March 17, 2008
By Sandy Dunn
NAHB President and
Jerry Howard
NAHB Executive VP and CEO
 
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Reaching out to the national media
about actions that Congress must take to help stabilize housing and the economy is key to ensuring that lawmakers sit up and take notice. That's exactly what NAHB representatives led by EVP/CEO Jerry Howard sought to do in a productive meeting with the editorial board of the prestigious Chicago Tribune on March 7.

Joined by NAHB Advocacy Group EVP Bill Killmer, HBA of Greater Chicago EO Peter Schwartz and NAHB Public Affairs SSVP Robert Pflieger, Jerry explained the strong need for Congress to accomplish oversight reform for the housing government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and for it to follow through on FHA modernization efforts. Jerry also focused on the need for Congress to enact a temporary new home buyer tax credit, which would spur consumer demand and help clear excess inventory from the marketplace. This credit could be aimed at first-time buyers or be more broadly based, ranging to as high as $15,000. Jerry pointed to a similar step taken by the Ford Administration about 15 years ago that succeeded in helping our country pull out of a recession, and noted that today's housing industry has the potential to recover before the end of this year as long as the economy doesn't get dragged into recession. The importance of this information was not lost on Chicago Tribune editors, who immediately followed up with a good story that represented our views very well and adequately portrayed what's at stake as Congress considers a potential follow-up to its already-implemented economic stimulus package. Contact: Rob Pflieger, x8403.

NAHB Member Benefit: NAHB's continual outreach to influential media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune not only establishes your national association as the authority for housing information on Capitol Hill and beyond, but also ensures that your views and concerns are covered by reporters on the housing beat. In turn, this exposure assures us a place at the table when lawmakers are debating important legislation that will affect our industry and members in the future.

Understanding that not all local housing markets are equal
is just as important as understanding the national picture, and certain metro areas are of course doing better than the average. Calling attention to this fact recently was none other than Yale economics professor Karl Case, of the well known Case-Shiller Home Price Index that has generated substantial negative media headlines upon its release in previous months. Syndicated real estate columnist Lew Sichelman was on hand for Case's presentation at the Midwinter Housing Conference in Park City, UT last week, and wrote about it for the trade publication National Mortgage News.  Case reportedly noted that no "bubble" has occurred in 43 out of the 50 states. And, while the latest Case-Shiller index shows that the composite home price for the 20 biggest markets is down 10.5% from its peak in July 2006, Case noted that the truth of the matter is that in many smaller markets, prices have been flat or down only marginally. The message here is that while the national picture is bleak to the point of necessitating immediate congressional action to shore up home prices, local media outlets shouldn't be taking those national headlines and applying them to their own housing markets until they know the facts. Sichelman's full article will be republished in the March 17 edition of NBN Online.

NAHB Member Benefit: Sichelman's article will also soon be included in NAHB's Myth Buster resources section to help our HBAs in their media outreach efforts, and the substance of what he wrote has already been incorporated into revised talking points under the Myth Buster section. In addition, we will continue to help our local HBAs and members focus on the positive aspects of their individual markets through the development of new resources going forward. [return to top]
Criticizing Freddie Mac's refusal to raise more capital
to help the troubled housing market, NAHB EVP/CEO Jerry Howard issued a sternly worded rebuke of the government sponsored enterprise on March 13. The announcement of Freddie Mac's decision was made by its CEO, Richard Syron, in remarks to investors and stock analysts in New York on March 12. Syron's comments, in which he offered that his company's chief interest is to make money for its shareholders, were publicized in multiple media outlets. As a result, NAHB was left with no choice but to reassure and reaffirm to policy makers where NAHB stood on the issue at this critical time for our industry. Read Jerry's complete statement here.

