Novel Ideas The NAHB is calling for entries for its first annual Innovation in Workforce Housing Awards. Designed to increase awareness of the difficulties associated with finding decent homes for public servants, the Workforce Housing awards recognize outstanding communities all over the country that provide affordable housing for police officers, schoolteachers, nurses, and other service personnel near the areas in which they work. The awards also showcase creative programs and techniques that can be implemented by the housing industry to help close the affordability gap that prevents service personnel from buying and renting quality homes proximate to their place of business.

The contest is open to builders, architects, designers, developers, and land planners from all over the nation. Winning entries will be selected by a panel of builders and land development experts based on criteria that includes construction quality, cost efficiency, and interior and exterior design. Winners will be announced at the 2005 International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., and will be notified by the NAHB by Dec. 15. Visit for more information.

Short Supply A shortage of cement is the biggest threat to the country's housing market, according to a recent nationwide survey conducted by the NAHB. Forty-one percent of respondents cited the cement shortage as an immediate concern, a huge jump from May, when only 11 percent of those polled considered it an issue. Builders also are worried about the scarce supply of other key building materials, including gypsum wall-board and steel framing.

Building materials' rising wholesale prices have added $5,000 to $7,000 to the cost of building an average new home, says Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of the NAHB. And construction delays caused by the supply scarcity could mean additional cost increases. These factors could disrupt the housing market. Howard has called on the Bush administration to remove the high anti-dumping taxes on Mexican cement imports to help relieve the shortage. Howard says that “a steady supply of building materials available at reasonable prices is important to maintaining a vibrant housing market.”

Crunch Time The NAHB's Building Systems Council (BSC) lauds a new pilot program in New York that allows a third-party inspection company to sanction modular homes in the state. The program was developed to cut down the time between design submission and state approval of factory manufactured homes—which means reduced costs for both builders and homeowners.

In recent years, the state of New York's approval system has delayed authorization by as many as eight months, according to the BSC's Advocacy Committee Chairman and New York modular home producer, John Colucci. The program, which went into effect on Aug. 1, is aimed at streamlining the approval process. The Department of State will monitor its success by randomly reviewing applications.