A Climate for Catastrophe in KCMO

Direct links: Page 37 – Homes & Building, March 2022 CPRP Draft

KCMO’s Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan


A Climate for Catastrophe in KCMO

By Will Ruder, EVP, KCHBA

Can you name something that costs less today than it did two years ago? To be honest, I’ve struggled to think of an item or service that my own family consumes that I could say that about. Whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or the gas station, sticker shock has become an increasingly frequent part of our lives. The home building industry has been no different.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor statistics, goods such as lumber, steel, gypsum, etc., have risen 33 percent since the onset of the pandemic. Services such as transportation, warehousing, and trade services are up 39 percent. While consumers are battling the highest rate of inflation in a generation, our industry is staring down enormous increases in cost for every input that goes into a new home. The rising costs are only part of the equation. Overall availability of labor and materials have extended project timelines thereby impeding our ability to add inventory at the rate the market is calling for.

For years we have heard questions and concerns from local elected officials about the affordability and attainability of housing. There are obviously variables in the market that we cannot control at a local level. Prevailing interest rates, supply of materials, traffic jams at our coastal ports are simply not able to be solved at the local level. One would think that local policymakers would take great care so as not to compound the cost increases with additional regulatory burdens and bureaucratic delays. By and large, this has been recognized by many area communities. However, a handful of jurisdictions have confusingly identified this as the right time to administratively increase the cost of housing and decrease the velocity of production.

Recently, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, posted on its website a list of recommendations by the Climate Protection Steering Committee (CPSC). This panel was charged with investigating and recommending updates to the city’s overall Climate Protection and Resiliency Plan (CPRP). Certainly, a reasonable goal and consistent with the residential construction industry’s enormous strides in energy efficient construction over the years.

In this draft plan, a number of items would have a significant impact on our industry. For example, the CPSC recommended that KCMO move to a three-year code cycle and that the council should adopt the latest iteration of the International Code Council (ICC) suite of building codes as written and without any locally specific modifications.

Additionally, there are major portions devoted to electrification and the phasing out of natural gas as an option in new construction. The entire plan can be viewed on the city’s website, kcmo.gov. The “Homes and Buildings” sections can be found beginning on page 37 of the March 2022 CPRP draft.

While the broader CPRP has yet to be officially acted on, an ordinance to adopt the unamended 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) has been introduced by KCMO 6th District At-Large City Council member Andrea Bough. The city’s charter requires a 90-day waiting period between introduction and passage. Simply put, KCMO cannot afford a new, overly restrictive building code written without local input.

The City Planning and Development Department it is not currently in a position to enforce additional regulations due to staffing and other challenges, which will lead to delay after delay after delay further adding to the cost of new homes. Consumer demand in KCMO will cool when buyers realize they can get more house for less money outside of KCMO city limits. The recently reaccredited Kansas City Public School district will suffer as the new property tax base they rely on will slow due to the decrease in the volume and velocity of construction.

All of this is avoidable. The type of home envisioned by the 2021 IECC is already available for consumers to purchase today. There is nothing preventing a home buyer from building the most energy efficient home possible other than their ability to pay for it. And therein lies the real problem. A building code is a baseline, and if that baseline is set too high, too many otherwise qualified buyers will be priced out of the market. Our members already present these energy efficient methods, materials and appliances as options to customers.

Whether or not these customers have that chance to choose will be up to the KCMO City Council in the coming weeks. A series of well-funded groups, financed by the U.S. Department of Energy, are hard at work trying to discredit our local industry with cherry-picked statistics and fuzzy math under the guise of saving utility costs for homeowners. This effort is being replicated in Kansas City, Kansas, and will be pursued all over the metro.

What those energy efficiency advocates fail to realize is that we agree that building efficiently and reducing emissions is a positive thing. The major difference is that KCHBA members are actually providing housing and recognize the balance that must exist.

This is the time to listen to experts and when it comes to expertise in the home building world, the members of the KCHBA take a backseat to no one. In the very near future, the KCHBA will be asking you to use your voice on behalf of your customers, employees, businesses and families to ensure that housing can still happen in the entire Kansas City metro.

This story originally published in the May 2022 issue of Building Business News.