House Call Shortly after Hurricane Katrina's devastating tear through the Gulf states, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity convened a hearing on emergency housing needs in the storm's wake. NAHB president Dave Wilson gave testimony and proposed several steps to address the immediate crisis and the long-term reconstruction of housing. Among other things, Wilson recommended that Congress:

  • Ensure that the Section 8 housing voucher program can be used for the emergency needs of existing voucher holders left homeless as well as the needs of newly displaced persons.
  • Allow those uprooted by Katrina the opportunity to move quickly into units financed with low-income housing tax credits without placing an undue burden on apartment owners.
  • Provide waivers to statutory and regulatory provisions in the FHA mortgage insurance, HOME, Community Development Block Grant, Section 108 Loan Guarantee, and USDA Rural Housing Service programs, to help new construction and rehab activities advance smoothly in the long term.
  • Help ease the impact of building materials price spikes and shortages by rescinding tariffs on key building components, including lumber, cement, and plywood.
  • Partial Reform In late September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation incorporating many reforms to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). At press time, the Senate had not introduced companion legislation. Among other provisions, H.R. 3824, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act, would:

  • Ensure that local and regional land-use agencies are consulted when the federal government develops recovery plans;
  • Protect private property rights;
  • Codify the “no surprises” policy to give private property owners, state and local governments, and community organizations the necessary regulatory certainty to continue their species and conservation efforts;
  • Compensate private landowners for takings under the ESA; and
  • Establish a grant program for private property owners who voluntarily participate in species conservation.
  • Bye-Bye Birdie? Two years after a federal court ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) listing of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl under the Endangered Species Act was illegal, the FWS has proposed removing the bird from the endangered species list. The proposed rule would also render moot a proposal, never finalized, to set aside 1.2 million acres in Southern Arizona as pygmy owl habitat.

    In 2003, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided unanimously that the FWS's pygmy owl listing was arbitrary and capricious. The court sided with the NAHB, the Southern Arizona HBA, and the HBA of Central Arizona, finding that the FWS did not articulate a rational basis for listing the bird, given that it was known to exist in far greater numbers in Mexico. Surveys conducted by Arizona officials, most recently in 2002, detected 18 pygmy owls in the state.