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ACC Officials Raise Concerns About Housing Bill


ACC officials are concerned about a House bill co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) that groups like the Georgia Municipal Association say would prohibit local governments from setting design standards for single-family homes.

Commissioner Mike Hamby told Flagpole that House Bill 302 could make it easier to construct cheaply built, oversized infill McMansions. “This takes away local government’s ability to regulate designs for single-family homes,” he said. Frye, however, said it only applies to a house’s appearance—roof styles, window styles, exterior cladding and color—and won’t affect zoning laws related to height or setbacks.

Hamby provided a list of local ordinances from county Attorney Bill Berryman and Planning Director Brad Griffin that could be affected, including a ban on “snout houses” with garages sticking out in front of the home, roof-line standards associated with required setbacks, local fire-safety codes and a definition of “bedroom” that helps restrict occupancy in student rentals.

Frye said legislators are concerned about local laws that restrict the use of lumber and concrete made in Georgia. For example, Oconee County recently passed a law banning slab-built houses. Lee Becker of the blog Oconee County Observations reported extensively about HB 302 earlier this week.

Frye, the executive director of Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, also said eliminating some design standards would make it easier to build affordable housing. “Any rule we make regarding housing makes housing more expensive,” he told Flagpole. He made the same point during a meeting with county commissioners in December.

“Poor people want nice houses, too,” Hamby responded.

The bill’s main sponsor is Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain). It’s currently awaiting a hearing in the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee. That committee’s chairman, Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton), is a co-sponsor of the bill, as is House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington), meaning it’s likely on a fast track to pass. HB 302 also has bipartisan support from Rep. Winfred Dukes (D-Albany), in addition to Frye.