Ever since the Texas Residential Construction Commission began five years ago, it has been criticized by consumer groups and some state officials as pro-builder and anti-homebuyer.
A 2007 state law that was supposed to toughen the commission hasnt worked, the Sunset Advisory Commission concludes. And the pig is still a pig, says a pro-homeowners group that praised the report, when I asked its president about the old expression.
"The so-called fixes last session were more lipstick, smoke and mirrors," said Janet Ahmad, president of HomeOwners for Better Building. "They can continue adding different shades of lipstick, but its still a builder protection agency run by the builders for the builders."
The commission says it "ardently disagrees" with the recommendation that it shut down because 28,000 registered Texas home builders and home remodelers would be free from state oversight.
Commission Executive Director Duane Waddill boasted in an interview that since the 2007 law designed to beef up his commissions powers went into effect, "Weve already had 25 percent more builders this year offer to repair homes than we did last year."
But, I asked, what are the real numbers? Turns out the jump was from 105 home fixed last year to 132 this year. Twenty seven more homes. Impressed yet?
State Rep. Todd Smith, R-Euless, who three years ago asked then-Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn to investigate the commission, says he isnt impressed.
"I guess I was suspicious from the beginning that this might not be about consumers," he said.
Builders groups say the commission is needed because they, too, want protection from "bad actors" that harm Texas consumers, according to a statement issued by the Texas Association of Builders.
In Texas, unlike some other states, builders must register, but they are not licensed.
The Sunset Commission, which reviews state agencies periodically, concluded that the construction commission is not working but doesnt recommend a replacement.
Heres one example of the commissions fecklessness:
You might have heard radio commercials stating that beginning Sept. 1, new home buyers in unincorporated areas can take advantage of the commissions home buyer protection process.
In municipalities, city inspectors look for violations at new homes under construction. But buyers in unincorporated areas had no similar protection.
Now, according to the 2007 law, builders in unincorporated areas must have their work inspected, too.
Sounds wonderful, but guess who hires the inspectors? The builders. Doesnt that sound like a conflict of interest?
Waddill says he doubts that any home inspector is going to jeopardize his or her license to favor a builder.
The Sunset report, however, concludes that the new setup "has the potential to provide false security to those purchasing homes or competing remodeling projects in rural areas lacking building code oversight."
Joey Longley, director of the Sunset Advisory Commission, says his agencys report is "phase one in the process."
Next comes a legislative hearing in September on the reports findings. The 2009 Legislature has final say.