Senate Bill 317 introduced on Thursday, March 16, is an attempt to help solve the critical housing shortage in North Carolina.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage developers to build more homes that are affordable for those in the workforce, in particular teachers, first responders and first-time homebuyers.

And the bill identifies over regulation by municipalities as one of the prime reasons more homes in this price range are not being built.

Greensboro, in its attempt to address the same problem, created the public service heroes homebuyers assistant program that offers forgivable loans (grants) of up to $30,000 for first-time homebuyers with incomes up to 120 percent of the average median income (AMI).

Senate Bill 317 doesn’t hand out money to first-time homebuyers but allows developers who agree to make 20 percent of a development single-family “workforce housing” avoid over regulation by municipalities.

What the developer receives in return for meeting the workforce housing quota is relief from overly burdensome and unnecessary regulation by local government.

Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy at the John Locke Foundation Paige Terryberry is quoted in The Carolina Journal stating, “Reasonably priced housing options are scarce in North Carolina cities due to the stranglehold local governments have on new building.”

According to a study done by the National Association of Home Builders, 23.8 percent of the final price of new single-family home is due to government regulations.

That is further broken down to 10.5 percent due to regulations during development and 13.3 percent due to regulation during construction.

What Senate Bill 317 would do is decrease the 10.5 percent of cost during development. Local governments would still have the authority to enforce building codes and environmental permits.

However, developments that qualify as a workforce housing development could be built in any zoning district and would only be subject to the land development regulations set forth in the statute, not those of the municipality.  Local governments could not impose any design standards on the workforce housing development.

Sen. Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), who sponsored the bill, said, “This bill minimizes the regulatory burden to create a market incentive for builders to develop affordable housing units by constructing market-rate homes without heavy regulatory costs.”