August 22, 2005
By David F. Wilson
NAHB President and
Jerry Howard
NAHB Executive VP and CEO
 
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NAFTA has ruled: Duties on Canadian lumber imports should end
and the U.S. should give back more than $4 billion in fees that have been erroneously collected at the expense of American home buyers and consumers.

The ruling by the NAFTA Extraordinary Challenge Committee on Aug. 11 should bring to a successful close the three-year legal battle that NAHB helped wage to overturn punitive tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments. Even so, a recent statement from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) suggests that our own government may choose not to abide by the ruling. The controversial duties have been in place since May of 2002, when the U.S. deemed Canadian imports a "threat" to domestic lumber producers and imposed countervailing measures totaling 27% on softwood coming from our northern neighbor. That percentage was subsequently reduced, but remained above 20%. All along, NAHB has lobbied the U.S. Congress and met repeatedly with U.S. and Canadian government officials in an effort to eliminate the fees and open up a significant supply channel for home builders and other American consumers. With the latest ruling of the Extraordinary Challenge Committee, it would seem that the U.S. has now exhausted all of its opportunities for appeal, but we will have to see if the Administration lives up to its international obligations in this regard. NAHB issued a strong statement urging our government to do the right thing last week. Read more about it in Nation's Building News Online, or contact Michael Carliner (x8376).

A new critical habitat designation for salmon
and steelhead is the long-awaited result of an NAHB lawsuit brought against the National Marine Fisheries Service five years ago. Responding to our concerns regarding the lack of economic impact analysis and scientific evidence used to come up with the previous designation, the government has reduced the protected area for the fish in California and the Pacific Northwest to one-fifth the size of the original. More importantly, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) followed a process advocated by NAHB in deciding which areas to maintain protections for in order to ensure the maximum benefit to the species while minimizing adverse economic effects. Added attention to cost-effectiveness resulted in the exclusion of more than 2,700 square miles of land where the cost of the designation outweighed its benefit to the species. The new designation also excludes 381 stream miles covered by Habitat Conservation Plans, thereby preserving private landowner incentives for conservation. Read more about it in the Aug. 22 edition of Nation's Building News Online, or contact Christopher Galik (x8663) for details. [return to top]

Keeping the national media informed about housing,
Jerry and NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders have done the rounds of major media outlets in the past week. Both were onhand for an editorial board meeting with the Money section editor and reporters from USA Today, the nation's largest-circulation daily newspaper, on Aug. 15, during which the housing bubble theory was discussed as well as issues regarding speculative investment, land availability, regulatory costs, housing affordability and exotic mortgages, to name just a few. The two then traveled to New York on Aug. 18 to meet with reporters from The New York Times, Financial Times and BusinessWeek magazine. These informative sessions help keep the media on track regarding current conditions in the nation's housing market and ensure that the building industry's views are included in major stories that are read by millions. Stay tuned for more on the successes of our ongoing, comprehensive media strategy. Contact: Paul Lopez, x8409. [return to top]

Workforce housing is increasingly costly,
according to a newly published study by the Center for Housing Policy of the National Housing Conference. The report is called "Paycheck to Paycheck: Wages and the Cost of Housing in America," and it's a valuable resource for anyone seeking to advance the cause of affordable workforce housing. The study finds that the cost of a median-priced home increased 20%, to $225,000, between the final quarter of 2003 and the first quarter of 2005. Meanwhile, the annual income needed to qualify to purchase a home grew from $54,855 to $71,354. Importantly, this interactive, online resource allows you to cull average incomes for various professions and compare them to housing costs in 183 metro areas nationwide. For example, you can find out how much a police officer or teacher earns in the city of Tucson, AZ compared to what it costs to qualify for a mortgage on a typical home or to rent a one- or two-bedroom apartment in that city. You can sort by occupation (63 of which are represented in the study) or by metro area, and scroll down for a graph that gives you a clear visual representation of the challenges faced by working families seeking to either purchase or rent a decent home. Read more about it in the latest NBN Online. [return to top]

The latest indicators of continuing strength in the housing market
include last month's housing starts figures released by the Commerce Department and the most recent reading of NAHB's builder confidence gauge known as the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). While July housing starts held to virtually the same robust pace set in the previous month — dipping a statistically insignificant 0.1%  — builder confidence fell by a more easily perceptible three points this month but held within the same elevated range that has characterized the past 17 months. Moreover, single-family housing starts eked out a half-percent gain in July to a solid pace of 1.71 million units. See NAHB's press releases on starts and the HMI, as well as the HMI tables, online. And stay tuned for the upcoming release of our quarterly affordability gauge known as the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI), which is slated for Aug. 25. Contact Gopal Ahluwalia (x8480) or Ashok Chaluvadi (x8482) regarding the HMI. [return to top]

Resolutions in the pipeline for the Fall Board meeting
in Reno, NV are now available for the online viewing of all NAHB members. To date, four resolutions have been submitted for the Board's consideration, including one on preserving private property rights, one on changes to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, one on Davis-Bacon requirements, and one on immigration reform. Keep in mind that you must be logged on to the NAHB Web site (or have previously logged on) as an NAHB member to view these resolutions online. A Summary of Proposed Resolutions was recently forwarded to all NAHB directors from Resolutions Committee Chairman Robert Jones. Please contact Jay Shackford (x8406) if you have questions or concerns about resolutions or the resolutions process at Fall Board. [return to top]

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