Texas Legislature needs to un-act some regulation pronto
New requirements on the engineers who certify the windstorm resistance of structures have caused problems that, without emergency revision, will kill the Texas coastal real estate market. Strangely for a state that prides itself for nonrestrictive government, way too much of it is causing the fatal condition and a lot less of it is the only cure.
A story in Sunday’s Caller-Times by Rick Spruill describes a nightmarish regulatory double whammy. The engineers face a new certification requirement that they say their engineering licenses more than trump as a measure of competency. They also face audits by the Texas Department of Insurance that are both expensive and frequent enough to make their participation no longer financially sustainable.
The predictable result is that Atlas is shrugging just like the late Ayn Rand warned. Engineers are taking their rigorously licensed know-how elsewhere rather than have it second-guessed by auditors whose background is insurance rather than engineering. The number of engineers in the program shrank from 900 last year to 201 as of Feb. 15. In Corpus Christi alone, the number shrank from 41 on Dec. 31 to 23 as of this month. Those who remain probably are doing so only until they must recertify or are audited.
The intent of the legislation was to raise standards in a beneficial way. But at the rate that engineers are leaving, the coastal real estate market will be in real peril soon. If no one certifies buildings or new roofs as windstorm-compliant, they’re virtually uninsurable. No insurance means no lending, which means no buying, at which point there’s no reason to build or renovate.