Changes to housing market trends include a growing market segment demanding neighborhoods with close access to stores and parks (compact development with high walkability features) and/or homes that offer water and energy conserving features. A 2015 study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found housing price is a main driver of where millennials, in particular, choose to buy homes, but that homebuyers want access to amenities, green spaces and a walkable community. Some developers and homebuilders have recognized this demand, but others continue to retain practices that have worked in the past and may be unaware of how to address smart-growth development permitting, construction, and design issues.
Information-sharing among developers, such as through local chapters of the NAHB, can bridge the information gap and build support for water-smart development.
City and Town planning departments can play a key advocacy role by providing informational materials on water smart design and the development process, such as through the subdivision pre-application process, and by adopting developer incentives discussed in this section of the Toolbox.
The WaterSense Program, which has been in place since 2006, is an opportunity to learn about advances in water efficiency and to access information to reduce the water footprint of new development.
The EPA WaterSense Program is a nation-wide partnership program with a goal to protect future water supplies by promoting and offering water efficient products, new homes, and services. This is done in part by encouraging the development and use of WaterSense labeled fixtures, which are 20% more efficient than conventional ones and by promoting construction of WaterSense homes.
WaterSense accomplishes its goals through partnering with manufacturers, retailers and distributors, local and state governments, utilities, trade associations, nonprofits, certifying organizations and providers, and builders. Partners are listed on the EPA WaterSense website and include Arizona homebuilders Dorn Homes (Prescott), Mandalay Homes (Prescott), and Meritage Homes. WaterSense Government Partners include Payson, Prescott, Sedona, and Sierra Vista as well as the Flagstaff water utility. Sierra Vista has taken an additional step by adopting a WaterSense water conservation code for interior water use in new development. Communities may consider incentives for builders who incorporate WaterSense features or incentivize use of WaterSense Certified builders, as well as providing WaterSense program materials.
The program provides a community and a homebuilder with the opportunity to connect with other WaterSense partners and access information about innovations and components of water-efficient homes. KB Home is a leading WaterSense homebuilder in the West and a good example of how water conservation features can be readily incorporated into new development. It is building four WaterSense certified communities in California, and it included WaterSense labeled products in the more than 8,000 homes it built in 2015. This provides an example to other homebuilders that incorporating water efficient features is cost-effective, profitable, and in demand for homebuyers looking to live in a more sustainable community.