As the nation continues to navigate some of the most tumultuous economic times in its history, it is impossible to say what the next turn of events will bring. On the other hand, I can tell you that the NAHB is committed to doing whatever it takes to stabilize and stimulate the housing market and address the ongoing crisis in the financial markets that is constraining the flow of credit the nation needs to prevent the recession from deepening.
Since the November elections, our energies have been focused on conducting a very intensive, multifaceted campaign to promote significant legislative and regulatory relief for housing and our industry. The NAHB also is leading the Fix Housing First Coalition, one of the largest coalitions of housing advocates ever assembled in the U.S., to further emphasize the need for quick, meaningful action and to ensure that the many stakeholders in this complex effort speak with a unified voice.
On behalf of its members and as the leader of the Fix Housing First Coalition, the NAHB has asked for specific measures aimed at helping to put a floor under declining home values, restoring confidence in housing and the economy, and getting buyers back into the market. Specifically, we have pressed for enhancements to the home buyer tax credit, below-market 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for home purchases, and additional measures aimed at preventing foreclosures.
I think it’s safe to say that we have left no stone unturned in our efforts to take this important message to Congress, the incoming Obama administration, and the public. We conducted high-level meetings with key members of Congress, President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, and the Bush administration; alerted NAHB members to the critical importance of the stimulus campaign; stepped up news media coverage; and worked with the Fix Housing First Coalition on full-page advertisements in major publications.
As part of this effort, we also tapped the power of the grassroots. More than 80 builders came to Washington in early January in a targeted fly-in focused on key members of Congress. We also held a series of press conferences in markets throughout the country where our grassroots members told the press and the public how their businesses and lives have been affected by the worst conditions in the housing market since the Great Depression.
We have also focused considerable effort on working with financial regulators and elected leaders to relieve the ongoing credit crunch that is crippling our industry. For some time, members have been reporting to the NAHB that it is extremely difficult to get credit for viable projects. Builders with outstanding construction and development loans say they are experiencing intense pressure as the result of requirements for significant amounts of additional equity, denials on loan extensions, and demands for immediate repayment. As a result, performing loans are being rendered nonperforming, adding to foreclosures and increasing inventories.
Hopefully, by the time you read this message, President Obama’s economic stimulus package will be well on its way to final passage in Congress. Whether the Obama plan turns out to be the right prescription for the nation’s economic woes will take months to determine. But I can assure you of this: The NAHB will stay on top of this situation, and we will do whatever is required to push for aggressive and meaningful policies that will help put our industry back on its feet and end the credit crunch.