I started out 2015 by attending the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, and I returned with many fresh ideas and new products circling in my head. It gives one time to reflect where the industry has been and where we are headed. Although I aspire to own many of the great new items I saw, one in particular that caught my eye (or bum) was the no-touch flush toilets. That’s something I could get used to.
I was thrilled to see that housing in our area was up in 2014 with 1,035 new housing permits compared with 1,021 in 2013. This is the first rise in housing starts since 2010. I expect the number of new home permits to continue upward in 2015. A majority of growth in 2014 happened in Kennewick. The construction of the Trios hospital in the Southridge area has spurred growth that will continue for years to come for Kennewick. Richland should see an uptick in 2015 with new developments getting platted. As the economy continues to grow, interest rates stay low, and consumer confidence continues to be on the rise, the Home Builders Association of the Tri-Cities sees a great 2015 ahead.
With success come the challenges. The building industry is a constant target for regulations and fees. Developers are seen as bad for the environment. Governments see the building industry as a way to add needed income into their budgets. Regulators see a chance to add more building codes and restrictions to our industry, which has some of the highest standards in the nation. Maintaining our presence in the community and voicing our concerns over proposed regulations and fees is at the forefront of the HBA. We believe the best solutions are achieved when we collaborate on policies and regulations. Advocacy will continue to be an important priority as the HBA moves forward.
We live and build in one of the cleanest states in the nation. Ranking in the top 10 in many areas of the environmental status, Washington is ranked sixth out of 50 in the Clean Tech Leadership index, which summarizes 69 separate indicators, and eighth for per capita CO2 emissions in the nation as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Since 1990, the state has decreased its CO2 emissions from 0.33 percent to 0.21 percent in 2011. The houses of today are more energy efficient and use many new technologies, such as geo-thermal heat, which not only make our lives better, but save us valuable time and money in our daily lives. Balancing environmental concerns and consumer requests brings our efforts to collaborate into focus for the future of both the building industry and the environment.
The future holds many opportunities for the consumers to make housing choices in our area, with over 613 builder and associate members who employ more than 10,000 people in our area. There are great choices in housing, from solar powered skylights, to hybrid hot water tanks, to natural stone choices in flooring. The building industry really has it all for providing many options to make a house your home. Home is where families make memories that last a lifetime.