Tom Woods, NAHB Chairman of the Board
Herman Farrer Tom Woods, NAHB Chairman of the Board

I'm honored to serve as NAHB chairman this year, and I have two essential goals for 2015. I want to help ensure that the NAHB continues to provide great value for members and to uphold the federation's mission to ensure an optimal business environment for builders and remodelers.

There's a lot on tap for NAHB in 2015; in particular, we need to engage the 114th Congress and move the ball forward on housing finance reform. Our country needs a predictable housing finance system that ensures creditworthy buyers can access home loans; provides a consistent and affordable supply of mortgage credit for single-family and multifamily housing; preserves the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage; and includes a federal backstop to address potential emergencies in the finance market.

This issue has been languishing for years. Lawmakers addressed reform of the housing finance system in the previous Congress, but did not pass legislation. The NAHB will continue to push Congress to act during this session. We also will work with financial regulators, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Federal Housing Administration, to improve credit availability and to promote meaningful housing finance reform.

Regarding environmental policy, we are fighting a proposal to expand the reach of federal authority under the Clean Water Act. In 2014, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers published a proposed rule that would broaden the term "waters of the U.S." The rule would require costly federal permits for most ditches and streams that flow only when it rains and could extend jurisdiction to virtually any wet spot on a home's property. We are taking a multipronged approach to contest this rule, engaging legislators, state and local officials, and regulators. We are prepared to pursue legal action if necessary.

These are just two of the many issues we are addressing in our efforts to strengthen the residential construction industry. The housing market has been gradually recovering from the Great Recession, and NAHB economists expect this pattern to continue in 2015 thanks to a growing economy, rising household formations, low mortgage rates, and pent-up demand. But for a long-term recovery, we need policies in place that protect home builders and home buyers.

Members and state and local associations throughout the NAHB federation will be taking that message directly to lawmakers March 9-15 during "Bringing Housing Home," our in-district legislative conference.

NAHB members traditionally meet with members of Congress during our spring Board of Directors meeting in Washington, D.C. However, after plans for the 2014 spring meeting were set, Congress changed its schedule and the House was in recess during last year's spring board meeting. In response, NAHB senior officers decided to change the 2014 Legislative Conference into a series of in-district visits with elected officials while they were in their home offices.

The inaugural Bringing Housing Home event was a huge success for NAHB. Thousands of members met with elected officials in 49 states. We're looking forward to another great event this year.