Personal Freedom

Governments Officials Aren’t Design Professionals

How much of your life should the government control? Should government entities have the power to control the color of your house, the number of bedrooms in it, and the decorative elements of it? Up until recently, local governments had the power to control each of these aspects of your home.

Last week, the Utah legislature met in a special session to consider a host of topics from drought conditions to mask mandates. But one bill that has been overlooked and underrated is H.B. 1003 sponsored by Representative Paul Ray.

H.B. 1003 addresses building regulations which are instituted by local governments in Utah. The bill prohibits a municipality from imposing a requirement for a building design element on a one or two family dwelling. 

Those design elements that were previously allowed to be regulated include: exterior color; type or style of exterior material; style of roof or porch; exterior ornamentation; design or placement of a window or door; design or placement of a garage door; the number of rooms; interior layout of a room; minimum square footage over 1,000 square feet, not including a garage; rear yard landscaping requirements; minimum building dimensions; and a requirement to install front yard fencing.

All these design elements are nonstructural and unrelated to safety yet were allowed to be managed by the government. Certainly, private Homeowners Associations can continue to regulate these things and deed restrictions can still impose restrictions, but prior to the passage of this legislation, a local government could impose arbitrary design requirements on any property.

Prohibiting local governments from making design choices for property owners is the right move for two reasons.

Utah is in the midst of a housing crisis, and prices are hitting record-breaking highs. Burdensome requirements only add to the list of costs that are borne by a builder and then passed to the consumer. Eliminating these requirements has the potential to decrease the cost of building and purchasing a home.

But even if this change doesn’t result in large-scale savings for Utah families, it was still the right move. Government regulations should be created to protect the health and safety of a community — the color of a home or number of bedrooms in it impacts neither of those. This legislation moves Utah toward more principled governance. 

Aesthetic design factors simply do not merit government force.