So it’s started. If you read my Government Affairs update post last month, you know that the California Association of Realtors is expecting as many as 6 or more point-of-sale (POS) bills to make their way through the legislature this year. Our track record in defeating these bills is excellent to the point where most legislators (and their handlers) don’t even bother to introduce a bill with point-of-sale attached because they know it’ll go nowhere. We’ve seen on average of one a year for the past 20 years and have slapped down almost all of those.
So why the big increase this year? Two reasons – first, as discussed before, there is overwhelming drive for anything GREEN this year. The science behind, or the cost of the associated project is almost irrelevant in the crush to implement anything GREEN. This is the type of group-think mentality that pervades our government from the top down these days and will be responsible for significantly increasing the costs of all our goods and services until this greensanity is brought under control.
The second reason we’re seeing an influx of POS bills is that there is a perception among some of the lobbying groups that Realtors are suffering from diminished influence these days. With increased union/liberal/Democrat control of Sacramento, the lobby for reason, for fiscal responsibility and private property rights is fighting the battle against longer odds. Second, they feel that with our membership numbers in decline that we are less prepared both numerically and monetarily to wage our battles.
The vanguard bill will likely come out of an effort by the State Water Department to inflict a POS bill on homeowners. The verbiage is being finalized and they will start a series of statewide public hearings on the matter within 30 days. Based on the information they collect from the public, they intend to modify the State Water Code to require property owners to retrofit ‘existing outdated, high water use plumbing fixtures upon resale’ with ‘water conserving plumbing fixtures’ and mandates that the seller and/or agent disclose compliance.
Existing plumbing fixtures defined as the following:
- any toilet that uses more than 1.6 gallons per flush
- any urinal using more that 1 gallon per flush
- any showerhead with a flow capacity more than 2.5 gallons per minute
- any interior faucet that emits more than 2.2 gallons per minute
Water conserving plumbing fixtures are defined as ‘any fixture that uses less water than the existing fixture.
So what’s wrong with this POS POS bill? Where t start.
First of all, POS bills NEVER accomplish what the authors claim they will. In this case the water department is under pressure to comply with the recently adopted ACWA standard mandating a 20% reduction in water use by 2020. Let’s put aside the argument that there really is no water shortage in the state but simply a politically motivated transmission problem (Delta Smelt, peripheral canal, etc). So the goal is to conserve water – an admirable goal. Does this POS bill accomplish that?
Not even close. Even the water department will tell you that household domestic water usage only accounts for about 20% of gross water usage and only a small percentage of that is considered waste. That leaves 80% of our domestic water usage outside the home – watering our lawns, washing our cars, cleaning our driveways, etc. Not only is the majority of water used outside our homes but the percentage of wastewater generated is significant – over spray, run-off, etc. So this bill doesn’t even address the largest are of water waste in domestic consumption. It addresses a small percentage of a small percentage of our usage – hardly likely to produce the desired 20% cut in usage. And don’t even ask about non-domestic water consumption. But it is a great excuse to jack our water rates through the roof.
Further, POS is a notoriously ineffective way to accomplish even this limited goal. On average statewide between 2% and 3% of homes change hands every year. Given that degree of penetration, you do the math on how many years it will take to reach enough homes in the state to register any statistical impact.
So the water department is going after a small percentage of a small percentage of water users in the least effective way possible. Yet they might succeed because the stated purpose of the regulation is to ‘conserve water’ a very GREEN goal. In the meanwhile, it will increase the cost of buying or selling a home in the state by anywhere from a few hundred (just for the inspection) to a few thousand – depending on the age of the home and the number of fixtures that need to be replaced.
In typical fashion the deparment hasn’t addressed the issue of inspection – who will do it, what will they charge, and how pervasive will their powers be to enter and cite homeowners for other violation they may observe (electrical, structural or other plumbing issues not in compliance). Anytime you increase the cost of buying or selling a home, you decrease the affordability of that property and while that may not seem an issue at current pricing levels, the bottom line is that every $100 increase to the price of a home eliminates nearly 1,000 potential buyers for that home across all levels of home from first-timers right on up the ladder.
So we’re looking at a proposed bill that doesn’t address the biggest issue of water usage at the home, inflicts unknown costs on homeowners to meet these specious goals, and doesn’t even mandate a degree of compliance – just that the new fixtures use less water than the existing fixtures.
Of course if the water depsrtment is correct then most of you won’t even read about this. And if you do, you won’t do anything about it until the bill has passed and it’s too late to do anything but bitch about it. I’m hoping the water department is wrong on this because if they’re not, we’ll be seeing more and more incursions into our business by people that wouldn’t have dared take us on a year ago. And your business and your customers will be on the losing end.