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Dallas Morning News: Dr. David Becka Guest Commentary
Wednesday, 08 December 2004
David Becka: Looking for protection

As the leader of Take Back Your Rights, the group that led the drive for an election on building controls, I'd like to respond to – and correct – a misconception... Builders should look upon this as nothing more than extra insurance and the cost of doing business in Frisco, a city whose residents care so deeply about quality home construction that they called for an election to ensure construction excellence.

David Becka: Looking for protection

Frisco residents should expect more than empty promises from builders

By DAVID BECKA

As the leader of Take Back Your Rights, the group that led the drive for an election on building controls, I'd like to respond to – and correct – a misconception.

Claims in a recent editorial and in a letter from a representative of the Home Builders Association of Greater Dallas that the proposed surety bond will force some new-home builders from Frisco and increase the cost of new homes are simply untrue. Our research shows that bonding companies will charge home builders merely pennies on the dollar to secure a bond. Plus, reputable builders – those who stand behind quality products with integrity – will be able to be bonded at a better rate.

Builders should look upon this as nothing more than extra insurance and the cost of doing business in Frisco, a city whose residents care so deeply about quality home construction that they called for an election to ensure construction excellence. After voters approve the surety bond charter amendment, new-home builders will join other vendors and contractors already required by Frisco to be bonded to operate in the city. It's a sensible concept already in use in Frisco.

Further, dozens of other states across this great nation already require home builders to be bonded. This fact hasn't brought construction of new homes to a standstill or caused negative consequences. In fact, the resounding result has been an overwhelming benefit to consumers in other parts of the country.

So why are new-home builders in Texas whining about the bond and about consumer protections in general? The answer is that they simply want to continue business as usual, with as little oversight as possible to stand in their way of quickly throwing up houses and moving on to the next plot of undeveloped land. But we think they know their time is running short.

Frisco residents want to stop this bad behavior by some builders, and that is why we believe voters will approve the charter amendments. Our grassroots group collected more than 9,300 signatures during the petition drive to call the election. Along the way, we spoke with thousands of people who had heartbreaking stories of construction flaws. Some now face financial hardship because of substandard new-home construction; others couldn't believe the outright lies they were told and how poorly they were treated while trying to negotiate repairs with builders.

They want to prevent this from happening to new families moving to Frisco. In addition, residents in neighboring cities have been contacting Take Back Your Rights for information on how they can run similar campaigns in their hometowns. The idea is spreading like wildfire because of the burning desire to hold new-home builders accountable and provide remedies for suffering homeowners.

Meanwhile, home builders are claiming that the controls outlined in Frisco's proposed charter amendments aren't needed because the Texas Residential Construction Commission will hold builders responsible. Not hardly. Did you know that the TRCC charges homeowners $1,000 to complain about a major construction problem or defect? It's no surprise, therefore, that only 300 homeowners have gone to the TRCC about a construction defect, according to the Dec. 1 letter from the builder association representative.

Unfortunately, the TRCC – a group that contains no consumer advocates, only those affiliated with the building industry – doesn't welcome complaints.

Your Nov. 24 editorial – "Home Protection ­ Will Frisco homebuyers want to pay the price?" – said surety bonds were a good concept if homeowners were willing to accept the consequences. The truth is, new-homebuyers have already seen the cold, hard realities of what happens when few controls are in place to rein in some builders. The proposed surety bond charter amendment could fix this by helping families with builder-provided insurance.

Consumer advocacy groups say that 15 percent of all new homes may have serious construction defects. Considering Frisco's forecasted growth, this suggests that more than 30,000 additional defective homes await construction in the city. What a scary thought. If nothing is done to stop this, all Frisco residents will pay the price in lost property values and increased taxes to subsidize the city for lost revenue from devalued homes.

Those with a vested interest in the city – the homeowners who live in Frisco ­ aren't going to gamble the city's future on more empty promises by builders.

David Becka lives in Frisco. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

 
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