Last year, Delegate Chris Adams strongly opposed a bill to require sprinklers in newly built homes, fearing the extra cost – an additional $4 or more per square foot – would deter buyers.
Before the 2016 Maryland Legislative Session, he pre-filed a bill that would allow each county to decide on the sprinkler mandate, saying decision making authority should be in the hands of local governments. The bill, LR1031, died in committee.
“We put together a response and what happened is, we were able to negotiate with the Department of Housing and Community Development to use a federal grant program to provide $5,000 of down payment assistance for a first-time home buyer, or someone of limited means. That comes close to paying for these sprinkler systems,” a triumphant Adams told the Salisbury Independent.
Federal funds had to be matched, and Adams said he’s pleased they will be, thanks to Wicomico County officials. When they eliminated impact fees last year, the state agreed to accept that elimination as the county’s contribution, County Administrator Wayne Strausburg said.
A news release issued by the Department of Housing and Community Development explained buyers purchasing newly constructed homes in designated priority funding areas can receive a 25 percent interest rate reduction on a fixed-rate Maryland Mortgage loan, $5,000 in down payment assistance through a 0 percent and mortgage credit certificate and tax credit savings through the Maryland Homecredit Program.
“Potential homebuyers are subject to household income limits and must meet standard qualifications under the Maryland Mortgage program, including completion of homebuyer education.
“Created over 30 years ago, the Maryland Mortgage program is the state’s flagship homeownership assistance program, providing fixed-rate mortgages, primarily to first-time homebuyers, along with other down payment and closing cost incentives,” the news release states.
Originally, County Council members said the County couldn’t help offset the cost of sprinklers, but after the impact fee repeal, the program NewBuild Wicomico County was formed.
“We presented it to the County Council before Christmas and it was approved. There are other bills coming through, but none as impactful as this $5,000,” Adams said.
Loans won’t have to be repaid until the home is sold.
“In Wicomico County it will be viable, but other counties will have to take a different route,” Adams said.
“We’ll take all the help we can get,” Delegate Carl Anderton said, but the program is a temporary fix that expires on Dec. 1, he said.
Sen. Jim Mathias and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes, he said, “will do a tax incentive for first-time home buyers and this will lay on top of low-interest rates for first-time home owners,” he said.
In 2012, Adams said last year, state officials, under Gov. Martin O’Malley, “took the land-use decision making from the counties” and instituted a “one-size-fits-all law that once again unfairly burdens Eastern Shore families.”
He called the mandate “a back door attempt by big city liberals to halt economic growth on the Eastern Shore” and said requiring sprinklers could increase the cost of a home by 10 percent.
“We are a rural area. This is a rural issue. Everybody campaigns on the problems Annapolis creates for rural areas … if this mandate isn’t changed, you would see a lot of townhouse construction, a lot of apartments. I am talking about a home with a front yard, a back yard. It’s living the America dream in home ownership,” Adams said.
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.