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24 June 2011

Goodman: Protecting the Housing Marketplace

With the challenges posed by our current, worldwide economic downturn, legislators spent much of this session working to help improve the situation for Missourians. One economic strategy, promoted early by the Senate in Senate Bill 108, was to prevent potential problems in the housing market by protecting consumers from the undue costs of overregulation by the government.

No sector of the economy has been hit harder than housing. Foreclosures remain at record highs and demand for new housing remains at historic lows. These problems make it vital for policy makers to avoid encumbering the industry with new regulatory costs. Senate Bill 108 extended an existing provision in state law that was set to expire. The expiring provision protected Missourians from an overreaching mandate in the 2009 International Residential Code, which would require the installation of a sprinkler system in all newly constructed single-family homes. Obviously, the mandate is designed to protect people in their homes, but consumers in the marketplace should have the freedom to conduct the cost-benefit analysis of that safety provision on their own. The decision and its concurrent expense should not be imposed upon homebuyers by regulation. There is strong evidence that these types of fire suppression systems are no more effective in residential homes than fire alarms. Yet, the cost of these systems, typically 1-2 percent of the total cost of construction, would add a heavy burden to an already overwhelmed and struggling housing market. Back in 2009, legislators recognized the potential for this problem and we passed legislation requiring builders to offer consumers a choice to either install or decline the installation of a sprinkler system in the home. As part of the process of compromise, the legislation included a sunset date, after which it would expire. This year, we extended the sunset in SB 108, providing further relief to homebuyers and those who provide jobs in the housing industry.

With so many people still looking for work, government must guard against placing any further burden on an already struggling industry. State government should certainly work to increase public safety, but only in an objective, balanced manner that protects personal freedoms and avoids unnecessary burdens on the private marketplace. Governor Nixon has already signed SB 108 into law.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-2234, jack{dot}goodman{at}senate{dot}mo{dot}gov or by writing to Senator Jack Goodman, Missouri State Capitol, Room 331-A, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

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