On July 11, the NAHB will be staging a “Rally for Homeownership” in Tampa, Fla., one of seven such rallies the trade group will hold in markets that are considered critical to the election of the next President of the United States.
The rallies are part of the association’s broader effort to keep housing issues front and center during the election campaign. Tampa-St. Petersburg is also where the Republican Party will hold its presidential nominating convention in August. The Democrats will hold their convention in Charlotte, N.C., the following month. NAHB plans to have a “major presence” at each shindig, says its CEO Jerry Howard, who spoke with Builder on Monday with Jim Tobin, NAHB’s chief lobbyist, about where housing ranks in the national conversation between the two parties and their candidates.
Neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ presumptive candidate, has issued formal statements about what his policies related to housing would be if elected.
NAHB wants to hear specifics from each candidate about two areas: housing finance (the association favors some government backstop to loans, regardless of what happens to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), and tax reform. “It is folly to talk about limiting the government’s support of housing when the sector is still on its back,” says Howard.
He concedes that, given their druthers, Obama and Romney “would be perfectly happy if they could walk away from housing and not have to deal with it.” But they don’t have that luxury because the country’s housing finance system “is almost entirely government run.”
Howard adds that he and the association are “going to do our damnedest” to make sure the candidates state their positions on housing publicly. Tobin believes that, despite this sector’s weakness over the past several years, NAHB can still play a strong lobbying hand. “Everyone in Congress realizes housing’s role in the economy,” he says.
It will be interesting to see whether the rallies have any impact on public opinion. In January, NAHB’s rally in Columbia, S.C., drew nearly 1,000 people. The themes of that rally, and the ones going forward, focus on preserving the mortgage interest deduction, keeping housing affordable, and positioning the sector as a jobs-creating engine. NAHB claims building 100 single-family homes creates, on average, 305 jobs, $23.1 million in wage and business income, and $8.9 million in tax revenues.
John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.