Maintaining a direct line to the Administration
and ensuring a smooth NAHB leadership transition following our annual convention was the aim of a cordial breakfast meeting of Gary, Jerry, and NAHB President-Elect Kent Conine with Housing Secretary Mel Martinez and Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson on Dec. 19.

Having both come from the Dallas area, Kent and the Deputy Secretary were already acquainted, but this was our first opportunity to introduce our official incoming leader to the top man at HUD. Topics of discussion ranged from recommendations of the Millennial Housing Commission to appropriations issues for federal housing programs and HUD's budget for the new year. Also on the agenda were potential opportunities to further our joint education efforts on fair housing compliance, and, of course, one of Kent's top priorities  expanding AD&C financing channels. Hopefully, we'll see the Secretary again very soon, as he is tentatively scheduled to attend the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas.  

Alert: Builders with January closings on floodplain properties
need to keep this important date in mind: Dec. 31, 2002. That's the deadline by which your applications and premiums for flood insurance must be received by your insurance agent or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As previously noted in this report and other NAHB communications, the basic authorities of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program will expire at the end of this year. What you need to know is that the government still intends to honor all requests accompanied by premiums for (1) flood insurance policy renewals effective Jan. 1, 2003 and beyond; (2) endorsement changes to current policies continuing beyond Dec. 31; and (3) new policies that are requested to become effective Jan. 1, 2003 and beyond, provided these are received by the deadline.  Rest assured, NAHB will be working with the new Congress to get this essential program reauthorized in 2003. Contacts: Ed Sutton at x8564 or Sean McGraw at x8266.  [return to top]

The Supreme Court's 4-4 ruling on "deep ripping"
of wetlands in Borden Ranch Partnership v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 16 raises more questions than it answers and increases the likelihood that the Court will have to undertake a review of the Clean Water Act's so-called Tulloch Rule.The split decision, made possible because Justice Kennedy recused himself from the case, unfortunately leaves intact a lower court ruling against a landowner who the Corps fined for using a 'deep ripper' to move soil in a wetland on his property. However, as evidenced by the tie vote, the Court is clearly bothered by what may well be illegal over-regulation tied to the Clean Water Act. We look forward to bringing the right case before the Court so that it may resolve this issue once and for all. See our release or talk to Duane Desiderio at x8146 or Tom Ward at x8230. [return to top]

The economy may be staggering, but housing is rock-solid
says NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders. The latest data indicates that fourth quarter GDP growth probably slipped below 1% and that growth for all of 2002 is headed for a disappointing 2.4%. In other words, that economic recovery we wanted for Christmas will have to wait, at least until the job market shows more strength. The good news is that the housing market continues to provide crucial support to the economy, as indicated by our latest builder survey and new government figures on housing production in November (see following stories). Read Seiders' complete analysis in the Dec. 18 edition of Eye on the Economy by clicking on the link provided or going to the Web site and typing 'economy' in the search engine box. [return to top]

Builder confidence hit a two-year high this month
as continuing low mortgage rates, improving consumer sentiment and solid house-price gains put us in good spirits for the holiday season, according to NAHB's latest Housing Market Index (HMI). This monthly gauge of builders' views in the single-family sector hit 65 on Dec. 16, up a point from last month's revised number to its best reading since November of 2000. The HMI's component index guaging current sales was at its strongest level since February of 2000. See our press release on the Web or contact Ashok Chaluvadi at x8482. [return to top]

Ramping up the pace of housing construction,
builders started work on new homes and apartments at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.70 million units in November, the Commerce Department reported Dec. 17. This was up 2.4% from October's upwardly revised rate. Single-family starts rose by about 1% while multifamily starts soared by 10%. That movement was due to big gains in the Midwest and South. Building permits held steady on the single-family side but fell more than 12% on the multifamily side, where month-to-month variations tend to be more pronounced. We're now looking for a total of about 1.69 million housing starts for all of 2002, the greatest number in 16 years. That includes a projected 1.35 million single-family starts, the most in 14 years. Our release is available on [return to top]

What all International Builders' Show attendees need to know:
NAHB members who registered for the convention prior to Dec. 13 will receive their credentials in the mail very soon. We started mailing those credentials on Dec. 6, beginning with the earliest pre-registrants. At this point, all credentials for those registered prior to October have been sent out, and more are going out every day. Should you not receive your credentials before leaving for the show, simply go to one of the Advance Registration counters in Exhibit Hall C2 when you arrive at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  You can still pre-register online until Sunday, Jan. 12. After that date, you can register on-site at the convention center. As of Dec. 22, we can no longer accept new requests for housing accommodations — please make your reservations directly with the hotel. For hotel referrals, you can call the Show Registration and Housing Office at 800-424-5249 or go to the Web site. [return to top]

Spokesperson training seminars are filling up fast
at the two venues at which they are being offered in 2003: the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas and our Spring Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C. Leaders and future leaders of this association will want to take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to craft positive messages for our industry and get them across in media interviews, testimony and other public speaking engagements. Cost per person is $350. Classes are limited to Jan. 19, 20 and 21 at the IBS and May 7,8, and 9 in Washington, so call today to reserve your seat. Beyond these seminars, NAHB Public Affairs can coordinate onsite spokesperson training for your HBA at cost. Contact Kim Wilbur at x8132 or Rhonda Brown at x8061. [return to top]

NAHB will be closed for the holidays Dec. 23-25,
but we'll be back in business on Thursday the 26th. Due to the abbreviated schedule, The Monday Morning Briefing Letter will not be published on Dec. 30. Look for our next edition dated January 6. To all of our readers, our very best holiday wishes! [return to top]

December 23, 2002

By F. Gary Garczynski
NAHB President and
Jerry Howard
NAHB Executive VP and CEO
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