Morning Minute: Homebuilders wary of fire sprinkler mandates, other overly stringent codes

Photo: Big Stock

Single-family homebuilders are concerned about the increasing number of building codes — including the push for mandatory fire sprinklers in new residential construction —  being promoted for public policy reasons that can needlessly drive up building costs, according to a new survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

One area of concern? Fire sprinkler mandates, something that REALTORS® have lobbied against  in favor of homeowners instead getting to make the installation choice themselves. In the NAHB survey, 58 percent of builders said they are “extremely concerned about the cost implications of codes associated with fire sprinklers.” Read more from NAHB.

In other headlines:

B-N home sales improve in October – Pantagraph

British Editor Touts NAR as Best in World – Daily Real Estate News

Federal Housing Administration back in the black – CNBC

RVOICE efforts bring wins on home rule, sales tax questions in Illinois Primary

The Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) used RVOICE funds to do voter outreach on three municipal referenda on the March 18 Primary Election ballot. IAR was successful in all three. Two were Home Rule referenda — in Rochester (Sangamon County) and Merrionette Park (Cook County) — and voters overwhelmingly rejected the question, agreeing with the IAR position.

  • Rochester Home Rule: 23% YES 77% NO
  • Merrionette Park Home Rule: 25% YES 75% NO

In the past, Home Rule units have enacted several ordinances on point-of-sale inspections and transfer fees/taxes, and a host of landlord regulations, just to name a few.

In Franklin Park (Cook County), voters approved a municipal sales tax. Since Franklin Park is not Home Rule, it must seek voter approval to enact a sales tax. Local REALTORS® supported the measure in order to help keep the property tax levy constant in future years and to fund the improvement of aging streets in the village.

  • Franklin Park Sales Tax 63% YES 37% NO

RVOICE sent direct mail and did automated phone calls to likely voters in these campaigns.


Heartland REALTOR® Organization and Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® team up to fight Fox Waterway Agency dissolution

By Conor Brown, IAR GAD representing Heartland REALTOR® Organization and Howard Handler, IAR GAD representing Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS®. 

Conor Brown, IAR Local Government Affairs Director

IAR GAD Conor Brown

With more than 7,000 units of local government – more than anyother state in the union – it is hard to argue that greater efficiencies can be found in Illinois. Many local units of government could probably be dissolved and their mission be undertaken by another agency. For instance, the Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) supported legislation allowing a referendum to determine if Evanston Township in Cook County should be dissolved and its responsibilities transferred to the city of Evanston.

The legislation, importantly, gave the voters the power to determine the future of the township. On the other hand, Senate Bill 2696 proposed this legislative session, seeks to abolish the Fox Waterway Agency (FWA) without voter approval. This is extra-troubling because the agency was created by voter approval.

Many of the lakes, channels and the Fox River, managed by the FWA, are just three to fivefeet deep. Dredging the silt and removal of fallen trees and other debris by the FWA has kept the waterway navigable. Additionally, the FWA has and continues to address flooding issues. The Fox River and the Chain O’ Lakes are one of the busiest inland waterways in the country and generates an estimated $60 million in commerce each year – the economics of the FWA should not be ignored.

IAR GAD Howard Handler

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) – the agency that would take over this responsibility if the legislation were to pass – likely could not focus on this particular waterway nearly as well as the FWA, and in fact, indications are that the IDNR does not want the added responsibility. Ultimately, this is taking away local control and putting powers and responsibilities into an underfunded state agency that has no capability of providing an adequate level of service.

For those reasons, the Heartland REALTOR® Organization and Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe) have formally opposed SB 2696. “We don’t oppose government consolidation, but we do oppose it without the informed consent of the community,” said Michael Lescher, a REALTOR® with RE/MAX Showcase and the MORe Lake County Government Affairs Committee chair.

“This isn’t a small little lake we’re talking about but rather a network of approximately 35 bodies of water and 45 miles of waterways that serve 3.5 million people annually, according to their website. This magnificent natural resource needs to be protected and maintained,” said Heartland’s CEO, Jim Haisler.



REALTOR® advocacy prompts Country Club Hills to eliminate fees on real estate signs

Tom Joseph

IAR GAD Tom Joseph

In a win for homeowners and the real estate market, the city of Country Club Hills will no longer apply a $25 city sticker fee on each real estate “For Sale” sign.

County Club Hills was among a handful of municipalities in southern Cook County that required REALTORS® to buy and place a real estate sticker stamp on all “For Sale” signs before signs could be placed in a window or on the front lawn of a home for sale.

The Illinois Association of REALTORS® and local REALTOR® associations have long advocated against these punitive and unfair municipal fees. The village of Glenwood, Ill. rescinded its real estate sign fee about five years ago, but there are other municipalities that still have real estate sign fees in place.

REALTORS® oppose these sign fees and see them as another way that Home Rule communities can pass along another “tax” to taxpayers in the form of a mandatory municipal fee.

Tom Joseph, the IAR Local Government Affairs Director (GAD) representing the south suburban Cook County area, worked with local leaders on the issue and thanked them for deciding to eliminate the unnecessary fees.

“To the credit of Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch, he viewed this as a hindrance that had a marginal financial incentive for the city. He and Glenwood Mayor Kerry Durkin want to promote real estate in their communities and after reviewing the numbers and everything else, they both agreed real estate sign fees did not make sense and were not needed anymore,” Joseph said.

Skokie passes comprehensive rental regulations after near two-year struggle

IAR GAD Howard Handler

The village of Skokie, nearly two years after it was first proposed, adopted a comprehensive rental regulation and crime-free ordinance on Jan. 6. The Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) and the members of the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® (NSBAR) were there every step of the way and successfully negotiated a number of key changes with village officials, including:

  • Eliminating a provision that would empower Skokie to sentence real estate licensees to a property management course.
  • Changing the ordinance from “licensing” to “registration” which rescinds the ability of the village to prevent someone from renting their property.
  • Altering a provision that would have required sellers to correct any building code violations prior to sale; the ordinance now allows buyers to undertake the repair (if they post a bond).
  • And much more.

Still, the ordinance is burdensome and flawed. Some components of the new ordinance include:

  • All rental property owners (or their agent) must attend a property management course taught by a police officer with likely no background in property management.
  • All rental properties, including single-family homes, now must undergo a government inspection of the property prior to sale. This is in addition to regular, ongoing inspections of Skokie rental properties.
  • Landlords must begin eviction proceedings if their tenant is allegedly engaged in criminal activity anywhere in the world. The standards to determine if one is engaged in criminal activity is vague, but falls far short of conviction.
  • And more.

NSBAR and IAR have found the ordinance to be needlessly complicated, fraught with constitutional concerns, holds renters to different standards than the rest of the community, and will likely diminish demand for Skokie real estate. A number of other organizations also weighed in against all or various portions of the ordinance, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sargent Shriver Center on National Poverty Law, Open Communities, The Institute for Justice, the Skokie Independent Landlord Association, Housing Action Illinois and the Chicagoland Apartment Association.

To read the ordinance, click here.