If it wasn’t for a surge of successful advocacy efforts led by the Northwest Arkansas Home Builders Association (NWAHBA), it would have been much more challenging to attract home buyers in Fayetteville, Ark.
Back in June, Aaron Wirth, president of NWAHBA, proactively set up a meeting with members of the Fayetteville city council to discuss issues related to the home building industry. The meeting was overall positive.
A few months later, officials turned their focus to a specific home building issue. The city council proposed an ordinance that would limit the width of residential driveways.
“We were blindsided,” says Shana Kasparek, executive officer of NWAHBA. The HBA was concerned the ordinance would affect future home owners from having the right to build an accessible driveway or garage on their property and increase the cost of their home. In turn, the ordinance would potentially discourage local builders and future home owners from building in Fayetteville.
Opposition to the proposed ordinance was a no-brainer for the HBA. “When you limit [driveway widths] and say you have to do it a certain way, we don’t think that should come from an ordinance or be mandated by the city, but rather the builder should work on that and the customer should make the ultimate decision,” Wirth told a local ABC News station.
The HBA found out about the proposed ordinance only a few days before the first public meeting. “We rallied the troops,” said Kasparek. The association quickly reached out to their existing partners including local realtors, builders, suppliers and just about any industry stakeholder impacted by the issue. Kasparek sent out press releases, lined up a variety of speakers and helped coordinate messaging in preparation for the upcoming city council meetings.
The response was overwhelming. Packed city council meetings went up to six hours as speakers lined up to oppose the ordinance. When a counterpoint was made that the ordinance would not impact millennial home buyers during one meeting, at the next meeting millennials showed up in droves to express opposition.
The ordinance failed by a vote of 4-4.
Kasparek credits NWAHBA’s leadership, vast local network and highly engaged membership for the favorable outcome. She encourages HBAs who do not have full-time government affairs staff to form a group of members who are willing to keep a pulse on local housing issues and identify members who can be spokespersons at a moment’s notice.
For more information on how NAHB can help your association navigate local and state issues, contact Karl Eckhart.