The recent natural catastrophes that devastated housing for Floridians and people around the world make us all reflect on the importance of a home. A home has far more significance than bricks and mortar, a fact that is well understood by members of the Home Builders Association of Sarasota County (HBA).
Larry Anderson, executive vice president of the HBA, makes it clear that housing is a vital element of the social fabric of our nation. A home, he says, is "fundamental to the American psyche. It's not just a place to hang clothes. It's the place you sleep, eat, raise a family, have holiday dinners. The need for a home is important to every human."
For that reason, the Home Builders Association of Sarasota County considers itself a vital resource that's more than a trade association for people in its industry. The group works to meet community needs in ways that go beyond serving its members or protecting the housing industry. It is actively involved in the range of local issues that help ensure housing affordability, safety, and the development of communities-not just physically but socially as well.
"Yes, we're the hammers and nails, but we're really talking of building the social aspects, the network, the neighborhood," says Anderson.
With home ownership as a goal, the HBA of Sarasota County plays an important role in building the community's dreams, both for those involved with the building industry and for anyone who is buying or remodeling a home.
Established in 1958 as a not-for-profit trade association and affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders and the Florida Home Builders Association, the HBA of Sarasota County is comprised of individuals and organizations with four common goals: To promote housing, protect the opportunity to provide housing, ensure education for its members and the community, and promote membership growth.
The HBA of Sarasota County now has almost 700 members who are involved in housing issues. Builder Members work in home construction, land development or remodeling. Associate Members include subcontractors, suppliers and other professionals who offer an important product or service to the home building industry and consumers. The latter category includes legal representation, financial services, and suppliers of everything that might possibly be needed in home building including windows, carpeting, wall coverings, painting, landscaping, framing, plumbing, pools, interior design and other specialty services.
The HBA has been leading the way toward better building practices. With the emphasis on storm safety, the HBA has worked with the National Association of Home Builders and the Florida Home Builders Association, of which there are 31 county branches, to establish policies that will protect people and property. The results are seen in the improved strength of buildings under Florida's updated hurricane codes. The HBA is proud that homes now are far more secure than they were 20 years ago, thanks to changes in the building code based on a response to Hurricane Andrew. More recently, the HBA worked to help establish new policies designed to prepare and protect worksites during a hurricane.
The HBA of Sarasota County also works to support its members and ensure that they will be able to function effectively after a storm. After all, it is they who will need to respond to the community's needs for replacement housing and repairs. "We help builders prepare and provide services to the community after the hurricane," says Anderson. "Basically the first call after emergency and insurance calls is to a contractor to fix whatever is broken."
Naturally, homebuilders are in business to make a profit, but they are vitally interested in keeping their housing products affordable. Ensuring affordable housing is a complex problem, so one of the main issues facing the HBA of Sarasota County is working within the community to find solutions. Anderson recently represented the organization at several growth management seminars where community leaders are preparing to address our region's growth-related issues. "We acknowledge the need for affordable housing, transportation, and all that entails," he says.
"The need for affordable housing exceeds the supply many times," Anderson continues. But he's also aware that market factors are raising the base cost of land. "What normally would have been an affordable price for a house 10 years ago is what the land alone costs today."
The cost of materials rose significantly after hurricanes Charley and Katrina due to a shortage of concrete and lumber, among other things. Plus, impact fees cause prices to go up. And that's before rising appreciation costs are factored in.
"All would agree that we don't want to have people commute long distances to go to work," says Anderson. The HBA is working to suggest solutions ranging from zoning increased density in some areas, moving the urban service boundary and creating land trusts to keep land costs down.
REACHING OUT TO THE HOMEOWNER
The HBA of Sarasota County provides consumers with valuable advice on the process of selecting a contractor and ways to ensure that their home or remodeling project will be well built. For starters, the organization recommends that anyone who is planning a home or remodeling project choose a member of the HBA, since members agree to a code of ethics and keep informed about federal, state and local initiatives, regulations, land use plans, inspection requirements, compliance issues and building codes that affect their business.
The HBA encourages homeowners to verify that prospective builders or remodeling firms are properly licensed and insured. And the HBA recommends interviewing builders in person and asking for references from their prior clients. Homeowners should request to see examples of work a builder has done, whether it's a model home or remodeling project.
Then, after hiring a builder, homeowners should meet the specific person who has been assigned by the builder to oversee construction. Naturally, anyone beginning a major construction project should read and understand the contract and any warranties that are offered. During the process, the HBA is happy to help consumers with questions about the process, act as a conduit for information and a guide in the process.
Besides offering advice to the community, members of the HBA of Sarasota County provide significant support in the form of charitable contributions, whether money or labor. This year the HBA partnered with Habitat for Humanity to provide the materials and volunteers that would build an entire home and they have plans to continue this type of support in the future.
The HBA offers college scholarships to qualifying young men and women who are seeking careers in the housing industry. It also offers a variety of other services and donations to a host of not-for-profit charities throughout our area.
What goes around comes around. A thriving community benefits the homebuilders who also live and work here. Anderson is proud of the role that the Home Builders Association plays here in Sarasota County. "Home ownership is one of the pillars of the community," he says. "Only when individuals own their homes does it lead to a sense of community. We provide that."