Meeting with the President's top environmental advisor,
Jerry and NAHB staff raised a number of home builders' top concerns regarding storm water permit enforcement, wetlands jurisdiction, and the Endangered Species Act last week.

Chairman James L. Connaughton heads up the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which oversees all federal environmental policies for the President. As such, he's an important link between the White House, industry and federal environmental agencies. On storm water, Connaughton applauded NAHB's efforts to work with the EPA's enforcement and program offices to design a compliance protocol for developers and builders, and indicated he would closely study the product of this initiative when it is complete. On wetlands, the Chairman acknowledged the inconsistent nature of jurisdiction and permitting decisions by federal agencies. He also indicated strong support for an approach that would offer developers special incentives to promote wetlands conservation, and voiced an interest in finding a way to distinguish between areas of greater and lesser environmental value in order to direct development toward the latter. Regarding NAHB's ESA reform efforts, Connaughton offered to work with us to identify examples of where builders and states have jointly supported species conservation, but said Congress should take the lead in identifying specific legislative reforms.

This healthy dialogue left the door open for future discussions and the chance for NAHB and the White House to collectively work toward clearing up inter-agency confusion regarding environmental polices and enforcement. Contact Susan Asmus (x8538) or Michael Mittelholzer (x8660) for more.

An industry roundtable at the Commerce Department
was the perfect opportunity for Jerry and Advocacy Group VP Bill Killmer to personally update the new Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, on the continued good health of our nation's housing market. The March 21 forum brought together executives representing a cross-section of American industry, including housing as well as telecommunications, plastics, chemicals, forest and paper companies and others. We capitalized on this chance to press for a favorable resolution to our issues regarding imported building products — specifically, Canadian lumber and Mexican cement. We also urged the Secretary to do what he can to better coordinate the actions of his agency and those of the Department of Interior regarding endangered species issues such as critical habitat designations. These periodic information exchanges can be extremely helpful for keeping the Administration up to speed on factors affecting the primary engines of U.S. economic growth, and further substantiate NAHB as the voice of America's housing industry. [return to top]

Resolutions in the pipeline
for consideration at the upcoming NAHB Spring Board of Directors Meeting are now available for viewing online. To date, a total of eight resolutions have been submitted. These include five resolutions drafted by the Housing Finance Committee on such subjects as a reduced FHA downpayment, FHA high-cost loan limits, preserving the Community Development Block Grant program, federal rental assistance and changes to mortgage revenue bond provisions. Also up for consideration are a resolution updating NAHB's policy on GSE regulation, a resolution in support of voluntary energy programs, and a resolution on modifying the LIHTC and Tax-Exempt Bond programs for rural housing. Please note, you must be logged on to NAHB.org as a member in order to view the Summary of Proposed Resolutions for Consideration at the Spring Board Meeting. Any questions on the resolutions process can be directed to Jay Shackford (x8406). Questions pertaining to the specifics of a particular resolution should be directed to the staff contact(s) listed for that resolution on the summary page.  [return to top]

Trumping the bubble theory
was the name of the game when the voice of reason (belonging to NAHB's own Jerry Howard) successfully countered the rhetoric of Argus Research analyst Dana Richardson on television's CNBC Morning Call last Wednesday. Contrary to his opponent's pessimistic implication that spiking interest rates will soon take the air out of home sales, our well-informed EVP/CEO set the record straight by clearly explaining the mechanics of home building and sales, along with NAHB's forecast for only modest slowing of sales as rates gravitate upward. While a few local markets could experience corrections on a smaller scale, he allowed, the simple truth — as Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has said — is that a national house-price bubble has never occurred and is highly unlikely to ever do so. Contact: Paul Lopez, x8409. [return to top]

A late-winter rebound in new-home sales
proved that builder assessments of the continuing strong marketplace were correct this February. Commerce Department figures released March 24 indicate that sales rose 9.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.23 million units last month. While mortgage rates have moved up in recent weeks, financing conditions remain very favorable by historic standards, and buyer demand continues to outstrip supply in many markets. Every region posted substantial gains in February, with a 20.3% jump noted in the Northeast, a nearly 10% gain in the Midwest, a 9% increase in the South and a 7.4% rise in the West. Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale was gauged at 444,000 units — a 4.4 months' supply at the current sales pace. NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders called this inventory situation "very manageable," and said the number includes many units that have been permitted but not yet started. See our press release. [return to top]

Improving job markets are helping apartment rentals rebound
while attractive interest rates and strong price appreciation continue to drive condo sales, according to NAHB's latest Multifamily Market Index (MMI). NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders says the report indicates that "a healthier multifamily housing market is emerging, one in which demand more clearly aligns with supply." Based on a quarterly survey of multifamily builders and property owners nationwide, the MMI for the final three months of 2004 indicated that all classes of rental apartments were gaining, with the biggest increase in demand applying to Class B apartments. Demand for both luxury and low-end units also posted substantial gains. Meanwhile, the MMI component that tracks the number of apartments available for rent continued on a downward trend, posting a double-digit decline from the previous quarter. See our press release or contact Ann Marie Moriarty (x8350)  for details. [return to top]

Tune in to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition this week
to see NAHB member Pardee Homes (and hundreds of generous businesses and volunteers) build an impressive and highly energy-efficient home from the ground up in just over four days. It took more than 800 people to accomplish this dramatic feat for a deserving family made up of three adults and eight children. The remarkable new home includes a 3.0 kW roof-integrated solar electric power system, fluorescent light fixtures, ENERGY STAR® appliances, a tankless water heater and other features that will produce an estimated 73% savings on its owners' monthly energy bill. It will be the first ever home to qualify for California's rigorous Zero Energy New Home program. If you miss the show on March 27, you can check out the http://pardeeextreme.com website and its "fun facts" section for all the details. The show airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC. [return to top]

NAHB.org will have a new look this April
and a whole lot more. Web experts agree — updating the look and feel of your Web site helps increase overall site awareness and interest. So NAHB's Online Relations team has been hard at work to give our site a refreshing visual change while maintaining the best-in-class functionality that regular visitors have come to expect. Along with the obvious color enhancements, there will be an improved login feature, targeted Welcome message and, of course, every bit of the 5,000+ pages of valuable home building content that we've built in over time. Take a moment to preview the new look on www.nahb.org today, and then check back in April to experience the new site first-hand. Contact: Linda Keens, x8134. [return to top]

March 28, 2005

By David F. Wilson
NAHB President and
Jerry Howard
NAHB Executive VP and CEO
 
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