It's encouraging to discover that the same topics that have worried builders most in the past year have been the ones Builder has covered most thoroughly. The NAHB's annual Critical Issues Survey, recently published, shows that defect lawsuits, land costs, and development costs remain high on the anxiety list for builders. But there's an even bigger elephant rolling around in the hot tub: insurance costs.

Although ranking of issues varied by state and region, insurance costs hit the top of the bad news scale in every region except two. In the Northeast quarter of the U.S., labor costs and availability took the top slot. In the middle southern states, including Texas and Louisiana, development approval earned a spot as the main gripe--only slightly above liability insurance cost.

Builders were invited to comment during the survey. Their anonymous comments include strong opinions on everything from property taxes ("The government is out of control!") to density ("I've got mine. You can't have yours."). Asked about affordable housing in their region, builders noted that if mortgage rates rise, the affordability crisis will get even worse. A builder in the Northeast writes: "Local politics and antidevelopment mentality believe large lots can slow down growth. So much for affordable housing." On the subject of insurance, one respondent wrote: "Help! Reaching a national crisis."