We say home building is a noble calling.

In character, or action, or rank, or quality, home building--whose end is a new home, in a community, for an individual or family--becomes synonymous with honor, virtue, decency, and integrity because so many of its people equate their role in building a home with the outcome of having someone living a full life there.

Today, home building as a livelihood and a business model is challenged. Three important, and intensifying economic constraints press in on it from three separate directions. One, the shrinking of the pool of capable home buyers, thanks to a housing finance market and regulatory environment that would rather wait for broad-brush signs of reduced risk than to seek more precise ways to assign and dare to take risks where it's appropriate.

Two, land sellers--fully aware that global and domestic liquidity is trapped and behaving according to laws of physics in search of yield--are charging a lot for lots, in relative value terms.

Three, the local levy--taxes, fees, improvement demands, time-delays, entitlement costs, etc.--has reached an inflection point that essentially signifies many municipalities' citizenry just don't want more new people in their backyard, period.

American Dream of homeownership, fine.

Somewhere else, please.

Which is partly why we say home building is a noble calling. Part of the decency, and virtue and honor comes from the ways home builders and residential developers battle that local levy. That 30% or thereabouts of a home's all-in cost in time, dollars, etc., that goes to development and entitlement and permitting and taxes and planning board, zoning board, environmental board, etc. meetings.

When we read this New Yorker piece, "The Wall Dancer" by Nick Paumgarten about young 14-year-old Ashima Shiraishi’s "route to the top," we think of what a home builder--one who works for a home building company, or one who works on the job site--is and does.

In terms of pure talent—climbers speak of “strength”—she is near the top, but she is not too keen on taking risks. Anyway, her parents won’t allow it. She has small, powerful fingers, a light but sinewy frame, and a seemingly effortless yet peerlessly precise technique. All this enables her to find holds in nearly imperceptible chinks in the rock. A rock climber’s key attribute is a high strength-to-weight ratio, but the ability to create leverage, with subtle geometric variations in body positioning, is the force multiplier. A civilian might think crudely of climbing as something like ascending a ladder—all reach and pull—but watching Ashima adjust the attitude of her hips, shoulders, or heels as she tries to move from one improbable hold to another gives the impression that the human body can arrange itself in an infinite number of forms, each of slightly different utility.

There is the climb. And there is the home builder, doing that climb for every home he or she builds in today's economically constrained arena.

Enough said.