More than 325 House and Senate lawmakers, along with a diverse coalition of 44 industry and consumer groups, are now calling on federal regulators to revise a proposed 20% down payment requirement for Qualified Residential Mortgages.
At a special news conference on June 22, Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Representatives John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) expressed the views of a group of more than 325 of their colleagues in Congress when they publicly called on federal regulators to revise a proposed 20% down payment requirement for Qualified Residential Mortgages (QRM). The lawmakers were joined by members of the Coalition for Sensible Housing Policy, which includes more than 40 consumer and industry groups as well as NAHB; our CEO, Jerry Howard, was on hand for the press conference along with representatives from our coalition partners. Noting that the proposed rule would shut out responsible home buyers and further cripple the housing market, the lawmakers in attendance said that in promulgating the rule, regulators "did not follow our legislative intent" in crafting the Dodd-Frank Act. "We don't have a down payment problem in this country, but rather an underwriting problem," said Senator Isakson. Sen. Hagan also noted that "The proposed rule runs counter to the commonsense, bipartisan provision that Senators Landrieu, Isakson and I included in the Dodd-Frank Act last year. This misinterpretation of our intent could unnecessarily slow the housing market's recovery, and prevent well-qualified, middle class families from securing an affordable mortgage. We are urging regulators to go back to the drafting table."
Coinciding with the news conference, joint letters from 44 Senators and 282 members of the House of Representatives have been sent to the banking regulators. Senate co-signers called the proposed QRM regulation "unduly narrow" and reiterated that "well underwritten loans, regardless of down payment, were not the cause of the mortgage crisis." Meanwhile, House members argued that the proposed QRM "would particularly harm first-time and minority home buyers," and urged regulators "to consider lower down payment loans that have mortgage insurance as constituting a QRM." Federal regulators recently extended the comment period for the 20% down payment rule until Aug. 1, 2011. Read more in press releases from the U.S. Senate and from the Coalition for Sensible Housing Policy. Contact: Jessica Lynch (800-368-5242, x8401)
Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on June 23, NAHB First Vice Chairman Barry Rutenberg expressed NAHB's strong support for a five-year extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to ensure the program's continued effectiveness and to create greater stability within the overall housing market. Barry explained that, because the NFIP has had to undergo a series of short-term extensions over recent years, this has created a high level of uncertainty and caused severe problems in many already-troubled housing markets. "During the latest interruption, many home buyers faced delayed or cancelled closings due to the inability to obtain NFIP insurance for a mortgage," he noted. "In other instances, builders themselves were forced to halt or postpone construction on a new home due to the lack of flood insurance approval, adding unneeded delay and job loss." The current reauthorization of the program expires on Sept. 30; while NAHB supports reforms of the NFIP to ensure its financial stability, we also believe that lawmakers must proceed with care to ensure that steps they take do not negatively impact housing affordability and the ability of local communities to exercise control over their growth and development plans. Barry outlined several reforms that NAHB supports to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the NFIP to better adapt to changes in risk, inflation and the marketplace — see NAHB's press release for details. Currently more than 20,000 communities across the country participate in the NFIP, which covers approximately 5.5 million policyholders. Contact: Kedrin Simms Brachman, 800-368-5242, x8413.
Sales of newly built, single-family homes declined 2.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 319,000 units in May, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department this week. The decline only partially offset a larger gain that was registered in April, and both April and May sales numbers have held above the first-quarter average. In fact, in view of all of the challenges in today's market — including competition from foreclosures, lack of construction credit, inaccurate appraisals and rising materials prices — the averages for the past two months combined represent some "very slow improvement which should continue as expected economic gains boost consumer confidence," noted NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen in NAHB's press release. Also, a bright spot in the latest numbers was the May inventory number, which continued to fall by 3.5% to 166,000 units — a new record low. This represents a 6.2-month supply at the current sales pace. For more, read our press release or the government's report online.
We've previously reported to you about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) decision to implement a three-month phase-in period for new fall protection guidelines that became effective on June 15 (read more here). As builders focus on understanding the new rules in this area, they are also reminded that OSHA has indicated that it is stepping up enforcement measures on a number of fronts and that it has taken steps to increase the dollar amount of all penalties through administrative enhancements to its penalty policy.
Builders and trade contractors should pay particular attention to the following hazards, which are the top 10 most frequently-cited OSHA standards for construction in 2010 (with the reference to the specific OSHA standard in parentheses):
Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
Fall Protection, training requirements (29 CFR 1926.503)
Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200)
General Safety & Health Provisions (29 CFR 1926.20)
Head Protection (29 CFR 1926.100)
Aerial Lifts (29 CFR 1926.453)
Eye & Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102)
Excavation, specific excavation requirements (29 CFR 1926.651)
There are a few simple things that builders and trade contractors should do to be prepared for OSHA inspections. These include:
Conducting an assessment to identify and correct safety hazards on the job site.
Conducting appropriate safety training for employees — such as fall protection and ladder safety training.
Updating records and making sure they are readily available.
Understanding the OSHA inspection process.
You should know that NAHB has multiple resources that are designed to assist you in achieving compliance with OSHA rules and regulations. For example, we have versatile handbooks and videos that present key safety issues where builders and workers can reduce accidents and injuries. These are available via BuilderBooks at this link. Also, NAHB's Construction Safety & OSHA web page contains compliance assistance information at www.nahb.org/safety. You can also download a free overview of the OSHA inspection process and obtain OSHA assistance at this link. For more information, contact Rob Matuga or Marcus Odorizzi at 800-368-5242, x8507 or x8590.
June 29: Learn How to Use Social Media to Engage With Targeted Audiences
Attendees will learn about the basic social networking sites and how to incorporate them into their marketing program. Social media expert Carol Flammer, MIRM, managing partner at mRelevance and author of "Social Media for Home Builders 2.0: It's Easier Than You Think," will provide tips on blogging, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and on engaging and conversing with various audiences. The fee is $19.95 for Professional Women in Building members, $24.95 for NAHB members and $44.95 for non-members. To register online, visit the NAHB Webinar Wednesdays registration page or contact NAHB’s Office of the Registrar at 800-368-5242, x8338. More information: Carmel Nayman (800-368-5242, x8410)
July 13: Webinar to Look at What’s Hot in New-Home Construction
Attendees will gain insights into new trends for both single-family and multifamily homes, and get acquainted with products and strategies that will help them take advantage of new market opportunities. The fee is $19.95 for NAHB Remodelers members, $24.95 for NAHB members and $44.95 for non-members.To register online, visit the NAHB Webinar Wednesdays registration page or contact NAHB’s Office of the Registrar at 800-368-5242, x8338. More information: Jaclyn Toole (800-368-5242, x8469)
July 20: Free Webinar to Guide Builders Through New Financing Environment
This webinar will explore future prospects for acquisition, development and construction financing. Panelists also will discuss alternative sources of funding; how new rules and regulations will affect traditional lender-builder relationships; and how builders can help potential customers take advantage of new incentives. Offered free to NAHB members,this event will be held from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 20. To register online, visit the NAHB Webinar Wednesdays registration page or contact NAHB’s Office of the Registrar at 800-368-5242, x8338. More information: Kimberly Moore (800-368-5242, x8529)
The Monday Morning Briefing will not publish and NAHB offices will be closed on the federal July 4 holiday next week. NAHB offices will reopen for usual business hours on Tuesday, July 5. Please stay tuned for the next edition of this report, which will be dated July 11. In the meantime, we wish all of our readers a safe and pleasant Independence Day weekend.