Thursday, July 02, 2009

Congress' ACES Bill Will Trump Housing Affordability

/PRNewswire/ -- Housing affordability is a key reason why eight of every 10 jobs created in the U.S. last year were in Texas.

"Given this statistic, it's shocking that Congress' American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) very well threatens to undermine this advantage for a housing sector that constitutes more than 12 percent of the state's economy," says Phil Crone, director of government affairs and green building programs for the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas (HBA).

"Narrowly passed by the House last week, ACES is intended to place most of the American economy on a carbon-cap-and-trade system," says Crone. "The legislation also enables the U.S. to sign a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Treaty when the United Nations Climate Change Conference meets in December in Copenhagen, Denmark."

Buried within the 1200-plus pages of ACES are provisions imposing federal mandates requiring each state to make its energy code for new buildings 30 percent more efficient than current levels, perhaps as soon as next year. By 2014, each new building must be 50 percent more efficient than current code.

"On its face these requirements probably sound good to many people, but some prospective is needed," says Crone. "While buildings often are estimated to account for as much as 40 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, new homes built in the last 10 years only account for 2.5 percent. Half of that electricity is lost in the grid and never makes it to the home."

He adds, "Clearly, our older inefficient housing stock is where wise environmental policy should focus. The only way to encourage upgrades on these homes is through market incentives such as tax credits."

Crone says Congress appears to favor a policy adding thousands of dollars to the cost of a new home with projected decades needed to offset the utility savings. "Even a modest estimate of a $4,000 cost increase would make a new home unobtainable for more than 100,000 Texas households, according to the Texas A&M Real Estate Center," he says.

Most builders believe ACES trumps years of environmental progression in the home building industry, Crone says. "The most recent EPA numbers show that Texas builders produce more Energy Star-certified homes than the next six leading states combined. In 2007 alone, these homes saved Texans more than $18 million on utility bills with emissions savings equal to taking 20,000 vehicles off the road."

"Certainly, green has been popular with consumers for several years, but when the rubber meets the road in the policy arena, we must be sensible, especially in a very weak economy," said HBA President and local home builder Tim Jackson. "Federal mandates crippling a vital part of the Texas economy with environmental gains measured in fractions of a percent are not the answer."

If ACES becomes law, HBA officials estimate a family of four will see a $24,000 increase in their direct energy costs between the years 2012 and 2035. "For someone my age, that number represents two years of college tuition I hoped I would have been able to save for my children," said Crone.

"As Congress deals out ACES, more than 500,000 Texans employed in the housing industry will brace themselves for the regulatory hand that will potentially push them into an uncertain abyss and trump any hopes for Texas's continued prosperity."

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