HB 302/SB 172- Protecting Profits, Not Property Rights

Your new next door neighbor?

Staunch supporters of HB 302 and its sister bill in the senate, SB 172, proclaim that the intent of these bill is to protect individual property rights. If that were in fact true, these supporters would also have introduced a bill to remove or modify state-sanctioned authority of local governments to regulate architectural and esthetic restrictions on “factory built buildings and dwelling units” designed to be affixed to foundations or existing buildings (OCGA 8-2-110 through 8-2-114).

With regard to the authority of counties and incorporated cities, 8-2-112 (b) (2) states, “Areas of county and municipal authority including, but not limited to, local land use and zoning, building setback, side and rear yard requirements, utility connections, and subdivision regulation, as well as the regulation of architectural and esthetic requirements, are specifically and entirely reserved to the county, if in the unincorporated area, or the municipality where the industrialized building or residential industrialized building is sited.

Previous sections of the code stipulate that local government regulations do not apply if prior approval has been granted by the Commissioner of Public Affairs or if an industrialized (factory built) building has been, “inspected and approved by a local government which has jurisdiction at the site of installation and which are inspected at the place of and during the time of manufacture in accordance with standards established by the commissioner.” (8-2-112 (a) (2).

When the regulatory language is boiled down to its essence, it states that some form of design element regulation, enacted either by the Commissioner of Community Affairs, or local governments shall be applied to residential factory built buildings. Which begs the question, if  supporters of HB 302/SB 172 are truly concerned with protecting property owner rights, why don’t they support the property rights of residents of factory built housing.

Is it because these units are typically purchased by people with lower incomes and the bill sponsors believe people with lower incomes aren’t entitled to the same private property rights as people with higher incomes?

Is it because the residential factory housing industry doesn’t have the financial sway of the conventional housing industry?

One can only guess at the true reason, but the answer appears to be in the bills’ opening paragraph which states that part of its intent is to provide for related matters and “for other purposes” (which are unspecified, and just might be maximizing the profits of builders and developers). Clearly, if individual property owner rights are truly at the core of the issue, HB 302/SB 172 would address local government regulation of the design elements of residential factory built buildings.

Additionally, if local government regulation of building design standards is such an onerous incursion on individual property rights, why do the authors of HB 302/SB 172 find it perfectly acceptable to allow these governments to enforce zoning regulations that dictate the “height, width, area and size of buildings and other structures, the size of yards, courts, and other open spaces, spacing between buildings and structures, lot coverage, lot width, lot area and setbacks”? Such regulations are designed to establish and protect an area’s character, as are local regulations of certain building design elements.  

The motives behind the overreach that is HB 302/SB 172 are also suspect because they apply after the fact. When owners purchased or built their current residences, they accepted, and in some instances embraced, the local government regulations that were in place. They may well have purchased their homes because of the security those regulations provided that a tar paper shack would not be built next door.

Some local government regulations should in fact be curtailed because they apply to design elements that affect no one beyond the property owner who wants them. However, removing local government control of building design elements, and putting that control in the hands of builders and developers is analogous to putting Bernie Madoff in charge of regulating ponzi schemes.