NAR: Repeal of Clean Water Rule Should Spur Homebuilding

September 12, 2019

The Trump administration on Thursday formally repealed the Waters of the U.S. rule, an Obama-era environmental regulation that drew criticism from the real estate industry for imposing burdensome restrictions on housing development near water sources.

The National Association of REALTORS® expressed support for the move, saying WOTUS overreached its statutory jurisdiction by giving the federal government authority to regulate isolated and minor water features, such as ephemeral streams and manmade ditches. “From the perspective of the real estate industry, this would have decreased the supply of affordable housing by increasing the regulatory burdens and costs of building new housing units,” Kathleen M. McQuilkin, chair of NAR’s Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment Committee, said at an event in Washington, D.C., announcing the repeal. “Regulatory consistency is critical for real estate markets to function effectively.”

Earlier this year, NAR sent a letter to Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, urging WOTUS reforms. In the letter, NAR commended the White House for striking “an appropriate balance between regulatory clarity and transparency and the need for robust environmental protection of waters and wetlands.”

Since the rule first emerged in 2015, NAR has contended that a responsible, pragmatic repeal of WOTUS would reinject certainty and consistency in the construction permitting and development process while protecting water quality and property rights. “Clean water is essential to life. It creates the opportunity for a healthy environment, a growing economy, and allows us to live in vibrant neighborhoods across this country,” NAR President John Smaby said in a statement. “We commend White House efforts to repeal this rule and continue to push for market-based solutions that enhance the quality of our water resources while protecting private property rights.”

Last December, the EPA and Department of the Army signed a proposal to revise the definition of WOTUS and clarify the federal government’s authority under the Clean Water Act. Thursday’s repeal of the rule was the culmination of the Trump administration’s two-and-a half-year effort to strike down WOTUS.

Moving forward, NAR will focus on securing a replacement rule for WOTUS as the administration continues its work to develop the new regulation. “As proposed, the WOTUS replacement rule will provide clarity on what waters are under federal jurisdiction and preserves state authority over waters in their respective states,” McQuilkin said. “Most importantly, the proposed rule offers a common-sense approach that allows for economic development while protecting water quality.

“NAR encourages the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to move forward quickly but carefully to finalize the replacement rule—one that will enable more housing to be built so that even more people in this country can have their piece of the American dream.”