11/09/2007: "Letters In Support Of Owner-Builder Program"
How absurd! At the same time there is a clamor for the county to "do something" about affordable housing, the county is proposing to balance the budget on the back of the one program that actually addresses the issue, the Owner-Builder program.
The specific purpose of the Owner-Builder program, per SJCC 15.04.510, is to provide maximum flexibility as to design and >materials with minimum requirements to achieve compliance with State requirements for public health and safety protections.
The proposal is to increase Owner-Builder fees using International Code Council Building Valuation Data on the same basis as conventional construction instead of the current flat fee. These standardized calculations do not recognize nonstandard, innovative techniques and cost-reduction efforts inherent in the Owner-Builder program. The result is that the Owner-Builder fee becomes subjective and even arbitrary and there is no incentive for innovation, antithetical to the purpose of the Owner-Builder program.
In addition to the potential for actually increasing the burden on staff, the result of this proposed change, I fear, will be even more unpermitted construction, and a decline in revenue rather than the expected increase.
If increasing revenues to balance the budget is indeed the goal (rather than eliminating the Owner-Building program altogether as one might suspect), then there is far more to be gained by increasing enforcement efforts on unpermitted construction and giving "ticket-writing" authority to the Code Enforcement Officer so that fines can be levied immediately when violations are discovered, rather than allowing "grace periods" for these egregious violations and the time and expense of going to court.
If fines for un-permitted construction were meaningful amounts and were actually collected, there would be no need to attempt to balance the budget on the back of a worthwhile and meaningful Owner-Builder program, which will doom not only the program itself but the anticipated revenue increase as well.