Whatcom Business Alliance wants to alert you to this costly new mandate that was passed last week that will increase the cost and availability of new homes during a housing shortage in our state. We will keep you updated on plans to challenge this costly regulation and/or to repeal it during the 2023 Legislative Session. Learn more about what took place and the impact it will have on housing in Whatcom County from our friends at the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) and Building Industry Association of Whatcom County –
The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) on November 4th voted 9-5 to pass a statewide heat pump mandate, ignoring concerns that the costly mandate will further aggravate the state’s housing crisis.
“We’re deeply frustrated the State Building Code Council adopted this unnecessary and costly new mandate,” said Greg Lane, BIAW’s Executive Vice President. “Washington has both a housing shortage and a housing affordability crisis. At a time when only roughly 15 percent of households in Washington can afford to purchase a median-priced home, this additional tax on energy only makes things worse.
“The council’s own cost analysis said it didn’t make economic sense,” Lane continued. “Yet this unelected council ignored it all and adopted the mandate anyway. It just shows how absolutely out of touch the State Building Code Council is with the crisis happening right now in the housing market.
While the residential building industry representative on the council, Daimon Doyle, offered several amendments to improve the proposal, the end result is the same: a de facto ban on natural gas in new homes.
Heat pump mandate eliminates energy choice
The building code proposals approved Friday require builders to install heat pumps for space and water heating in all new homes built after July 1, 2023. This removes the incentive for natural gas companies to run natural gas into new homes which essentially eliminates the ability for homeowners to have natural gas ranges and fireplaces as well.
BIAW surveyed its members to estimate the cost of these proposals. Builders said the heat pump mandate will increase the cost of a newly constructed home by at least $8,300. To address concerns about the reliability of heat pumps, the mandate allows natural gas heat pumps, but those are not yet commercially available.
The mandate also allows natural gas heat as a backup power source. This adds another $2,400 to homes where owners choose to supplementary heat out of choice or necessity.
Costly changes, little benefit
“The Legislature rejected proposals to ban natural gas in new homes,” Lane said. “They recognized the need for all homeowners to have affordable choices when it comes to the mix of energy they use for space and water heating. This decision will drive up the cost of housing into the future with no tangible return.
“Requiring heat pumps does nothing to reduce reliance on fossil fuels,” he continued. “Washington already consumes less natural gas than roughly half the nation. The electric power sector is the largest natural gas user in the state.”
BIAW and others are reviewing all options to protect future homeowners and promote housing affordability, including potential litigation.
The Building Industry Association of Washington is the voice of the housing industry as the state’s largest trade association with nearly 8,000 member companies. The association is dedicated to ensuring and enhancing the vitality of the building industry so more Washington families can enjoy the American Dream of owning a home. Learn more at: www.biaw.com