Housing Key To Presidential Election?
Builders argue that campaigning hard on housing issues will give a big edge to the two presidential candidates this fall and could help determine who wins the White House.

This is why the NAHB released 10 key points.

10. Housing is leading the nation’s economic recovery. In 2003, housing activity accounted for 16 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S. economy.

9 The 215,000 members of NAHB employ about eight million Americans, making it one of the nation’s largest employers.

8.  Housing accounts for 32% of household wealth in the nation. Homeowners have a total of about $8 trillion in home equity.

7.  While the national homeownership rate stands at a record 68%, millions of working families are still struggling to obtain decent shelter. Minority homeownership rates lag 25 points below white households.

6.  To keep pace with rising population rates and household growth, builders will have to construct 18 million new home and apartment units. Financing this housing will require $3 trillion annually in new mortgage loan originations.

5.  Working families-including teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and other public servants-are being priced out of the local markets where they work and they are commuting two hours or more each day to work.

4.  To satisfy this robust housing demand, local and state governments need to enact sound land-use policies and reform and streamline the zoning and regulatory process.

3.  During the next decade, America’s families will need 125 million mortgage loans, or an average of $3 trillion annually, for home purchases and refinancings.

2.  Housing initiatives in Congress that enjoy broad bipartisan support, such as the homeownership tax credit legislation, the FHA zero down payment program and improvements in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, need to be enacted into law.

1.  The next Congress and Administration should help fulfill the promise of the Housing Act of 1949, which set a goal of “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.”

‘Sound Science’ Behind Two Congressional Bills
Two bills passed by the Congressional House Resources Committee in July would make important changes to the critical habitat designation process, reduce litigation, promote species recovery, provide incentives for private landowners to enact voluntary conservation measures and ensure that Endangered Species Act decisions are based on sound scientific data.

H.R. 2933, the Critical Habitat Reform Act of 2003, was introduced by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., and cleared the House panel with bipartisan support on a 28-14 vote. Sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden,
R-Ore., H.R. 1662, the Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act of 2003, was approved by a 26-15 margin.

Home builders praised the bills and their sponsors. “Neither the housing needs of America’s growing population, nor the needs of dwindling wildlife are well served when the government applies environmental solutions before it has scientifically determined the true nature and extent of the problem. We need to make valid and sound science the backbone of our Endangered Species Act protection efforts,” says Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Home Builders.

H.R. 2933 would compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide information to landowners on the “specific areas” that warrant heightened regulation and protection and to fully examine the economic consequences of critical habitat designations.

H.R. 1662 would mandate the use of sound science in decisions made under the Endangered Species Act. The bill would improve the scientific and biological data underlying decisions based on the act.

Both bills could go before the full Congress this fall.

Housing Starts Decline In June
Housing starts in June cooled from the torrid levels posted earlier this year, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department. Overall, the June construction rate was just above 1.8 million units, down 8.5% from May’s upwardly revised rate of 1.97 million.

Single-family housing starts fell 9.5% in June to a pace of 1.489 million. This was a 1.1% drop from the June 2003 pace, although single-family starts were up by 12.2% on a year-to-date basis.
The pace of multifamily housing starts decreased 3.7% from May to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 units. This was 9.3% below June of last year, although multifamily starts still were up by about 6% on a year-to-date basis.

Construction of new homes and apartments fell in all four regions, posting declines of 3.5% in the Northeast, 11.5% in the Midwest, 3.1% in the South and 16.5% in the West. Permit issuance was down in all regions but the Northwest.

NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders says June’s performance was just a hiccup.

“”Mortgage interest rates have fallen back to below 6% since then. This certainly bodes well for housing in the coming months.In fact, we expect single-family starts will post an all-time high in 2004, surpassing last year’s record of 1.499 million units,” says Seiders. “The backlog of unused permits rose substantially in June, particularly in the single-family sector, as builders reassessed the financial market climate. This development should be a positive factor for housing starts in July.”