Wednesday, April 11, 2001
'Seize the day' for housing
At the recent International Builders' Show in Atlanta, newly installed president of the National Association of Home Builders Bruce Smith unveiled ambitious goals for 2001.
According to Smith, a new Administration in the White House, the new Congress and new leadership at regulatory agencies combine to offer a unique opportunity to "Seize the Day" for NAHB's top priority: providing safe, decent, affordable housing for all Americans.
Smith promised attendees that NAHB would pursue aggressive goals for a housing marketplace that is becoming more complex and competitive, and increasingly threatened by a vast array of government regulations and growth controls.
The fact is that America is facing a silent housing affordability crisis. Although the nationwide homeownership rate stands at an impressive 67.5 percent, and thousands of families across the economic spectrum have benefited in recent years from expanded housing opportunities, favorable interest rates and rising home values, millions have been left behind.
That may seem hard to believe in these prosperous times, but consider these facts:
A staggering 5.3 million Americans pay more than half their incomes for housing or live in substandard housing.
The homeownership rate among young households is still below the peak that it reached in 1979.
The homeownership rate for minorities is 20 percentage points below the national average of 67.5.
While millions of working families need affordable housing to buy or rent, the number of low income rental units is declining by almost half a million per year.
In high growth, major metropolitan areas, thousands of people commute 100 miles or more because of the lack of affordable housing in the communities where they work.
To close the homeownership gap for minorities and young households, to meet the increasing demand for affordable rental housing and to take advantage of this political window of opportunity, Smith outlined five strategies that NAHB will pursue in the year ahead.
First, NAHB will strongly encourage the Bush administration, Congress and the Federal Reserve to pursue an appropriate mix of fiscal and monetary policies to keep the economy and housing market on track and keep long-term mortgage interest rates at low levels.
Second, NAHB will continue to promote Smart Growth strategies for single-family and multifamily housing. This includes urging Congress to enact legislation to reform federal liability laws so that thousands of brownfields, abandoned, idled, or under-used urban sites where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination, can be used for new housing.
Next, NAHB will urge the newly elected Congress to remove regulatory barriers to affordable housing, protect property rights, provide tax relief to small businesses, offer tax incentives for affordable housing and follow a common-sense approach on environmental legislation.
NAHB will also begin a dialogue with federal regulatory agencies to reverse the trend of over regulation, which increases the cost of housing.
Finally, NAHB will continue to urge Congress to allow the secondary mortgage market to function optimally and without undue intervention in order to maintain the smooth operation of the nation's housing finance system, which is the envy of the world.
The National Association of Home Builders has been the voice of America's housing industry since its founding in 1942, promoting policies that keep housing a national priority.
Under the leadership of 2001 President Bruce Smith, NAHB will continue to marshal the strength and resources of the nation's home-building industry to work towards the day when all Americans have safe, decent, affordable housing.
(John Hayes, who is with Torrey Homes, is president of the Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia, which serves a membership of approximately 460 builders and associate members in Fayette, Coweta, Spalding, Heard and Meriwether counties.)