With its high standard of living and a homeownership rate of more than 68 percent, the United States is unquestionably the best-housed nation on earth. But even though our nation has made great progress over the past five decades in attaining the goal adopted by Congress in 1949 of "a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family," there are dangerous undercurrents in today's housing market.
Despite very affordable mortgage interest rates, millions of working families are finding it increasingly difficult to purchase or rent a decent home in or close to the communities where they work. Many teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other moderate-income workers--representing the heartbeat of any community--are working two or three jobs to meet their monthly housing expenses or are living 50 miles or more from their jobs. In many markets, the gap between those who can afford a home and those who can't is widening at an alarming rate, and affordable rental housing is in short supply.
But the nation's housing industry has been tested before. Time and again, home builders have demonstrated that, with the proper tools and policy, they can overcome major obstacles and meet the housing needs of the American people. In 2004, the NAHB will rededicate itself to this effort and set forth an agenda to draw attention to--and to begin to reverse--today's growing affordability gap and to open new opportunities for millions of working American families who are unable to purchase or rent a decent home.
To increase housing opportunities for working Americans over the long term, the NAHB will focus its energies in 2004 on:
* Ensuring that the overall economy continues to grow at an adequate pace and that interest rates remain low;
* Maintaining a healthy secondary mortgage market and housing finance system;
* Pursuing an aggressive legislative, regulatory, and legal agenda at the federal level to, among other things, improve the functioning of the housing market delivery system, enhance the housing finance system, and lend a helping hand to working Americans living at the edge of affordability;
* Promoting smart growth and removing regulatory barriers to housing affordability;
* Elevating housing as a top national priority during the national elections and supporting pro-housing candidates in the House and Senate elections;
* Working in partnership with the leadership of its 800 local and state associations to utilize and take full advantage of the energy, resources, and political clout of its 215,000 grassroots members.
These are very ambitious goals, and they certainly won't be achieved overnight or with little effort. But I am confident that, with the enthusiastic and energetic support of grassroots members, state and local association leaders, my fellow senior officers, and the NAHB staff, we can achieve these goals. No matter what the obstacles or impediments, the NAHB will move forward aggressively to expand housing opportunities for America's working families in the year ahead.