News from housing's ground zero.

By BUILDER Magazine Staff

Lobby Leverage

The NAHB met with Interior Secretary Gale Norton to discuss implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Norton says policy has shifted in how the agency performs economic analysis in designating critical habitat. More areas will be excluded if economic impact outweighs the benefit to the listed species.

Bottom line? Less red tape, lower builder costs, more consumer homes, the NAHB says.

Housing Holds

In October, the NAHB chief economist David Seiders joined chief economists David Berson from Fannie Mae and David Lereah of the National Association of Realtors to discuss the post­Sept. 11 housing economy. All predicted housing to maintain much of its strength despite an anticipated mild recession in the second half of 2001 and first quarter of 2002.

A low inventory of unsold new homes, aggressive interest rate reductions by the Federal Reserve, tax cuts, and other fiscal stimulus, and low inflation all run counter to the economic indicators that usually signal the start of a recession, Seiders noted. The webcast of the event and a summary are now available on

Relief Rises

The NAHB's Home Builders Care Victims' Relief Fund has now received more than $9 million in contributions. Established by the NAHB and its philanthropic arm, the National Housing Endowment, all funds will assist victims and their families of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Reserve Upheld

At its fall board of directors meeting, the NAHB emphasized support of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and its requirements that properties financed by the program reserve either 20 percent of the units for households earning 50 percent or less of the area median income or 40 percent of the units for households earning 60 percent or less.

"The LIHTC is an indispensable tool that is the primary means of building affordable housing for our citizens who need it the most," notes the NAHB's senior staff vice president for multifamily, Sharon Dworkin Bell. Last year, at the NAHB's urging, Congress increased the volume cap for the LIHTC program from $1.25 per capita to $1.75 and indexed the cap to keep pace with inflation to ensure that tax credit supply keeps up with demand.

Craft Lauded

Recently, the full House approved H.R. 3061, the FY 2002 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill, including praise for the Home Builders Institute's Project CRAFT (Community Restitution and Apprenticeship Focused Training). The bill's committee recognized the program's success as a proven intervention technique in the rehabilitation and reduced recidivism of juvenile offenders. The committee lauded the role the program plays in addressing the housing industries' labor shortage. They encourage replicating Project CRAFT.