Summer ordinarily is a sleepy time for legal and regulatory decisions. But this summer was an exception, both in the number of rulings and in the number that favored builders. Among two key decisions hailed by the NAHB:
A bi-national North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) panel rejected the duties that the United States imposed on Canadian lumber imports. There are currently duties of more than 27 percent on Canadian lumber shipments. If fully reflected in U.S. lumber prices, the combined duties could add more than $1,000 to the cost of building a new home, according to the NAHB. The decision follows a previous ruling this summer that also struck down tariffs on Canadian lumber. A NAFTA panel ruled that the Commerce Department was wrong to impose an 8 percent anti-dumping duty on Canadian lumber shipments and that the methods used in calculating the duties had to be changed.
In other news, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Connecticut found that property owners who claim that their Fifth Amendment property rights have been violated by land-use regulations are entitled to have their cases heard directly in federal court. Previously, other federal courts had told builders that they need to have these "takings" cases heard in state court first. Developers spent years going through the state court process, only to see their cases thrown to federal court. The ruling in Santini v. Connecticut Hazardous Management Service could save developers years in litigation.