Mississippi has improved in a national ranking of residential building codes in hurricane-prone states. MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports, the improvement came because of Mississippi’s new statewide building code law.
The building code law, which went into effect last August, bumped Mississippi up from the bottom of the list of 18 coastal states, up to 16th place. Julie Rochman is president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, which published the report.
"We looked at 47 different factors and we create a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the best and zero being the worst," she says. "In the first go-round of this report, in 2012, Mississippi scored the worst -they wer a 4. In this report, they did much better. Because they enacted a state code law, Mississippi moved from 4 to 28 points - that was a big jump."
The institute highlighted Mississippi as one of three states that made significant improvement. Under the new law, Mississippi municipalities can adopt one of the last three International Residential Codes, which set minimum design and building standards.
"We would like to see Mississippi to have an actual statewide code that doesn't allow jurisdictions to opt out," she says. "Unfortunately the law - which is a good first step - allows municipalities to adopt one of the last three code editions and also to opt out entirely."
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says about a third of cities have opted out. Among counties, he says, more than half have adopted some form of building code, which he called “great progress within a year.”
"We've made some great strides in codes in the state," he says. "And codes are not about having more government intervention in your life. It's about saving lives and saving property, and in addition to that, a byproduct is it keeps your insurance rates lower."
Mississippi got low marks on both contractor licensing and building official certification, though Commissioner Chaney points out the state does set aside half-a-million dollars annually for training code officials.