By Jeff Montejano
CEO, Building Industry Association of Southern California
There is a worrisome trend occurring in many California cities and counties regarding the adoption of new housing policies that will pave the way for higher home prices and an increase in the overall cost of living for residents.
Close to 50 municipalities have passed laws that severely limit or outright ban natural gas hookups in new home construction. This means appliances such as gas ovens, stoves, and heaters will no longer be allowed. The rationale behind these misguided policies is based on the argument that eliminating natural gas in homes will help meet California’s ever-increasing greenhouse gas emission goals set by Sacramento.
This coordinated effort to strip residents of their freedom to decide how to power their homes fails to acknowledge the negative consequences brought about by such stringent measures. This begins with the fact that amid California’s dire housing crisis, banning natural gas in new homes will directly increase the cost of new housing. All-electric mandates can add as much as an extra $3,500 in construction expenses, leaving builders no choice but to pass these added costs on to homebuyers.
Beyond increasing the cost of housing, a ban on natural gas will lead to additional increases in California’s already skyrocketing cost of living. A report by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability found that whole house electrification programs will worsen daily peak electricity loads, thus increasing household utility bills.
And who will be the most impacted by these added costs? According to the UCLA report, “Low-income residents of disadvantaged communities, who have the least flexible work schedules, the least access to high-efficiency appliances and energy management systems, and inhabit the most poorly insulated housing stock, will be most adversely affected by these changes.”
Make no mistake, these local regulations are just the first step in the effort to eliminate the use of natural gas, not only in newly built homes, but in all homes. This is precisely what has happened in San Francisco, where the Board of Supervisors proposed retrofitting over 240,000 gas-powered homes to make them electric only. What they failed to consider was the cost to implement such a monumental undertaking, which is estimated to be as high as $5.9 billion.
Once again, we are witnessing the continued effort to impose new government regulations designed to control how and where we live. The crusade to ban natural gas is driven by the same ideology that pushed forward California’s latest set of onerous housing regulations known as Vehicle Miles Traveled. This deeply flawed approach to new home construction rests on the idea that significant reductions in vehicle-generated greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by compelling the construction of expensive high-density housing in neighborhoods close to jobs and public transit. This would force people out of their cars, creating a greater dependence on government-run mass transit systems like crowded buses and trains.
To date, the vast majority of cities and counties that have passed laws restricting the use of natural gas are located in Northern California. In contrast, over 140 governmental bodies across Southern California have passed resolutions urging state policymakers to safeguard the ability of Californians to choose natural gas, propane, or electric appliances for their homes.
All utility companies, gas or electric, should be able to pursue California’s emission goal standards while providing customers with the most affordable options under their local government authority. Whether through the passage of formal resolution or statute, elected officials at the local and state levels need to make it clear that eliminating natural gas in our homes is simply bad public policy.
Our communities deserve affordable energy options, not added expenses.
Jeff Montejano serves as CEO of the Building Industry Association of Southern California.