March 30, 2009
By Joe Robson
NAHB Chairman and
Jerry Howard
NAHB President and CEO
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More than 500 home builders visited Capitol Hill
this week to drive home the message that housing is the key to our nation's economic future.

Our 2009 March Executive Board and Legislative Conference week was truly productive, with a strong contingent of NAHB members participating in Hill visits that included hundreds of meetings with individual legislators and their staffs. The Legislative Conference was particularly well-timed as Congress gets down to the job of repairing the nation's struggling banking and housing finance sectors. A number of great resources were created to help NAHB members lobby our key issues on Capitol Hill, including the following (note: you need to be logged into NAHB's Web site with your username and password to view these members-only resources):

2009 Legislative Conference Booklet and General Talking Points


Housing’s Critical Role in the Economy background information


Addressing the AD&C Crisis background and recommendations


Preserving the Mortgage Interest Deduction background and recommendations


Housing Finance System Reform background and recommendations


Reinstating the Down Payment Assistance Program background/recommendations


Green Building/Promotion of the National Green Building Standard background/recs


Card Check background and recommendations


AD&C Lending Crisis Video Briefing 


Protecting Housing Tax Incentives Video Briefing 

Also during the week, NAHB's Executive Board considered and approved on an "emergency basis" one new Resolution dealing with energy efficiency targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, which is a topic that is currently being debated in Congress. The Executive Board also hosted a panel discussion in which several industry experts discussed the potential direction and outcome of ongoing financial regulation reform efforts. For more information on the approved resolution, contact Jay Shackford, x8406. For more on the panel discussion, contact Dave Ledford, x8265.

Taking toxic assets off financial institutions' balance sheets
is the aim of a newly unveiled Treasury Department plan designed to help unlock the credit markets. Announced by Secretary Timothy Geithner on March 23, the plan calls for the government to pair as much as $100 billion with private capital in order to generate $500 billion in purchasing power to buy troubled mortgage loans and securities. The program could reach up to $1 trillion over time. If it works, this effort should address both the legacy loans banks are holding on their balance sheets and the legacy securities backed by mortgage-related debt that is clogging the balance sheets of financial firms. Upon their announcement, details of this plan were welcomed by Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 6.8% that day. Read more in The Wall Street Journal, or contact John Dimitri, x8529. [return to top]
The first new-home sales gain in seven months
was reported by the U.S. Commerce Department on March 25. Government numbers revealed that the number of newly built, single-family homes sold in February rose 4.7% from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 337,000 units. This upward movement is an encouraging sign that the market may finally be bottoming out and that consumers are starting to take advantage of the first-time home buyer tax credit, historically low mortgage rates, very affordable home prices and the great selection of homes on the market. It may also be tied to the release of some pent-up demand from January, when potential buyers were waiting to see what kind of incentives were in store for them in the economic stimulus package. NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe cautioned that the January-February average for new-home sales is still well below the fourth quarter 2008 average, and that we do expect sales numbers to bounce around at the bottom before climbing slowly mid-year and beyond. Nevertheless, he said, it is apparent that improved housing affordability, the new tax credit, higher mortgage ceilings for conforming loans and Fed moves to lower interest rates are helping to reverse the three-year slide. Read NAHB's release here, or see the government's report online. Contact Paul Lopez (x8409) for help with media inquiries.  [return to top]
Defending the mortgage interest deduction in USA Today,
NAHB Chairman Joe Robson provided a powerful counterpoint to the newspaper's editorial opinion piece on the importance of this cornerstone of American housing policy. Appearing in the paper's March 23 edition, the opposing op-eds were presented alongside one another in response to the Obama Administration's recently suggested reductions in the tax credit and real estate deductions as a means of paying for ambitious health care reforms within the newly proposed budget. Joe's persuasive argument on why the mortgage deduction must be protected cautions that "the harsh reality is that reducing the value of the mortgage interest deduction would increase the cost of housing for many middle-income families, especially in high-cost areas such as California, the Northeast and other major metro areas." Read more on Obama's budget proposal targeting the mortgage interest deduction in NBN Online; view Joe's argument in USA Today here. [return to top]
What constitutes a 'traditional navigable water?'
This question is at the heart of a case in which NAHB and the Southern Arizona HBA filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on March 24. The suit challenges a Dec. 8 federal regulatory ruling that an Arizona riverbed fed by runoff from sewers and storm drains is in fact a traditional navigable water, and therefore subject to Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction. This decision has far-reaching implications for home buyers and property owners, because by designating the waterway in question – the Santa Cruz River – as traditionally navigable, the federal agencies immediately gain jurisdiction over dry desert washes, arroyos and other water features within the 2.3 million acre Santa Cruz watershed that would not otherwise qualify as "waters of the United States" under jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. (Currently, those areas are covered by state and local regulations.) Meanwhile, there is no permanent, flowing water through the Santa Cruz River, so how can it be seen as an "interstate highway of commerce," which is the definition of a navigable water?  Keep in mind that determinations of Clean Water Act jurisdiction come with a very high price tag: the average applicant for a Clean Water Act permit spends 788 days and $271,596 completing the process. Read our press release for more information, or contact Jeff Augello (x8490). [return to top] [return to top]
Resources to help you respond to inquiries on Chinese drywall
are now available to NAHB members. As recently detailed in NBN Online, some drywall imported from China during the residential construction boom is alleged to contain high levels of sulfur and/or other contaminants. Owners of homes with the material have complained of unpleasant smells and a blackening appearance of air conditioning coils, copper components and certain electrical and plumbing components. While the problem was first reported in southwest Florida, concerns about it have spread to other markets where the product may have been sold. Such media outlets as CNN, ABC's Good Morning America, The NBC Nightly News and The CBS Evening News have recently aired segments on it. NAHB has developed several resources to help inform our members about this issue. These resources are specifically for the use of NAHB members, and are not for distribution to external parties. To access them, go to the Web site — make sure you are logged in as an NAHB member — and type "Chinese drywall" into the searchbox at the top right of the screen. Contact David Jaffe, x8317. [return to top]
More good news on the Green Building front...
Click on the links below for the latest developments and opportunities related to NAHB's green building efforts. Contact Calli Schmidt (x8132) for more information.

First green home certified to the National Green Building Standard

Upcoming audio conference: Seeing Green in a Red Market, April 16 

Register now for the National Green Building Conference, May 8-10 in Dallas

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