TSAHC requires that all homes constructed or rehabbed using its loan, bond or land banking programs meet specific minimum construction standards. Our policies on these standards are organized into three key components: building codes, accessibility and energy efficiency. This overview and FAQ is intended to provide further clarification on TSAHC construction standards. This document includes an overview of each of the component sections, which is followed by actual questions that have been submitted by borrowers and local partners.
TSAHC’s policies reference the International Residential Code (“IRC”) and International Building Code (“IBC”). However, we are aware that many larger metropolitan areas have adopted amended codes that provide both clarification and additional requirements for home builders and renovators. TSAHC requires that our Local Partners and their contractors adhere to the most relevant or applied local building codes, and in cases where no local building code has been adopted, TSAHC requires contractors to adhere to the IRC or IBC standards.
TSAHC’s policies cite three separate but interrelated standards: Federal Fair Housing Act Accessibility Standards; §2306.514 (Visitability Guidelines) of the Texas Government Code, and Texas Minimum Construction Standards. Here is a summary of each of these standards.
Fair Housing Act Accessibility Standards: This is the primary federal accessibility standard applied to homes built after March 31, 1991. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides several excellent guides and worksheets for builders and developers. While it is true that the Fair Housing Act is focused on the development of multifamily projects (more than four units), there are some aspects that do apply to all housing projects including single family construction (one to four units).
Borrowers their contractors should review and understand the general design guidelines required by the Fair Housing Act, and if questions arise, please feel free to contact our program staff for clarification.
- All building entrances must be on an accessible route, including the route from any leasing offices, parking lots and other common areas of a neighborhood or apartment complex;
- All doors designed to allow passage into and within all premises must be sufficiently wide to allow passage by persons in wheelchairs;
- There must be an accessible route into and through the dwelling units, providing access for people with disabilities throughout the unit;
- Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls must be placed in accessible locations;
- All dwelling units must contain reinforcements in bathroom walls to allow installation of grab bars around toilet, tub, shower stall and shower seat, where such facilities are provided; and
- Dwelling units must contain usable kitchens and bathrooms such that an individual who uses a wheelchair can maneuver about the space.
Visitability Standards (§2306.514): The visitability standards codified in state statutes provide a minimal accessibility standard that all newly constructed homes must meet. TSAHC also requires that rehabbed homes meet these standards, with some exceptions related to costs and level of rehab being completed. Here is a summary of the accessibility features listed under §2306.514:
- At least one entrance door, whether located at the front, side, or back of the building, must be on an accessible route served by a ramp or no-step entrance that has at least a standard 36-inch door;
On the first floor of the building:
- each interior door must be at least a standard 32-inch door, unless the door provides access only to a closet of less than 15 square feet in area;
- each hallway must have a width of at least 36 inches and must be level, with ramped or beveled changes at each door threshold;
- each bathroom wall must be reinforced for potential installation of grab bars;
- each electrical panel, light switch, or thermostat must be not higher than 48 inches above the floor;
- each electrical plug or other receptacle must be at least 15 inches above the floor; and
- If the applicable building code or codes do not prescribe another location for the breaker boxes, each breaker box must be located not higher than 48 inches above the floor inside the building on the first floor.
These standards provide a minimum level of accessibility for persons with mobility impairments. It should be noted that TSAHC does require that properties undergoing substantial rehab meet these requirements. Also, when a particular element of a building is included in the scope of rehab, that element must meet these accessibility requirements. For example, if window and door replacements are occurring, then new windows and doors must meet the accessibility standards under §2306.514.
Texas Minimum Construction Standards (“TMCS”): The TMCS is a standard that has been developed by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in order to provide general guidance for contractors using federal funding. The standards are more closely related to building codes, but deal substantially with rehabilitation standards for single family homes. These standards are currently being updated and will apply several of the visitability standards noted in §2306.514 to rehab projects in the future. Local Partners are encouraged to check the TDHCA website from time to time for updates.
TSAHC requires that all new construction and rehabbed homes meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star Program requirements. For new construction this requires that all new homes be inspected by a certified Energy Star Inspector, or that the building plans be reviewed and certified by the builder or architect as meeting the minimum Energy Star Requirements. Borrowers and local partners should consult with their builders and develop a basic understanding of these requirements. The best information can be found at the Energy Star website.
TSAHC also requires renovations funded by our loan, bond and land banking programs to meet Energy Star guidelines for home improvements. The Energy Star website provides several hints and guidelines for making homes more efficient. TSAHC requires certification that contractors have used Energy Star building techniques and products. For example, when water heaters, dishwashers or refrigerators are being replaced during renovations, contractors should replace them with Energy Star certified appliances. Additionally, when windows or doors are being replaced, contractors should install Energy Star equipment.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How I can “certify” that we will be able to meet the Federal Fair Housing Standard for a single-family rehab project?
A: TSAHC would prefer a letter from the project architect or builder that states the rehab or construction was completed to Fair Housing Act accessibility standards. In the absence of a letter, we will work with borrowers and local partners to determine an appropriate method for certifying compliance, including but not limited to self-inspections, inspections by TSAHC staff, or certifications by a third-party inspector. The inclusion of Fair Housing and other accessibility requirements with contractors and architects will also provide some support for adherence to TSAHC’s policies.
Q: I have participated in a lot of webinars and understand weatherization of single family rehabs, but I do not see a set of guidelines that would allow our project to pass an Energy Star certification inspection.
A: TSAHC is not looking for a specific certification form but rather a commitment from borrowers and local partners, their architects and contractors, that shows all purchasing and building activities will adhere to Energy Star guidelines.