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In other credit market news, on March 13, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced a series of recommendations from the President's Working Group on Financial Markets aimed at restoring faith in the mortgage business and shoring up the financial services sector. Among other things, these recommendations called for stronger state and federal oversight of all mortgage originators, the establishment of a nationwide licensing standard for mortgage brokers, and encouraging credit rating agencies to practice greater due diligence. Read more at CNNMoney.com. [return to top]
Revised National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone
will increase the number of communities required to create plans to reduce industrial smog, including that generated by home building. Announced by the EPA on March 13, the new standard reduces the allowable amount of pollution-forming ozone in the air from .084 parts per million to .075 parts per million. While not as stringent as environmental groups had wanted, the new rules have sparked considerable industry opposition. In comments to the EPA last October regarding the agency's proposed rule revision, NAHB emphasized that tightening the ozone emission standard would exert upward pressure on residential construction costs and take a disproportionate toll on small businesses. With the new standard, 18 of the top 20 housing markets will now be on the EPA's non-attainment list, as well as smaller markets like Tulsa, OK and Boise, ID. Yet, it could take local governments as many as 10 years to implement methods for reducing the smog in their air in accordance with the new standard. In fact, 85 counties (many of which are in California) have yet to meet the air quality standard set the last time that the EPA revised its rules on smog, which was in 1997. See last week's NBN Online for details, or contact: Matt Watkins, x8327. [return to top]
Helping builders comply with storm water rules
set forth by the federal EPA and state and local environmental agencies is the aim of a newly developed resource from the NAHB Environmental Issues Committee. Rolled out at the recent International Builders' Show, this resource is a set of 11 storm water compliance cards that our members can download and print for themselves. The cards outline the top compliance issues on one side and ways to fix them on the other. Builders and developers may choose to laminate these cards for easy reference in the field. This resource helps builders to:

-Determine whether they need a permit
-Submit and post a Notice of Intent
-Prepare and implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP)
-Install and maintain erosion and sediment control measures
-Practice good housekeeping and control all sources of pollutants
-Identify responsible parties, delegate and manage subcontractor obligations and create a checklist of procedures to follow
-Conduct and document inspections and correct any problems that are found
-Keep SWPPPs updated
-Minimize tracking of dirt into the streets and provide inlet protection
-Stabilize disturbed areas and submit a Notice of Termination

For more information on this important new member resource, contact Lindsay Cather at x8163. [return to top]

The IRS is paying attention to NAHB suggestions
on ways to improve the energy-efficient home tax credit program (Section 45L). NAHB supports this program, which provides $2,000 tax credits for the construction and sale of homes achieving a 50% reduction in their energy consumption, as a useful incentive to increase the number of energy-efficient homes in the nation's housing stock without relying upon mandates. According to the IRS, its planned new guidance (Notice 2008-35) clarifies that homes used for rental purposes will qualify for the tax credit. Also, homes built by a third-party contractor and sold to a home owner or leased to a tenant can qualify. In addition, this new guidance specifically follows an NAHB recommendation to expand the eligible tax credit raters used to determine the energy-efficiency of new homes by allowing certain state agencies to serve as an "equivalent rating network." This change will increase the number of tax credit raters, reducing the administrative costs of the program for builders and home buyers. Other changes made to the certification process, including allowing Energy Star sampling for larger builders, will increase the effectiveness of the program. Read more in NBN Online, or contact Rob Dietz (x8285) or Elizabeth Odina (x8570).

NAHB Member Benefit: NAHB will continue to review the new rules and is advocating an extension of the tax credit program, which is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, as part of the various renewable energy and efficiency tax incentive proposals currently being considered by Congress. [return to top]
NAHB bids farewell to Bernard Drueding, Jr.,
an award-winning Philadelphia-area builder who helped both his community and his industry over a 40-year career. As head of B.J. Drueding Realtors in Penn Wynne, he built homes in Lower Merion and Radnor Townships for three decades and was a past president of the Main Line Builders Association. He also served as a director on the Main Line Board of Realtors® and was active with the Second Haverford Corp., a group of builders who collaborated on development projects. After retiring, he helped establish Drueding Center/Project Rainbow, a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children. His efforts earned him NAHB's Hearthstone Builder Lifetime Public Service Award in 2002. Drueding died of a pulmonary embolism on Feb. 27 at the age of 86. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Catherine Drennan Drueding, as well as two sons, four daughters, one sister, 17 grandchildren and one great-grandson. His legacy of community involvement will continue to inspire all of us for years to come.  [return to top]
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