It all starts here

Since I started on the subject of incrementalism at the tail end of last night’s post, I’m going to follow with my thoughts on this news item from my associates at the AIA.

After months of consultation with AIA federal relations staff, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) will soon introduce comprehensive legislation aimed at promoting energy efficiency in residential buildings. The bill would provide incentives to lenders and financial institutions to provide lower interest loans and other benefits to consumers who build, buy, or remodel their homes and businesses to improve their energy efficiency.

Rep. Perlmutter, who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, was asked by Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) to craft legislation aimed at promoting energy efficiency in the residential sector. The legislation will likely be introduced in the coming weeks, and Chairman Frank has indicated that the Committee will take swift action to advance the bill.

On April 22, AIA President Marshall E. Purnell, FAIA, spoke at a forum addressing the current state of energy consumption in buildings and how Rep. Perlmutter’s bill will provide greater tools for homeowners, lenders, and government-sponsored enterprises (such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) to improve energy efficiency. “Last year we advocated strongly for energy-efficiency requirements for federal buildings,” noted Purnell at the forum. “This year we are working with the Financial Services Committee to craft legislation that will create federal incentives for energy-efficient residential projects. This is a necessary step to ensure that we continue making significant reductions in the amount of fossil-fuel generated energy our nation consumes through its homes and buildings.”

The legislation would provide incentives, grants, and educational opportunities to encourage the construction and renovation of energy-efficient homes and buildings and the development of sustainable communities. Specifically, the bill would require residential single-family or multifamily structures constructed using federal monies (such as housing built under Section 8, Hope VI, or the Federal Housing Administration) to meet more stringent energy-efficiency standards.

The bill would also encourage the use of energy-efficient and location-efficient mortgages (EEMs and LEMs). Under the legislation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are required to promote and facilitate the use of EEMs and LEMs. The bill would mandate that Fannie and Freddie purchase a certain percentage (in comparison to total mortgages purchased) of EEMs and LEMs every year.

We started down this road with requiring “green” LEED-certified federal buildings a few years ago, after some states and municipalities made this a requirement for their buildings. And as the square footage threshold for LEED certification requirements continues to shrink and place more and more construction into that realm, this represents the first time the camel’s placed his nose under the residential tent – certainly it won’t be the last because government can never leave well enough alone.

Especially worrisome are the new mandates on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It’s bad enough that the federal government is expanding their reach in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis, but this foray into EEM’s and LEM’s is certain to become a boondoggle in and of itself – something tells me that the price of energy-efficient construction is getting ready to spike once the federal government starts throwing money that way. If you want an example of this ask yourself how much college costs go up each year and compare that to the rate of inflation. Colleges feel free to raise prices where they can because the financial aid is lucrative, regardless of the amount of education provided.

So Congress, with the full support of an organization that obviously doesn’t take my views into account, is going to move full steam ahead into wrecking two more markets. It’s just like they’ve done with ethanol requirements – managing to foul up the energy picture, the cost of food, and a few car engines as well in one fell swoop of regulations and laws. Instead of alternative fuels, can we get an alternative Congress?

Author: Michael

It's me from my laptop computer.