A controversial state bill limiting local control on housing design standards could re-emerge in next year’s session, after it was dropped last summer.

House Bill 302 appeared in February. As it was written then, it would limit local governments’ ability to govern some parts of the design of one and two family homes. Cities could no longer mandate things like exterior materials, roof materials, porch styles, foundation type, window style and other design features many cities regulate.

It was very unpopular with city governments, and local cities were no exception.

“HB 302 creates a one-size-fits-all direction to property development in that any builder can basically do what they want, without regard to local impacts of traffic, schools, tax bases, neighboring property owners values, or general aesthetics,” Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes said at the time.

The bill did not get called for a vote. But it’s far from dead.

The legislature operates on a two-year cycle, so the bill might be recalled.

Loganville and Social Circle have both passed resolutions this month supporting “locally established building design standards for residential dwellings.”

Propes said Monroe will wait for something more concrete before taking action.

The Georgia Municipal Association has been vehemently opposed to the measure.

“Special interest groups are promoting the misleading narrative that local residential building design standards are barriers to workforce housing,” the group said this fall in a statement on its website.

“Legislation to preempt local ability to establish these community design standards is being promoted by the Georgia Homebuilders Association of Georgia, Georgia Association of Realtors, the Council for Quality Growth, the Georgia Chamber and other special interests.”

While the bill itself did not pass last session, the legislature did create a group to study workforce housing needs this fall.

It’s been led by Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, who is HB 302’s sponsor. It has met three times this fall, and has heard from all sorts of players in the housing game, from Habitat for Humanity to the Vinyl Siding Institute to Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

The bills backers see it as a way to reduce housing costs for middle class Georgians.

“Many of our local educators, police, firefighters and emergency service workers are priced out of their communities by local government regulations. HB302 will put a stop to those regulatory burdens and provide these individuals the freedom to build their dream home,” the Georgia Association of Realtors said in the statement about the bill last year.

Rep. Bruce Williamson, R-Monroe, said the bill had been recommitted to the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs committee, but he had not heard anything about it being brought up for a vote.

Williamson initially signed on to support the bill last year because it maintained personal property rights. But he later said he wouldn’t vote for the bill because it painted with “too broad a brush.”

Andrew Kenneson was a staff writer for The Walton Tribune from 2018-20.

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