NAHB Sues the EPA Over Lead Based Paint Law

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is suing the EPA.

According to the NAHB:

A coalition of housing industry groups joined the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today in announcing plans to file a lawsuit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for removing the “opt-out” provision from its Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule.

The Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule (LRRP) applies to homes constructed before 1978 when lead paint was banned. Its opt-out provision, which expired July 6, let consumers allow contractors to bypass extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements in homes where there were no children under 6 or pregnant women, thus avoiding additional costs.

“Removing the opt-out provision more than doubles the number of homes subject to the regulation,” said NAHB Chairman Bob Jones, a home builder and developer in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “About 79 million homes are affected, even though EPA estimates that only 38 million homes contain lead-based paint. Removing the opt-out provision extends the rule to consumers who need no protection.”

The new rule was that after April 22nd, any work done on a house built prior to 1978 was going to undergo a strict lead-based paint control process.  And the EPA just decided to revise the opt-out clause that said contractors “to bypass extra preparation, clean-up and recordkeeping requirements in homes where there were no children under 6 or pregnant women, thus avoiding additional costs.” While lead can certainly be a dangerous substance, the new rules stipulated by the program seemed to be a knee-jerk reaction.  And, as many have rightfully suggested, it’s going to make older homes (built prior to 1978) appear a lot less attractive.  Consider this … two identical homes with identical floor plans.  One was built in 1977 and needs new windows,  the other was built in 1979 and also needs new windows.  If the cost of replacing windows is $250 per window plus the cost of lead remediation, HAZMAT suits and cleanup, and assuming everything else is the same, including their price, which house do you think you would buy?  The house where it costs $250 per window, or the house where it costs $350 – or more – per window?  Suddenly, the market for older homes just went down the drain.  And, as quoted in the article:

“Consumers trying to use rebates and incentive programs to make their homes more energy efficient will likely find those savings eaten up by the costs of the rule’s requirements. Worse, these costs may drive many consumers – even those with small children – to seek uncertified remodelers and other contractors. Others will likely choose to do the work themselves – or not do it at all – to save money. That does nothing to protect the population this rule was designed to safeguard,” Jones said.

When you consider that nearly 10% of our real estate market at any given time – in just the Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Radford markets alone – was built before 1978, that’s a significant hit to the market.  And we’re not alone, so it’s good to see the NAHB taking a stand on this.  The “revision” doesn’t make it any easier to work on a home built before 1978 – in fact, it only makes a difficult task that much more troublesome.   Tip of the hat to Jim Duncan, who first alerted me to the suit … I like his quote, when he wrote:

If a consumer chooses to endanger him or herself (which apparently they are by sniffing lead based paint), that should be their right.

Well, I’d never thought of it that way.  I’m not interested in debating the dangers of lead-based paint; but it’s nice to see an organization taking a stand against a law that, in reality, serves no good purpose at all.

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