From the WSJ:
As the cost of construction permitting has risen over the past decade, Atlanta home builder Dennis McConnell has taken a new approach with customers.
He now itemizes the regulatory costs so buyers can see firsthand why the price tags for his houses are so high. Among recent charges he has outlined: $8,000 for a new type of storm-water capture device required for each house, $3,500 for customized architectural plans required on every lot and about $15,000 to remove a tree from the property.
With every new regulation, “the more expensive it becomes,” said Mr. McConnell, president of Healthy House of Georgia. “I don’t build affordable houses anymore.”
As home builders pick up the pace after a punishing downturn, they face a bevy of new regulations and higher fees governing everything from environmental quality and park access to regulations on the amount of brick on a home exterior. Builders say many of the new requirements are well-meaning, but added up they translate to higher costs that are passed on to prospective purchasers.
For the past five years, the median new home price has been 32% to 38% higher than the median price of a resale home, according to data from the U.S. Census and the National Association of Realtors, the largest such gap since the figures started being tracked in the 1960s. Compliance costs are one of many factors affecting prices of new homes, economists said. Builders have also focused more on the move-up and premium markets throughout the economic recovery, meaning a tendency toward larger, pricier homes.
Several recent studies have documented how increased regulatory and permitting costs affect prices. A report by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif., concluded that new homes have become “permanently more expensive to build” because of increased regulations.
The study surveyed more than 100 building-industry executives, asking for examples of costs that didn’t exist a decade earlier. New regulations included a survey required in some areas of the Midwest to determine whether endangered bats are on a property, which builders said can cost $10,000 or more for each new development.
A report in May from the National Association of Home Builders found that the average cost for builders to comply with regulations has risen nearly 30% over the past five years. A study from housing-research firm Zelman & Associates calculated that local “impact fees” charged to builders and developers to pay for services such as roads, sewers and parks have climbed 45% since 2005 to an average of $21,000 per home across 37 major markets.