It's important to make the public aware of housing's national importance. By Gary Garczynski

As I write my first article as the president of the NAHB, I can't help but reflect, especially in these fluid times, about how important housing is to this nation.

We in the housing industry realize that housing drives the economy, strengthens families and communities, and helps build financial security. We know that it is undeniably the foundation of the American Dream.

Public awareness

Sometimes, however, I think the public isn't really aware of housing's importance to the very fabric of our nation. It is essential for us to inform them about housing's importance so that we can maintain it as a national priority. Consequently, communication is at the heart of the NAHB's agenda in 2002. Effectively framing and delivering our advocacy messages are central to virtually everything we do--from representing our industry before Congress, the administration, and the federal courts to making sure that our opinions are heeded in the debate over smart growth and delivering critical information to our 205,000 members.

In particular, we will strive to educate and inform the three key "publics" that we serve: our members and future leaders of the association, our buyers (the consumers of today and tomorrow), and elected and appointed public officials with whom we work each day. Quite simply, how well we connect with these very divergent groups will determine how successfully our industry meets the challenges of the 21st century.

Growth evolution

How and where our nation grows to meet the demand generated by an increasing population is perhaps our greatest challenge. Growth will shape our long-term agenda for the foreseeable future, transcending the many other issues that our industry faces.

As the debate over growth evolves, it is clear that the question of where and how America grows will not be resolved by sweeping federal legislation. Instead, the crucial decisions affecting growth will be made in the trenches: in civic association meetings, local planning boards, mayors' offices, council chambers, living rooms, and classrooms across the country.

Educate youth

Working hand in hand with local associations, we can educate our buyers and public officials so that they understand the correlation between a healthy housing market and the locality's well being. A particularly important aspect of this effort will be to reach out to future home buyers, the youth of America, through our new educational program, "Building Homes of Our Own," an interactive CD-ROM simulation game that will enable the next generation to better understand the challenges of our industry.

Against the backdrop of long-term issues like growth, the NAHB faces a number of immediate challenges. Undoubtedly, the most important is the economy, which slipped into recession early last year. Housing has traditionally led the economy to recovery, and today it is ideally positioned to fulfill that responsibility once again. However, the stakes are greater than ever before. Life as we know it changed irrevocably in 2001 when forces of unmitigated depravity tested the strength and will of the American people. Now, it is up to the housing industry to once again lead the way to recovery and to demonstrate in the most effective way possible that although tested and tempered by tragedy, our nation has emerged stronger and more resolute than ever before.

The NAHB continues to be "the voice" of housing in our country. When we stand up for housing, we stand up for America!