AS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION SETTLES in for a second term, and the 109th Congress gets down to business, several housing-related issues could come under consideration on Capitol Hill.

President Bush laid out an ambitious housing agenda when he spoke to the NAHB board of directors during the final weeks of the 2004 presidential campaign, and many of the issues he raised are likely to surface in the weeks and months ahead.

Specifically, the president called for (1) implementing homeownership tax credit and FHA zero down-payment legislation to promote homeownership; (2) removing regulatory barriers to spur the production of affordable housing; (3) enacting tort reform to protect small business owners and workers from frivolous lawsuits; and (4) instituting association health plans to allow small firms to provide affordable, quality health care for their employees.

The homeownership tax credit received broad bipartisan support in the 108th Congress, garnering more than 300 co-sponsors in the House and more than 50 in the Senate. The measure would provide new tax incentives to increase the production of affordable housing and boost homeownership opportunities in low-income communities. Not only could it open the door for affordable homeownership for as many as 50,000 families annually, it also could create up to 120,000 jobs annually.

HUD estimates that, if enacted, an FHA zero down-payment program would allow 140,000 additional families to own a home.

Another issue on the table will be legislation to maximize rental housing availability for America's working families by:

  • Ensuring that federal housing programs are adequately funded and that housing gets its fair share of dollars as appropriations bills move through Congress;
  • Supporting the adoption of improvements in the low-income housing tax credit and FHA mortgage insurance programs; and
  • Protecting the viability of the Section 8 housing choice voucher program, which enables millions of families to secure affordable housing who otherwise would be unable to do so.
  • President Bush has also indicated that he wants to retain homeownership tax incentives in any new tax-simplification proposal to emerge, and he assured our members in Ohio that he believes the mortgage interest deduction is an essential element of the tax code.

    As Bush prepared for his second term, another theme espoused by the White House was enacting regulatory reform to streamline regulations and reduce paperwork to alleviate the burdens that handicap small businesses and entrepreneurs. To continue promoting pro-growth policies, the administration is also calling on Congress to make permanent all the tax relief passed during its first term, and President Bush specifically cited the abolition of the “death tax,” which is set to expire in 2010 but resurface in 2011.

    As the administration and Congress move forward with legislation that could have profound effects on housing and the home building industry, the NAHB will be an advocate for measures that promote homeownership, housing affordability, and rental housing opportunities. And we will be equally vigilant in opposing measures that could be harmful.

    Dave Wilson
    President, NAHB, Washington, D.C.