By: Janice Francis-Smith, The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – After a coordinated effort by a handful of statewide organizations concerned with residential real estate, legislation to keep municipalities from imposing purely aesthetic design standards has now become law.
Senate Bill 1713 became effective when Gov. Kevin Stitt signed the measure on Thursday.
SB 1713, by state Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, and state Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, was written to prevent municipalities from imposing building design regulations for single-family residential zones based on aesthetics alone.
Such regulations drive up the cost of construction, making it harder for builders to provide the amount of affordable housing that Oklahoma is projected to need over the next few years. The Oklahoma Home Builders Association, Oklahoma Association of Realtors and Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing came together to urge lawmakers to pass the legislation.
“The ability of persons from all economic segments to own a home is one of many reasons America is who we are,” said David in a statement provided by the OkHBA. “The commitment from home builders to defend property rights and continue to protect all Americans is why we were so pleased to work alongside OkHBA and pass legislation that will continue to uphold these ideas.”
The Oklahoma Senate held an interim study on the matter in October. Daniel McClure, deputy general counsel, Oklahoma Municipal League, had defended municipalities’ efforts to ensure that builders used high-quality materials in construction, asserting that design standards improve the quality of affordable housing in the towns that implement such rules.
A 2017 study by the Washington, D.C.-based Cato Institute found that municipalities across the country have a history of using such design standards – addressing no safety need but purely based on aesthetics – to deliberately keep prices high and keep lower-income individuals from buying homes in certain neighborhoods. However, the study ranked Oklahoma as having the least amount of unnecessary restrictions of all 50 states.
Still, some municipalities in Oklahoma, such as Tuttle and Bixby, had passed some regulations restricting some exterior finishes such as vinyl, wood and aluminum siding that would otherwise be permitted under the International Residential Code.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, families that pay more than 30% of their income for housing are considered cost-burdened. According to that standard, more than 40% of Oklahomans are cost-burdened and would have to make at least $15.54 per hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Oklahoma is projected to need 7,454 housing units and 11,630 rental housing units for families earning 60% or less of the area median income.
Some neighborhoods within Oklahoma municipalities have special designations – such as historic preservation – that prevent certain materials to be used on the exterior of homes. SB 1713 includes provisions for historic districts, planned unit developments and other neighborhoods where homeowners have agreed to maintain certain design standards to preserve those restrictions.
Curtis McCarty, a homebuilder and president of the OkHBA, said the legislation would help first-time homebuyers get into a home.
“If we don’t find ways to keep housing affordable, we will eliminate a group of people that would like to be homebuyers but end up renting,” said McCarty.
“Cities and states might not be able to prevent the high product costs and rising interest rates that affect the housing industry nationwide, but fortunately they can prevent more costs that come from adding unnecessary design regulations to homes,” said builder M.J. Farzaneh of Home Creations.