Statewide rent control in Oregon, bills that would keep design out of the hands of cities and counties, flame retardant-free building insulation in California, construction wage theft violations, and the impact of persistent flooding in coastal cities
Persistent Flooding Having Economic Impact on Coastal Cities
Persistent flooding from high tides and minor storms are damaging economies in some coastal cities including Atlantic City and Annapolis. In Annapolis, Maryland’s capital, eight flood-affected downtown businesses missed out on 3,000 customer visits in 2017, according to a study by Stanford University researchers. The losses amounted to between $86,000 and $172,000, the study says.
The report highlights the fact that flooding doesn’t have to be tsunami-like from giant storms to damage local economies. Lesser amounts of water surging from storm drains and gutters is having a notable impact, even though these flooding events don’t make national headlines.
Minor floods reduce customer visits to local businesses by about 40 percent compared with a normal day, the study says. Moderate floods diminish them by up to 65 percent, and major floods by nearly 90 percent. Given that one foot of water is enough to float some cars, and another foot will sweep even heavy ones off their wheels, these findings are not surprising.
Sixty Six Construction Companies Cited for Wage Theft Violations in Massachusetts
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey cited 66 construction companies with wage theft violations in 2018. The penalties total $2.7 million, which include almost $1.5 million in restitution and more than $1.2 million in fines. Violations occurred across both private and public work projects including paying improper wages, prevailing wages and overtime; submitting inaccurate certified payroll records; retaliation against workers asserting wage violations; failure to furnish records for inspection; and failure to register and pay apprentices correctly.
One of the largest wage violation assessments was $585,000 for restitution and fines against ERA Equipment LLC and its owners. The company was cited for not paying workers in a timely manner, failure to pay prevailing wage and overtime; failure to provide workers with proper pay stubs; and inadequate recordkeeping.
Healey’s office says that more than 1,030 employees were owed restitution.
California Will Allow Flame Retardant-Free Building Insulation
The California Building Standards Commission updated state building codes to allow for the use of flame retardant-free foam building insulation in below-grade applications. The change will permit foam insulation containing no flame retardants when installed below a minimum 3.5-inch thick concrete slab on grade. Labeling requirements apply for such products to prevent misuse in vertical or above-grade applications. Above-grade applications must continue to meet prescribed surface burning characteristics.
California has also repealed a flammability standard for upholstered seating used in public spaces. This will enable seating manufacturers to more easily meet state requirements without using chemical flame retardants.
State officials said that the use of organohalogen flame retardants typically used to meet a standard dating back to 1991 presents significant health risks to consumers, as established by “overwhelming scientific research.”
Bills in Two States Would Ban Cities, Counties from Controlling Design of Homes
Bills under consideration in Georgia and Arkansas would prevent cities and counties from controlling the look and design of homes. House Bill 302 in Georgia would take away the ability of localities from controlling things like the color and building material, number of rooms, and other design elements on single- and double-family houses.
A similar bill in the Arkansas Senate would do the same. The bills have the support of builders’ groups who say design restrictions are driving up the cost of housing. Opponents say the measures take away control of an issue that should be left up to local government.
Oregon Will Become First to Enact Statewide Rent Control
The Oregon legislature passed a bill that caps how much landlords can raise rents and stipulates how they may evict tenants. Governor Kate Brown is expected to sign the legislation, making Oregon the first U.S. state to limit how much landlords can raise rents.
The bill prohibits landlords across the state from raising rents more than 7 percent per year, plus the annual change in the consumer price index. It provides an exemption for rental properties that are less than 15 years old. The National Multifamily Housing Council says rent control laws exacerbate shortages, cause existing buildings to deteriorate, and disproportionately benefit higher-income households.