A RECENT DECISION BY THE EPA WILL PROMOTE housing affordability and is a victory for home builders, the environment, and home buyers. It also provides an excellent example of how grassroots activism can result in significant dividends for NAHB members.

In late spring, the EPA announced that it will encourage its regional officers to accept local authorities' approved erosion and sediment control plans instead of requiring duplicative paperwork for its own permits. Ironically, the authority to do this has always existed, but the agency had not previously pushed its regional officers to do so.

CUT THE RED TAPE The EPA's announcement, which is expected to significantly lessen stormwater permit paperwork for builders, came shortly after builders at the NAHB's spring board of directors meeting in Washington met with EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. At that meeting, the members reiterated the NAHB's long-standing request to encourage regional EPA offices to adopt this practice.

Basically, the NAHB requested that the EPA make use of the detailed storm-water management information that builders and developers already supply to their cities, counties, and other local jurisdictions rather than require separate forms and additional fees.

Depending on the size of the lot and the complexity of the project, builders spend up to $7,000 per home complying with the federal stormwater permitting regulations. Thus, because it streamlines the permitting process and reduces bureaucratic requirements, the EPA's move ultimately will help contain costs for builders and buyers alike.

GET THE WORD OUT The NAHB and the EPA have the same goal: to protect our nation's waterways from construction site runoff. For years the NAHB has argued that there are more-efficient ways to achieve this goal, and we are very pleased that the EPA agrees that encouraging the so-called local qualifying program would be a time and cost savings for both the agency and builders.

For a jurisdiction to fall under the “local qualifying program” guidelines, it must meet minimum requirements outlined in EPA regulations. The agency recently sent a memo to regional offices and state agencies that administer EPA programs to encourage them to examine whether local programs could qualify.

However, if this initiative is to be wholly successful, NAHB members and associations must do their part as well. I urge state and local association leaders to contact their permitting authorities and tell them about this rule. The additional time and effort needed to complete this duplicative paperwork can be eliminated, and it's another way that the industry can keep housing affordable.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS The EPA's recent action also provides an excellent example of how NAHB membership benefits builders. Of course, individual members working alone can, and do, engage in grassroots activism that results in significant benefits for builders. But working together on such concerns—and backed by the NAHB's very capable staff, its solid reputation, and its clout in Washington—makes the task much easier and ultimately allows us to achieve more than we could as individuals.

President, NAHB Washington, D.C.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.