Austin adds affordable housing, AIA updates its interior contract documents, Congress stalls reforms of the National Flood Insurance Program, Colorado criminalizes wage theft, and Charleston, S.C. works towards resilient homes
Austin Creates Innovative Plan to Boost Affordable Housing
City leaders in Austin, Texas are backing an innovative policy to increase the amount of affordable housing. The plan relaxes zoning restrictions and provides incentives for higher density construction in affordable and mixed-income developments. To qualify, 50% of the housing in a development must be affordable—priced for families earning 60% or less of median family income (MFI) for the area.
For-sale properties must be affordable at 80% of MFI or below. If projects meet baseline criteria, developers could increase density and total rentable or sellable space. That includes the go-ahead to build higher than a zoning district’s limits.
Other loosened restrictions include a reduction of setbacks and minimum lot sizes, waiving height/setback compatibility standards, and bringing accessible-parking requirements up to code. The program is applicable in commercial and residential zoning districts, except in industrial zones or near sites that present certain health hazards, and in most special-use zoning and overlay districts.
AIA Updates Interiors Contract Documents
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has released six revised contract documents designed for interior construction projects. The new interior contract documents will allow architects to better understand risks and responsibilities associated with designing building interiors, according to an AIA news release. The new documents also support management of vendors—for furniture, fixtures, and equipment—and contractors.
The new contracts include residential, retail, entertainment, and hospitality. A notable change is the new B254-2019, Standard Form of Architect’s Services: Purchasing Agent Services for Furniture, Furnishings, & Equipment (FF&E) contract that allows architects the option to purchase FF&E on behalf of an owner.
Revised interior documents include:
· A151-2019, Standard Form of Agreement between Owner and Vendor for Furniture, Furnishings, and Equipment (FF&E)
· A751-2019, Invitation and Instructions for Quotation for Furniture, Furnishings and Equipment (FF&E)
· B152-2019, Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect for Interior Design and Furniture, Furnishings, and Equipment (FF&E) Design Services
· B252-2019, Standard Form of Architect’s Services: Interior Design and Furniture, Furnishings, and Equipment (FF&E) Design Services
· B253-2019, Standard Form of Architect’s Services: Furniture, Furnishings, and Equipment (FF&E) Design Services
· B254-2019, Standard Form of Architect’s Services: Purchasing Agent Services for Furniture, Furnishings, & Equipment (FF&E)
Congress Stalls on National Flood Insurance Program Reform
The U.S. Congress has been unable to reach a consensus on reforming the National Flood Insurance Program despite widespread belief that such action is needed. Lawmakers have only been able to agree on short-term extensions since the program’s last five-year authorization expired in September 2017.
Perpetuating the status quo makes no sense when the nation is spending billions annually on disaster relief, according to a National Wildlife Federation official. Environmental advocates and other critics say the current flood insurance programs enables more home construction in flood-prone areas that are too vulnerable to damage. Another criticism is that FEMA floodplain maps are outdated, which also fosters construction and reconstruction in areas that are likely to flood.
Colorado Makes Wage Theft a Felony
Colorado this month enacted a law that makes intentional nonpayment of more than $2,000 of wages a felony theft. The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, targets unscrupulous employers that purposefully withhold wages, underpay workers, and engage in tax fraud.
Analysis by the Colorado Fiscal Institute found that more than 500,000 workers in the state lose $750 million a year because of wage theft. Many of those workers are employed in the construction industry.
Charleston, S.C., Testing Methods to Make Old Homes More Resilient and Sustainable
In a city with an old, historic housing stock, updating homes to make them more resilient and more energy efficient can be a huge challenge. In Charleston, S.C., where the threats of sea level rise and hurricanes are acute; there has been increased interest in energy efficiency and flood protection in the historically significant Eastside neighborhood.
Charleston is trying new approaches to address these issues through a $150,000 grant from the Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund (a project of the Southeastern Sustainability Directors Network and The Kendeda Fund, with support from Merck Family Fund). The funding will spur test solutions including weatherization, solar power, and flood-proofing for Eastside’s low-income homeowners.