The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) applauded Senate passage of the Water Resources and Development Act, legislation that would provide much-needed funding to strengthen levees and protect more home owners from the tragic consequences of flooding and storm damage in communities all over the country. The vote was 91-7.
“It’s important to invest in our nation’s infrastructure to protect our most vulnerable communities,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly, a home builder and developer from Wilmington, Del.
Now headed to the President’s desk, the bill would authorize 34 development and conservation projects from Florida to California, including major flood-prevention work in North Dakota, Mississippi and Iowa along with a number of wetlands restoration projects. The $12.3 billion package – with funding coming from other lower-priority public works projects that have been suspended – should allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin work later this year.
Kelly thanked Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) for their bipartisan efforts in advancing the bill through the House. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, spearheaded passage of the bill through that chamber.
It’s welcome news for home buyers as well: In the wake of damage caused by flooding after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 the Corps had decertified levees in communities all over the country. North of Sacramento, home builders faced a moratorium on further construction because of the new requirements.
“This had been one of the major growth areas in the Sacramento region” before home building almost ground to a halt in 2008, said Jeff Pemstein, division president for Homes by Towne and former chair of the Building Industry Association of California.
“This is a critical turning point in the future of permanent flood protection in our communities,” said Carlita Dietz, president of the Home Builders Association of Fargo-Moorhead, N.D. “Flood protection for the Red River Valley not only ensures the safety of over 200,000 residents but provides builders the confidence they need to continue to grow and thrive in the community.” Dietz also thanked the congressional delegations her state and in Minnesota for their efforts.
With new federal funding to supplement state and local efforts, residential development projects will be able to move forward, and neighborhoods all over the country will no longer be deemed at risk. “This will allow home owners in many communities to sleep better at night,” Kelly said.