Maryland lawmakers are considering whether to allow counties to opt out of a new state law requiring all newly constructed homes be equipped with fire sprinkler systems. Builders and homeowners recently made a plea at the state house in Annapolis, saying the new regulation will increase the cost of homeownership.

The committee hearing also was packed with firefighters who support the requirement, reports NBC4's Chris Gordon. It came on the heels of the one-year anniversary of a massive Annapolis blaze that killed four in a home that did not have sprinklers.

Housing industry advocates want counties on the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland to be able to opt out of the state requirement. Builders want sprinkler systems to be optional because they say some people in rural areas can't afford the extra costs for construction and water supply.

“Permits have dropped dramatically in that area since this mandate took effect,” said David Reel, of Manufactured Housing Institute of Maryland. “The market is slowly recovering from the great downturn. This is just chopping the legs out from people that need and want affordable housing.”

Builders say smoke detectors are almost as effective as sprinklers, which can cost $6,000 to $20,000 to install.

"I know businesses that have closed because they aren't selling homes, and up in the rural areas where they’re so close to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, you’re finding that those people are moving out of state," said Larry Checca, of Manufactured Housing Institute of Maryland.

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