B y J i m W r i g h t
LAST WEEK ALAN P. Lurie, the current executive vice president of the Southern Arizona Home Builders Association (SAHBA), took The Arizona Daily Star to task in the newspaper's Op Ed column for a July 7 editorial.
The editorial, which chided the Pima County Board of Supervisors and called for a moratorium on building permits on Tucson's northwest side, apparently had the same effect on Lurie as if the Star had said something nasty about his mom.
During the course of his argument, Lurie mentioned the issue of builder contributions to infrastructure costs.
According to Lurie, the "government now collects about $9,000 in government-imposed fees on each and every new home."
These up-front payments to the government are for "exactions (loosely negotiated payments by builders to local government), escrow fees and building permit fees."
Nine grand seems like a lot to pay just to build a house. We wanted to hear more, so we called Lurie for an explanation.
He promptly faxed us his data. Hmmm...two of the items listed as "fees" on the SAHBA document were property and sale taxes totaling to $5,625 per lot.
When we asked SAHBA representative John Shorbe of Canoa Builders for an explanation, he admitted "those two items were broker issues" and probably didn't belong on the fee schedule. "But," said Shorbe, "even what's left ($3,375) is a hefty chunk of money" to pay the government just to build a house.
Well, actually, no, it's not.
And taking a closer look at the fees SAHBA says were government imposed, we find none of them were in fact "imposed" by the government. All the fees listed in the schedule provided by SAHBA were derived through an open process, a process in which the home builders were central.
The "fees" listed on the SAHBA schedule are in actuality fees for services such as water meter hook-ups, training and flood certification (remember all the builders who just a few years back insisted it was OK to build in the flood plain).
When we checked to see if all the fees on the SAHBA schedule applied, as Lurie said in his Op Ed piece, to "each and every new home" built in Greater Tucson, we found this, too, was misleading. The SAHBA fee schedule, Lurie said, was based on "averaging" from SAHBA's members using a 100-lot subdivision as a model. Many of the fees listed, such as VA escrow fees, averaged at $100 per lot, simply don't apply to "each and every new home" being built.
So, when the Pima County Board of Supervisors meets to discuss SAHBA's ideas for transportation infrastructure impact fees later this month, keep in mind that whatever ends up being worked out with the builder boys will no doubt end up being represented as "government imposed."
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