Access Granted Housing officials from the United States and Mexico endorsed a landmark agreement to increase cross-border housing opportunities. The contract is part of the NAHB's international initiative “Access Mexico.” The project promotes a bilateral forum to enhance trade, exchange information, and share technologies between the two countries' housing sectors.

The United States and Mexico will work together to create more accessible trade channels and to exchange technology and skills aimed at improving the quality, efficiency, and affordability of the home building process. The partnership establishes a powerful precedent for international cooperation. It will increase cross-border ties between home builders, providing both countries with new business prospects.

Bargain Building The cost of building materials is expected to go down in 2005, according to analysts at the NAHB's fall Construction Forecast Conference. Economists say commodity prices, which are determined by international factors such as China's population growth causing global demand to exceed capacity, are topping out. Several key materials, including scrap steel, which rose 80 percent since last year, posted double-digit increases in the past 12 months and will soon begin to move on a downward slope.

Builders can expect to save on major building materials—except cement, which likely will peak early next year as post-hurricane reconstruction efforts move into full swing. Economists suggest eliminating tariffs on Mexican cement imports to help assuage the shortage.

Log On A new NAHB Web-based publication provides expert, in-depth analysis of economic and housing market trends and the latest housing economic statistics. The online news service, which is produced by the NAHB Economics Group, consolidates and supplants the housing agency's saleable print mediums, “Housing Market Statistics,” “Housing Economics,” and “Home Builders Forecast.”

The news service is available at two subscription levels: Pro and Executive, both of which include, among other features, building permit and employment stats broken down by state and metro regions, a monthly forecast of national economic activity, interest rates, new housing units, and homes sales, and a quarterly review of news and trends affecting the multifamily market. For more information, visit www.Housing or call 800-223-2665.

Winds of Change The country's housing boom is expected to flatten out from record levels in 2005. Economists say the nation's housing market is reaching its limit. Some industry insiders predict about a 4 percent (1.85 million units) decline in starts next year. New single-family home sales, which reached record proportions this year (1.16 million), are expected to fall about 5 percent.

But as the Federal Reserve gradually pushes up interest rates and the fiscal stimulus of the Bush administration's tax cuts begin to wane, economists remain optimistic about prospects for the residential construction industry, economic growth, job growth, and inflation. NAHB chief economist Dave Seiders says immigration growth and household formation will produce a demand for single-family and multi-family homes, while the rise of home equity will keep the remodeling industry growing.