April, 2007
News in Brief
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

2007 Building Safety Week theme: Building smarter…for disasters and everyday life


Building Safety Week is scheduled for May 6-12, 2007.

Sponsored by the International Code Council Foundation, Building Safety Week is a special time set aside to increase the general public’s awareness about the importance of making homes and buildings safe places where people can live, work and play.

Building Safety Week Materials

The following brochures are available to download for free from the ICC Web site (www.iccsafe.org/safety/BSW/).

  • Safety First: Disaster Preparedness Tips for Your Home and Family

  • Building Codes: How Do They Help You?

  • Benefits of Building Permits

  • Mold: Tips on Prevention and Remediation

  • Careers in Code Enforcement

  • Flood Cleanup: Safety and Salvaging

Survey confirms Business.gov Web site saves time and money

Business people who visited Business.gov, the new one-stop federal compliance Web site for businesses, confirm the site saves time and money on their business operations. Of businesses surveyed, 72 percent said they saved up to 25 hours. Almost half of surveyed businesses reported saving money.

According to survey respondents, the Business.gov information most searched included compliance, business law, business library, business licenses and permits, launching a business, and advertising and marketing. The most useful content areas were the federal forms, business library and business law section.

The site’s new focus on compliance information, federal forms and contacts was relaunched in October 2006 and since the launch has received close to 11,000 visits per day. Based on survey results, the largest percentage of visitors is small businesses and people thinking of starting a business. Those surveyed had between five and more than 20 years experience in their fields. Feedback from Web site users will allow Business.gov to make updates and integrate state and municipal compliance information into the site, set to release in fall 2007.

Business.gov is managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration, in partnership with 21 other federal agencies, and is part of the President’s Management Agenda. Originally launched in 2004, the Web site provided information on starting, growing and managing a small business. The new compliance focus is designed to better meet the needs of the business community, based on feedback from test groups.

The Key Indicator newsletter

“Existing home sales improved in January, while new home sales plummeted. Both categories saw inventories rise, fueling concerns that housing demand has yet to show significant recovery.”

That was the lead for one of the articles published in The Key Indicator newsletter, published by Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, which describes itself as the home-building industry’s leading provider of rich data and consulting services for residential new-home construction. The newsletter is a free publication to over 25,000 industry professionals and provides an overview of recent economic trends and analysis.

To subscribe, e-mail jbice@hanleywood.com and include the word “subscribe” in the message field. In the message body, please include your name, title and company.

To learn more, visit the publisher’s Web site at www.hanleywood.com/hwmi or call 800-639-3777.

HUD weighs costs and benefits of major housing regulations

Of the homes destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, 36 percent were manufactured housing, which accounts for just 5 percent of the total housing stock in the affected counties. In the aftermath of the storm, an astounding $278 million in disaster relief was attributable to manufactured housing.

These losses prompted HUD to revise regulations that set wind standards for manufactured housing. The agency’s goal was to respect the integrity of manufactured housing as a low-cost housing option while improving its wind resistance. The new standards would reduce injury and death, property damage to (and caused by) manufactured homes and insurance costs. All manufacturers would be required to design and assemble according to the more stringent wind standards and certify to consumers that their housing meets these standards. The proposed revisions require the use of structures and fasteners similar to those which were effective in site-built construction, including better shutters for doors and windows, stronger foundations and heavier materials for fastening roofs to walls and walls to floors. The overall objective was to raise wind standards
just enough to reduce costs associated with storm damage without decreasing purchases or making manufactured homes less affordable.

This effort is just one example of a new analytic procedure, the Housing Impact Analysis (HIA), which studies the effects that a proposed regulation might have on housing costs, supply and affordability.

Currently, federal rules of major economic importance undergo a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA), which calculates the costs, benefits and other effects of new federal regulations. A standard RIA, however, may not provide policy-relevant measures of the effects of a regulation on participants in the housing market. To remedy this, HUD developed the HIA to supplement the RIA. A recent report, Housing Impact Analysis, provides guidance on when and how to perform an HIA. HUD applied the HIA to the new regulations developed to improve the safety of manufactured houses in the two wind zones that sustained the greatest damage from Hurricane Andrew. The report explains how researchers estimated the total costs of more stringent wind standards for consumers and producers, as well as the cost to the economy if the new standards caused the market for manufactured homes to decrease. The desired benefit was a 75 percent reduction in wind damage suffered in one wind zone and an 83 percent reduction in another. The total costs, $51.7 million, were weighed against a total of $83.8 million in private and public savings, as well as reduced death and injury costs. The benefits outweighed the costs by $32.1 million, an amount that seemed to justify the regulatory revisions.

Housing Impact Analysis includes guidelines and step-by-step instructions for using the HIA. Its appendix provides information on where to locate useful data and which regulations might affect new or existing homes, multifamily units, particular home designs and particular locations. It also refers the reader to data on housing supply, housing demand, house prices, interest rates, housing finance, regulation measures and general surveys and data sets.

Housing Impact Analysis is available free at www.huduser.org/publications/affhsg/hsgimpanal.html. Print copies are available for a nominal fee from HUD USER by calling 800-245-2691 and selecting option 1.
The destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew prompted HUD to revise wind standards for manufactured housing.

HUD’s Housing Impact Analysis determined that the benefits outweighed the costs of revising wind regulations for manufactured housing.

Article source: Research Works, February 07