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Texas Legislators Conclude a 4th Special Session, But Is the 88th Over Yet?

In the fourth session, chambers approved Senate Bill 3. This bill appropriates $1.5 billion to continue construction of a border barrier between Texas and Mexico and funds enhanced immigration efforts. They also approved Senate Bill 4. It would allow Texas police to arrest people who illegally cross the border from Mexico. But Governor Abbott still has the right to call another session. Some say the refusal by the House to approve his plan for education savings accounts may warrant it.

Dallas Developer Pursues Against Eminent Domain Claim by the State

Vistra Corp, a private power company, leased the portion of a park on its property to the state at no cost for nearly 50 years.  The park surrounded what was the state’s largest privately-owned lake.   So, when Vistra sought to sell the land, it first offered an opportunity to purchase its entire 5,000-acre land holding in Freestone County, including the park and the lake, to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

When the state took no action to make the purchase, Vistra sold the property to Dallas developer Todd Interests for about $103 million.  Todd Interests proceeded with plans for a luxury subdivision on the 5,000-acre property located about 100 miles south of Dallas. But Texas Parks and Wildlife Department filed a petition to seize the entire property through eminent domain.  This sparked a monthslong contentious public battle between the state and park supporters trying to save the closed park and advocates of private property rights.  But in early December, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announced it would stop pursuing its eminent domain claim. 

Freestone Club will include a luxury neighborhood with multimillion-dollar homes, a golf course, restaurants and shops and access to a private air strip.

Texas Cases Coming Next in Real Estate Commission Suit Bandwagon

In a typical real estate transaction, a 3 percent commission of the sale goes to the buyer’s agent, and another 3 percent goes to the seller’s agent. But in October, a Missouri court found that the National Association of Realtors conspired to artificially inflate real estate agent commissions. Two North Texas companies have now filed a similar suit against the Texas Association of Realtors.

The Missouri case claimed that brokerages and real estate agents are under pressure to join NAR and conform to its practices as a prerequisite for doing business. It alleged that NAR forces home sellers to pay “standard 6% commissions” as a condition of having their home listed in the local Multiple Listing Service.  It said this practice led to “steering,” where sellers are pressured into accepting inflated or stabilized rates out of fear that buyer brokers will not show their home to prospective buyers. The NAR maintains that the commission practice is not mandatory.

Texas’ Major Metros Draw The Lion’s Share of New State Residents

Texas added nearly 1.6 million people since 2020 according to new population data by the Texas Demographic Center.  It attributed both high resident retention and new domestic migration for driving up the Texas population to 30.3 million people as of January 2023.  More than two-thirds of Texas’ 30.3 million residents live in four largest metro areas of Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. 

  • The state’s fastest growing area was the Austin region —with 7.2% growth — drawing in the most new residents. Liberty Hill,  an Austin exurb between Georgetown and Burnet, saw the highest percentage growth of any city, with a 194% increase from 2020 to 2023.
  • San Antonio made a first-time appearance on the “Top U.S. Real Estate Markets to Watch List.” 
  • In the Houston metro, Fulshear, about 30 miles west of the city of Houston, more than doubled its population, from about 17,000 in 2020 to almost 40,000 in January 2023.
  • Booming activity in the North Texas suburbs kept the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area at the top of state’s population centers, with an estimated 8 million residents.  And the Fort Worth metro added more residents — 48,542 — more than any other city in Texas. Big jumps were seen in areas considered a suburban-rural mix, such as Aledo and Alvarado about 30 miles from Fort Worth.

NAHB’s Legislative Priorities:

Oppose the Seasonal Employer Protection Act of 2023

The H-2B temporary visa program is presently the only legal program of its kind available to construction industry employers. But a new bill would specifically target the housing industry by including language that prohibits multifamily developers from employing H-2B visa holders.  It  prohibits the H-2B temporary visa program unless a company is part of a collective bargaining agreement. At a time when the residential construction industry still faces a severe labor shortage, such legislation is harmful and unjustified, says NAHB.

A Win for Transformers, Loss for Lumber Tariffs

Supply chain issues continue to affect the nation’s housing affordability crisis. And yet, the DOE proposed to increase the energy conservation standards for the production of transformers which have been the cause of widely reported job delays. NAHB also expressed disappointment after the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announcement that it will not rescind the duties totaling roughly 9% on certain Canadian softwood lumber products coming into the United States.

NAHB continues to wage against the transformer issue.  It won the support of House Energy and Commerce Committee in its opposition against the DOE’s proposal, The House approved H.R. 4167–The Protecting America’s Distribution Transformer Supply Chain Act to repeal the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) authority to propose, finalize, implement, administer or enforce any energy efficiency standard for distribution transformers for the next five years.

Keep Natural Disaster Mitigation in Local Hands

NAHB encouraged members to contact their representatives to vote for H.R. 5473, the Promoting Resilient Buildings Act. This bipartisan legislation extends a sunsetting provision in the 2018 Disaster Recovery Reform Act that gives local governments, home builders and home owners flexibility in their natural disaster mitigation plans. The Disaster Recovery Reform Act established the definition of “building codes” to include the latest two published editions of relevant codes  (rather than just the single latest edition), when reviewing for natural disaster mitigation.

Recruiting, Training and Retaining Skilled Workers

An ongoing, elevated count of open jobs for the overall economy is part of the reason the Fed decided to hike interest rates this year.   Now as the number of open jobs falls for many sectors, we’re seeing monetary policy ease in response.   For construction, however, job openings remain relatively elevated.  NAHB says this reflects the ongoing skilled labor shortage and the ultimate solution will not be found by slowing worker demand. 

The Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) concurs with NAHB about the labor shortage. The construction industry had 423,000 job openings on the last day of October.  “With nearly half of contractors intending to increase their staffing levels over the next six months, according to ABC’s Construction Confidence Index, the lack of available workers will remain a headwind for the construction industry over the next several quarters,” say ABC.

New Assistance for Housholds Earning Below the AMI

Bipartisan legislators in both the House and Senate introduced the Workforce Housing Tax Credit Act.  It would establish a new tax credit to produce affordable rental housing for households earning 100% or less of the area median income (AMI). The new bill builds upon the successful Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which finances the construction of rental housing generally serving households earning up to 60% of AMI.

2024 International Builders’ Show Returns to Las Vegas, Feb. 27-29

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) will hold the largest annual light construction trade show in the world at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Feb. 27-29, 2024.   The 2024 NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS) will again co-locate with the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s (NKBA) Kitchen & Bath Industry Show® (KBIS) for the 11th Annual Design & Construction Week® (DCW).

The two shows will host 1,900 exhibiting brands spanning nearly 1.1 million net square feet of exhibit space, with 100,000+ expected attendees, making it the largest annual gathering of the residential design and construction industry in the world.  This event is the spotlight for the industry’s cutting-edge products and trends.   Attendees can choose from 100+ education sessions offered during the event, led by renowned experts on a wide range of industry topics. 

The 2024 New American Home®returns to the community of Ascaya in Henderson, Nev., site of three previous editions of The New American Home (2019, 2020 and 2023). The 2024 edition features  a unique stone application that is prominently featured on the interior walls, matching the home’s façade intended to blend with the natural landscape surrounding the property.  Another highlight is a unique system of waterproofing and floor-heating products   

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