilling a hole in walls of homes built before 1980 to check for insulation.

Sellers will, of course, pass the costs of these tests on to the buyers. The price of housing will go up. The ‘affordable housing’ crisis will be made worse.

You can’t make an omelette…

Maybe policymakers regard expensive housing as a price worth paying. In April 2017, the Pioneer Press quoted Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, an energy conservation nonprofit, as saying

“The reason we have codes is to protect buildings, protect public health and not unduly waste energy”

But they should be open and honest about this. If they are going to jack up housing costs with measures like this, they should stop bleating about a lack of ‘affordable housing’. They should admit that these stringent environmental standards mean more expensive housing. And they should stop dreaming up plans to spend tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to solve a problem they themselves have created.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.