NAHB Seeks White House Action on Soaring Lumber Prices

Posted on August 14, 2020 by Jorie Helms

NAHB sent a letter to President Trump expressing the housing industry’s growing concern and seeking prompt action regarding soaring lumber prices and supply shortages that are harming the housing sector and the economy.

NAHB is urging the White House to play a constructive role to alleviate this growing threat to housing and the economy by calling on domestic lumber producers to ramp up production to ease growing shortages and making it a priority to work with Canada on a new softwood lumber agreement that would end tariffs averaging more than 20% on Canadian lumber shipments into the United States.

As the nation fights to rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, housing has been a bright spot for the U.S. economy, particularly single-family construction, with permits running 3.4% higher during the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019.

However, builders are seeing shortages of lumber resulting in an 80% increase in lumber prices since mid-April. Framing lumber prices reached a record high in late July, while oriented strand board prices have increased 138% over the past year. These sharp increases are unsustainable, particularly in light of the housing affordability crisis.

NAHB’s letter to the White House stressed that housing can do its part to create jobs and lead the economy forward; but in order to do so, we need to address skyrocketing lumber prices and chronic shortages.

NAHB recently sent a similar message to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Zoltan van Heyningen, executive director of the U.S. Lumber Coalition.

View NAHB’s letter to President Trump.

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DOLESE BROS. CO. WINS NATIONAL STONE, SAND & GRAVEL ASSOCIATION SAFETY AWARDS AT MULTIPLE LOCATIONS ACROSS OKLAHOMA

Posted on August 6, 2020 by Jorie Helms

The National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) has awarded multiple Dolese Bros. Co. locations with Safety Excellence Awards, including Coleman Quarry, Hartshorne Quarry, Ponca City’s 7 Mile Mine, Mustang Sand and OKC East Sand. NSSGA will present the awards at its virtual 2020 Legislative & Policy Forum in September.

“These Safety Excellence awards are a direct result of Dolese employees making safety a personal value on the job each day,” Dolese President and CEO Mark Helm said. "The fact that numerous locations were recognized is something to be celebrated. It is also a challenge for us to continue delivering on our commitment to safety.”  

The NSSGA Safety Excellence Awards originated in 1987 and are presented to aggregates operations that maintain a safe workplace, evidenced by their safety performance over a consecutive period of time without a Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) reportable injury.

MSHA uses the metric of Total Reportable Injury Rate (TRIR) to monitor reportable injuries. Dolese has seen a consistent decrease in its TRIR as its safety practices have continued to improve during the previous several years.

The NSSGA Safety Excellence Awards recognize operations based upon TRIR performance compared to the rest of the aggregates industry. NSSGA’s safety awards recognize individual operations as well as companies.

“Dolese is focused on improving our safety culture even more by making safety a personal value of all our team members,” Dolese Health, Safety and Environmental Department Director David Finley said. “It’s an honor to receive these awards from the NSSGA because it is an indication of our success compared to our peers in the country.”

Dolese, headquartered in Oklahoma City, has more than 60 facilities across the state. Learn more about Dolese at www.dolese.com

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How Stringent Design Regulations Restrict Housing Affordability and Choice

Posted on July 14, 2020 by Jorie Helms

Housing affordability has long been at the forefront of housing policy and attention. It’s been even further ignited by the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on employment and people’s ability to afford somewhere to live.

Recent land use trends — such as form-based codes (FBCs), planned unit development (PUD) and traditional neighborhood development (TND) overlay zones — provide additional development methods to make the residential development and regulation process more efficient. However, some localities are moving in the opposite direction by enacting burdensome residential design standards that go well past good design principles, and into regulation that increases costs, limits consumer options, prices out certain populations and raises a number of legal concerns.

NAHB’s Residential Design Standards: How Stringent Regulations Restrict Affordability and Choice report addresses this issue. Included in the primer are examples of communities across the country that have attempted to implement these types of standards. Traditionally, design standards have allowed communities to control the physical characteristics of their housing stock, preserve community character, protect property values, and attract certain populations of home buyers and renters.

Common examples of highly prescriptive design standards include:

  • Prohibiting or limiting the use of exterior materials such as vinyl siding and metal;
  • Requiring specific and often expensive materials for siding and fences; and
  • Dictating the amount of relief and surface area dedicated to windows and the number of architectural details on the roof.

In a 2019 survey, NAHB found that 47% of builders has encountered such standards; in communities where design requirements exist, 85% of respondents stated that they increased construction prices. Not only is this additional price passed on to home buyers and renters, but home buyers and communities also suffer from reduced production and choice.

The primer details the legal implications of these standards and efforts by local home builders associations (HBAs) and home builders to fight back. In several states, including Arkansas, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma, these groups have successfully challenged these standards to limit or prohibit their adoption. Better tools exist for design that can influence residential design without limiting choice, affecting housing affordability or being exclusionary.

The fundamental issue is not the physical characteristics of homes, but what they can mean for affordability. Regulations that artificially raise housing prices without direct ties to public health and safety should not be prioritized over meeting the shortage of affordable homes for families. Housing affordability and attainability should be prioritized through effective planning tools, but unfortunately, barriers to the development process remain.

