Washington Briefs March/April 2004

President Bush’s Strategy Praised by Landers
President George W. Bush traveled to New Hampshire at the end of January to push his administration’s domestic agenda. At a Jan. 29 roundtable to discuss the state’s economic outlook, Bush met with Joseph Landers, president and chief executive officer of Customized Structures (Claremont, NH).

Landers offered strong support for a White House plan to make the tax cuts passed in last year’s stimulus package permanent. Representing the local housing industry, Landers applauded the president for his administration’s commitment to providing safe, affordable housing for all Americans.

“Mr. President, on behalf of my company’s 135 employees, I would like to thank you because your tax cuts are working,’ says Landers.

While his company has been in business for 20 years, Landers claims the last three have been the best. Future prospects are so positive that the firm has just purchased a new manufacturing plant three times larger than its current facility and plans to hire between 100 and 125 new employees over the next nine months.

Provisions in the 2003 tax bill—which lowered income tax rates, increased small business expensing to get more people back in the workforce, provided bonus depreciation for business investments, phased out the costly estate tax, reduced capital gains and dividend rates and boosted the child-care credit—are all due to expire in coming years.

“I remain positive that you will be successful in permanently extending the current tax provisions that have helped strengthen the economy while adding new legislation your administration is supporting, such as the homeownership tax credit, to enhance housing affordability,’ Landers told President Bush.

In a private session with the president before the start of the roundtable discussion, Landers told President Bush that the National Association of Home Builders and New Hampshire’s home builders association supported his tax policy and are working with the White House to help extend current tax relief and enact the homeownership tax credit.

“In New Hampshire, economic and housing activity are on the rise. And the same is true throughout the rest of the nation. Allowing current tax relief to expire will put a drag on housing and the economy,’ says Landers.

The homeownership tax credit, legislation that is pending in both chambers of Congress, would help bridge the gap between the cost of developing affordable housing and the price buyers with modest incomes can afford to pay for homes. If enacted, the legislation is expected to result in the construction of 50,000 homes annually in economically distressed areas across the country.

Housing Fares Well in Federal Bill
When was the last time the federal government did something for you? Count your blessings if you’re in the home building business, because on Jan. 23 President Bush signed into law a new legislative package, a $373 billion measure that combines seven spending bills into one giant package to fund the federal government through Sept. 30 of this year. This law distributes millions of tax dollars this year toward several important housing initiatives.

Among other items, the FY 2004 omnibus appropriations bill includes $159 million for Edward Byrne Discretionary Grants, which benefit the Home Builders Institute’s Project CRAFT (Community, Restitution and Apprenticeship-Focused Training). This is up from $94 million allotted to the program last year.

The Jobs Corps and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Grants each received an increase in funding in FY 2004, rising to $1.55 billion and $2.12 billion, respectively. The Perkins program provides important funding for many of the nation’s vocational education programs, including those that provide instruction in the construction and residential building trades.

The Workforce Investment Act monies came in on par with last year at $5.16 billion, while the Responsible Reintegration of Youth Offenders program received a $50 million appropriation.

Other housing programs include $25 million for brownfield redevelopment, $40 for housing counseling assistance, $25 million for rural housing economic development, $65 million for Youth Build, $7.5 million for PATH and $1.93 billion for the HOME program.

The NAHB’s Building Systems Councils booth saw record attendance at the International Builders’Show this past January. More than 1,300 builders stopped by the booth and the seminars on each building system.

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