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Bill Seeking Ban On Local Housing Rules Gets Sidelined

Downtown bloomington sign

(WFIU/WTIU News)

Legislative leaders have sidelined a proposed ban on adopting local housing design standards in Indiana cities and counties.

The move came after ethics experts questioned whether Republican Rep. Doug Miller of Elkhart should take the lead in pushing the bill, given that he owns a homebuilding company and represents Indiana in the National Association of Homebuilders.

Miller said his proposal, which was endorsed by a House committee of which he is chairman, aimed to increase affordable housing options and restrain local government overreach. Miller argued that simply moving the garage door or changing exterior house materials can add $15,000 to the cost of a house.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said Thursday that he pulled the bill from further consideration by the full House before Monday's deadline for action.

"There was not support in our (Republican) caucus for that," Huston said.

Huston had defended Miller's sponsorship of the bill, saying Indiana's Legislature is a part-time job and that Miller had expertise on the issue.

Ethics experts said Miller's involvement was a "pretty obvious" conflict of interest and that another lawmaker could have sponsored the measure if the issue was so important.

Opponents of the proposed ban argued that local design rules can prevent development of so-called vinyl villages filled with nearly identical homes and questioned whether homebuyers would benefit from cost reductions.

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says the bill is a terrible grab of power by the state legislature based upon lobbyists who want to limit community standards for financial gain.

“The quality of life, the visible infrastructure that we all enjoy, that do make a real difference in what your city feels like and looks like,” Hamilton said.

Miller didn't immediately reply Friday to a message seeking comment from The Associated Press through his legislative press secretary.

While Miller's proposal failed, Republican lawmakers this past week voted to override GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb's veto of a bill blocking local governments from regulating rental properties, which opponents argue would take away the ability of local officials to protect tenants from abusive landlords.

Joe Hren contributed to this report.

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