The cheap, earth-friendly home

The United States has taken big steps to protect the environment in the past 30 years. During that time the median price of a home has tripled. Is there a link?

Some groups blame the Clean Water Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and other laws for 10 percent of the cost rise. But a new study from Cornell University suggests environmental regulations have had a negligible impact on new-housing prices. The biggest culprit is that people are buying bigger homes with more amenities, says Joseph Laquatra, Cornell professor of design and environmental analysis.

"There are certainly anecdotal horror stories in which environmental protection has been used to stop particular developments," Professor Laquatra says. "But we couldn't find evidence in the numerous studies on this issue that demonstrates a direct relationship between environmental regulations and house prices."

Some federal initiatives actually can reduce housing costs. The US Department of Energy a week ago dedicated a cluster of energy-efficient low-income homes in Boston that cost 25 percent less to build than typical Boston public housing. The secret: Better insulation let builders downsize the units' heating and cooling equipment. And in Silverton, Ore., the first manufactured foam-core paneled home - sponsored in part by the DOE - rolled off the assembly line last week. The paneled homes are expected to have heating and cooling costs up to 50 percent lower than most homes.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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