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HUD Adopts Updated Safe Harbor Standards

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has adopted new safe harbors for the design and construction industry regarding the Fair Housing Act. This is the first update to the safe harbors in 15 years.

The new standards go into effect March 8.

Some Background

FHA applies to the design and construction elements of multifamily housing (four or more dwelling units). The industries run into issues when the FHA codes don’t match local building codes.

Many times, when there is a conflict, the more stringent code is followed.  However, conflicts can arise in which neither code is necessarily more stringent, which is where the safe harbors come in—a way to maintain consistency on the codes that are used for the building project.

Tim1965, CC-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has adopted new safe harbors for the design and construction industry regarding the Fair Housing Act. This is the first update to the safe harbors in 15 years.

Once a safe harbor is chosen is much be applied to every aspect of the design and construction.

The issue then becomes that new building codes are updated every three years and then adopted at different times in different states, creating a lag between new codes and FHA requirements. A push has been made for HUD to update its codes and safe harbors in a timeframe that’s more in-step with buildings standards.

What Now

On Dec. 8 HUD adopted two new safe harbors as additions to the already-existing 10:

  • The 2009 edition of the International Code Council Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities (ICC A117.1-2009) standard, for the design of facilities that are accessible to persons with disabilities; and
  • The 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 editions of the International Building Code.

In addition to the safe harbor updates themselves, HUD has also changed its own rulemaking requirements. Now, HUD can propose a new safe harbor via Federal Register notice with a 30-day public comment period, which aims to allow more flexibility with future updates and changes.

The ICC applauded the changes and noted that it had taken part in the most recent comment period, along with the American Institute of Architects and the National Association of Homebuilders.

“The decision by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand the list of safe harbors to the 2009-18 editions of the IBC will have immediate positive impact on the government, the accessibility community and the construction industry,” said Code Council Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims, CBO.

“We appreciate the Department’s diligence and the participation by so many stakeholders who supported the proposed rule to update the Fair Housing Act safe harbors. The revisions HUD adopted to its process will enable faster review of future safe harbors, which is critical to maintaining this momentum. We look forward to reengaging with the Department in short order on its review of the 2021 IBC and the strengthened A117.1-2017 referenced within it.”

   

Tagged categories: Building codes; Good Technical Practice; Government; Housing; HUD; ICC; NA; North America; Regulations

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