The primer is available through NAHB’s Land Use 101 toolkit. For more information, and to be connected to other resources, contact Nicholas Julian, Program Manager of Land Use.

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NAHB and Hanley Wood Announce New Partnership

Posted on July 7, 2020 by Jorie Helms

Hanley Wood/Meyers Research and NAHB today announced that BUILDER will cease to be the official magazine of NAHB at the end of 2020, as the two organizations prepare to launch a new home building data platform for NAHB members.

Hanley Wood/Meyers Research will continue to publish BUILDER magazine, BUILDER Online and BUILDER newsletters as well as produce leading events, like BUILDER 100.

For more than 40 years, Hanley Wood/Meyers Research and NAHB have worked together to provide timely resources and insights to builders nationwide, and Hanley Wood/Meyers Research has always maintained an annual presence at the NAHB International Builders’ Show.

“We are proud of the 40-year relationship with the NAHB centered around our media proposition and BUILDER magazine,” said Jeff Meyers, CEO of Hanley Wood/Meyers Research. “Given the evolving media landscape the time was right to pivot our relationship towards a new approach driven by the wide breadth of localized data we provide to best serve the NAHB’s community builder membership and the broader information needs of the industry as a whole.”

The new home building data platform powered by Zonda will help the two organizations meet the growing demand for local market data and analysis in the home building industry.

“NAHB is excited to join with Hanley Wood/Meyers Research to bring the Zonda platform to our community of builder members and complement NAHB’s own economic research,” said NAHB CEO Jerry Howard. “Zonda has long been an important and valuable resource for the builder community.”

With Zonda’s comprehensive data and market intelligence, BUILDER will more accurately identify its audience and allow marketers to reach home builders who drive more than 90% of U.S. annual closings. More information can be found at builderonline.com.

To learn more about Hanley Wood/Meyers Research, visit hanleywood.com and meyersresearchllc.com

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Norman overhauls building permit system

Posted on June 23, 2020 by Jorie Helms

By: Chip Minty The Journal Record

NORMAN – Builders and contractors have maligned the city of Norman’s permitting process for years, calling it slow, inefficient, and costly to their businesses. They consider Norman among the hardest communities in the metro to work in and some have stopped doing business there.

But now, City Manager Darrel Pyle is hoping to change all that. He says Norman’s bad rap has been at the top of his priority list since he moved here from his former post in Hanford, California, last July.

With support from the Norman City Council, Pyle is overhauling Norman’s permitting process, hoping to restore the city’s tarnished reputation among builders in the Oklahoma City metro area.

At the center of his effort is a $7.8 million facility renovation project that will bring the city’s entire permitting process under one roof, creating a one-stop shop for builders and contractors hoping to move projects through City Hall as fast as possible.

Pyle is turning a 40,000-square-foot building adjacent to Norman’s city administration complex into a permitting headquarters with office space for more than 100 city staff members. The building, which used to serve as Norman’s central library, will open next year and will house the city’s fire inspectors, engineering department, planning department and finance department.

Any function associated with obtaining a building permit will be handled in that building, Pyle says. Issues or questions will be resolved efficiently with a quick phone call or a trip down the hall.

That will be a big improvement from years past, Pyle says. Until recently, the system and the staff were not cohesive. Some staff members had never met other colleagues involved in the permitting process, and many weren’t even sure how the entire system worked.

Several months ago, Pyle began to change that by bringing everyone together for a week of discussions facilitated by Management Partners, a California-based consulting group.

Since then, Pyle and his permitting team have been on a roll, looking for opportunities to improve efficiency and finding ways to push permits out the door faster.

The city now can self-certify certain types of sewer-line construction, which speeds the permitting process by sidestepping the need for a state Department of Environmental Quality inspection, which can take 45 days to complete.

The city has also hired third-party plan checkers to help when full-time staff members are bogged down by surging workloads, and inspectors can now inspect some types of construction virtually, rather than drive to job sites for every inspection, Pyle said.

Rigid work schedules are a thing of the past, he says. Now, building inspectors are available to visit worksites at sunrise if necessary, to allow construction projects to proceed without costly delays, waiting for inspectors to start their normal workdays.

The city also has developed a new website that builders can use to submit plans and communicate with city staff. The site is more technologically advanced, and, for the first time, it is Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with our staff,” Pyle said. “The biggest change has been in attitude, realizing that just because we’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean we always have to do it that way. There is a realization that developers are the priority.”

“We have only one goal here at the city of Norman. We want to be the best there is,” he said.

Norman Chamber of Commerce President Scott Martin said he’s thrilled with the changes.

He’s heard story after story from people who have faced challenges going through Norman’s permitting process, including from a couple of Norman’s City Council members.

“This has been a priority of the chambers for many years now,” Martin said. “Permitting is critical to the development community, but it needs to be fair and responsive. I have yet to talk to anyone who is not supportive of high standards, but when the process is extra challenging and particularly hard, that’s where the frustration is.”

