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Georgia Preserves Apartment Developers’ Right to Use Wood in Construction

wood construction

In a big win for the industry, the Georgia General Assembly approved legislation to preempt localities from prohibiting wood construction in multifamily housing developments in the state. Georgia House Bill 876 prevents municipalities from restricting wood construction so long as Georgia's building code and fire safety requirements are met. The legislation would also invalidate existing prohibitions on wood-framed construction in several local municipalities. 

During the last few years, there has been an increase in proposals to restrict or eliminate wood multifamily housing construction at the state and local levels. Advocates are attempting to bypass the ICC code process, as their proposals would not pass muster here. With that in mind, they now go directly to state and local governments in pursuit of restrictions. They use recent examples of multifamily housing construction fires as justification for these measures. As previously covered, these fires are isolated, are usually due to construction worker errors and take place during the brief period before the building’s sprinkler systems are online. To date, most efforts to impose these restrictions for state or local building codes have been unsuccessful.

Local stakeholders, including the Georgia Apartment Association, took a proactive approach in response to proposed local code changes. HB 876 was reviewed and subsequently supported by the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committees in both houses of the Georgia legislature. Proponents of the bill demonstrated that wood framing was a cost-effective solution to meet the state’s ever-growing housing needs. Further, by passing the bill, the state avoids a possibly sizeable negative effect on the economy through less demand for Georgia lumber. 

The governor is expected to consider the bill before May 8; however, some mayors in the state have convened to discuss filing a lawsuit as they believe the new law infringes on their municipalities’ rights to regulate local building codes. 

The recent success in Georgia can serve as blueprint for other affiliates in efforts to protect and advance much-needed affordable multifamily housing development. NAA has resources available to assist with these efforts, including research, fire safety talking points, information regarding construction safety programs and the NAA/NMHC Building Codes Toolkit.

For more information, contact Holly Charlesworth via email or at 347-957-7759