Advocating Affordability For Minnesota's Building Codes

The Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry’s Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) reviewing changes to the state’s building codes have just wrapped up their fifth week of work. Housing First Minnesota members and staff have been present at meetings, advocating increased housing affordability as Minnesota’s affordability crisis grows.

“Our message of affordability is clearly resonating,” said Nick Erickson, regulatory affairs manager for Housing First Minnesota. Erickson, along with Housing Frist Minnesota’s four TAG members, have been present at the Energy Code, Residential Building Code, Structural Code and Code Administration TAGs meetings, advocating for increased home affordability at the state reviews which code provisions to adopt.

Despite the added focus on home affordability, several important affordability issues have already risen during the first weeks of meetings:

  • Energy Code: The State of Minnesota is currently assessing whether or not a new residential energy code is needed. A new energy code would demand a five to six increase in efficiency, on top of the 30 percent increase in the current energy code. On Feb. 2, Housing First Minnesota presented the Department of Labor & Industry with a third option: Amend Minnesota’s current residential energy code to reduce costly provisions this year, then reaffirm the amended code when the state adopts the new building codes at the end.  
  • Building Code: At the Feb. 9 meeting of the Residential Building Code TAG, the sprinkler lobby announced it will seek to adopt the costly sprinkler mandate in Minnesota. After the BATC. V. DLI court ruling removing the past sprinkler mandate, and legislation affirming the court’s decision last year, the Department has not expressed interest in mandating sprinklers in single-family and two-family homes.

Housing First Minnesota will work with TAG members and Labor & Industry staff to keep affordability front-of-mind during the code update process.

Once the TAGs complete their work, changes to the various codes will be passed along to the Minnesota Construction Code Advisory Council, which will prepare recommendations for the Commissioner of Labor & industry. Minnesota’s new building codes, after working though he state’s rulemaking process, will go into effect March 2020.