“Around the metro, Norman has had the reputation of being a hard place to do business, and this is going to improve that reputation,” he said.

Tim Grissom, owner of TC Grissom Building Co., says he’s been building in Norman for 25 years, and he’s glad to hear changes are on the horizon.

“That’s a good thing, because the process can be frustrating,” Grissom said. “It has been for years.”

He said the city staff members he works with are nice people, but the system they work in has been a typical government bureaucracy, and they’ve never shown much interest in changing it.

“I just think they could do a better job.”

Curtis McCarty, a former member of the Norman Planning Commission, says he’s been building homes in Norman for nearly 30 years, and over time, he’s learned how to adapt to the city’s way of doing things.

McCarty, owner of McCarty Construction, said the city has asked him and other builders for suggestions, and he can see they’re trying to improve.

The residential side has been better the last few years, and if the city can improve service on the commercial side, it will improve Norman’s reputation among builders in the metro area.

“I think it’s working, and they’re going in the right direction,” McCarty said.

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Millennials’ market: Young finding ways to buy OKC real estate

Posted on June 9, 2020 by Jorie Helms

By: Janice Francis-Smith The Journal Record

Taylor Pettyjohn said she was “super excited” on Friday afternoon, just hours after she and her husband closed on their first house. The young couple are expecting their first child in October, and as soon as they had the keys in hand they headed to the new place to start preparing things for their move.

“It was super easy, and we were super blessed,” said Pettyjohn of their first homebuying experience, despite the fact that it occurred during a global

pandemic and a time of economic upheaval. The current situation may even provide a boost for first-time homebuyers, said Mindy Turner, the Realtor who helped the Pettyjohns and several other young couples like them find homes in recent weeks.

Many are taking advantage of low interest rates and state incentives that allow people with limited means an entrance into Oklahoma’s homeowners’ market.

“It’s such a weird time, but it just kind of laid itself out to us,” said Pettyjohn.

The couple knew what they wanted. After a few days looking at the home online, they scheduled a tour and made an offer on it that night. Current low interest rates and down-payment assistance available made it all work out better than they had even expected.

“Unbelievable but yes, our mortgage is cheaper than our rent for a one-bedroom apartment, and we are moving into a three-bedroom house with a huge backyard,” said Pettyjohn. “It’s the perfect home for us.”

“My business did not slow down at all during the pandemic,” said Turner. “My buyers weren’t afraid and they really wanted to buy a house and the rates were low, so we took the necessary precautions but we still got out and looked at houses.

“I would say that the majority of my buyers are millennials under 30 and this is the first house that they’re buying,” said Turner. “Every single house I show goes under contract in the first 12 hours and has multiple offers, every single time. That’s for the buyers that are looking at around $150,000 or below. The higher-priced homes aren’t going so fast.”

The competition is fierce for the limited amount of affordably priced homes on the market right now, said Turner. “If we don’t know the very first day it hits the market we don’t have a chance to even put an offer in,” she said.

The current low interest rates are allowing buyers to get a more house for their money, said Turner. Plus, the state of Oklahoma is also providing first-time home buyers with down-payment assistance through the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority, and that has proved a powerful incentive for buyers.

Those with a limited income – which is true for many in the 35-and-under age range – and a credit score of 650 can get a home with almost no money down. Motivated sellers might also throw in closing costs, said Turner.

“I had a closing last Friday and they had to bring $900 to closing, and today at a closing I did they had to bring $2,400 and that’s everything,” said Turner.

Using census data, home improvement website Improvenet recently published a report that ranked Oklahoma City 21st in the nation on its list of cities with the highest percentage of millennial-age homeowners. Nationwide, the under-35 age group accounts for about 11% of homeowners in cities with populations exceeding 150,000, but in Oklahoma City the age group accounts for 14.6% of homeowners. Clarksville, Tennessee topped the list at 23%, while Huntington Beach, California came in last with 4.9%.

Millennial homeowners in Oklahoma are most likely to be families, not single people who own a home. Oklahoma City came in ninth on the list of cities with the most millennial families living in their own homes, at 9.3%, while no city in Oklahoma appeared on the list of single homeowners in the 35-and-under age range.

Oklahoma City ranked 47th on Realtor.com’s list of cities that have experienced a large decline in new listings as of June 4. New listings in Oklahoma City are down 16.1% year over year. The median listing price is $267,000, which is a 3.8% increase over the median price a year ago, and the median number of days a house spends on the market is 49.

Some sellers might be waiting until later in the summer to put their homes on the market, concerned about conducting showings during the pandemic, said Turner. Local Realtors have had some success with virtual showings, video walk-throughs and “no touch” showings wherein the homeowner leaves all the lights on and closet doors open so prospective buyers don’t need to touch anything, she said.

SmartAsset, a New York-based financial technology company, ranked Oklahoma City at No. 32 and Tulsa at No. 49 on its recent list of the 50 housing markets with the most stable growth. The report found that home prices in Oklahoma City have increased 132% since 1995, while home prices in Tulsa have 113% and the odds of a home losing 5% of its value over a decade was 0% for both cities.

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