Look Ahead

Coming off one of the housing market's best years in history in 2003, the nation's home builders expect to stay just as busy this year as rock-solid market fundamentals continue to bolster demand for new homes and apartments nationwide.

The NAHB predicts that sales of new single-family homes should once again surpass one million units this year. Moreover, on the production side, starts of single-family units should recede by only about 3.5 percent to 1.45 million units.

In the multifamily sector, a strong condo component and the solid production of federally subsidized low-income rental housing will likely continue to provide essential support to the market, while better job growth will help to combat high vacancies in market-rate rental housing. As a result, the NAHB projects a mere 1.5 percent decline in multifamily production to 342,000 units this year, followed by some further softening in 2004 to 327,000 units.

Back Again

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has re-appointed former NAHB president Kent Conine to the Governing Board of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The agency provides a range of financial and educational resources to help develop better communities and improve quality of life in Texas.

"Our efforts to expand affordable housing opportunities for deserving Texas families will continue with even greater vigor in the months and years ahead," says Conine.

Conine has served on the TDHCA Governing Board since 1997. His new term will continue through Jan. 31, 2009.

Design Trends

Based on interviews with builders and architects, the NAHB projects a number of interesting design trends in new homes over the coming year. For example:

Buyers of new homes are demanding large kitchens adjacent to family rooms, with the two rooms being visually open or divided by a half wall.

Bathrooms also are getting larger and are being built with upgraded fixtures and lighting, plus linen closets, double vanities, and separate toilet compartments.

Living rooms are shrinking or disappearing altogether. More than one-third of homes built last year did not have a living room, and this trend is expected to continue.

And expect to see more ceiling fans in newly built homes. Close to 80 percent of respondents in a recent NAHB survey of consumer preferences tapped ceiling fans as desirable or essential features in a new home, indicating a significantly greater emphasis on these than in the past.

Fed Report

The NAHB has questioned a study by Wayne Passmore, a staff member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, on the implicit subsidy and value of housing-related, government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs).

"Like many theoretical models, we believe that Mr. Passmore's study does not reflect real-life experience," says Jerry Howard, executive vice president and CEO of the NAHB. "Thanks to Fannie and Freddie, the customers of our 215,000 members have access to a world-class housing finance system that has contributed to the availability and affordability of housing credit."