NO MATTER WHO WINS THE UPCOMING election, it's vital that Congress and the administration make housing a national priority. The following is the NAHB's list of the top 10 key points about housing that all candidates and elected officials need to know:

10. Housing is leading the nation's economic recovery. Builders constructed more than 1.8 million new homes and apartment units in 2003, and a record 1.1 million new homes were sold last year. Production and sales are expected to exceed those figures in 2004, and a healthy economy with low interest rates and rising real incomes is critical to sustaining this level of production.

9. Housing creates well-paying jobs. The NAHB's 215,000 members employ about 8 million Americans, making the housing industry one of the nation's largest employers.

8. Housing generates wealth. It accounts for 32 percent of household wealth in the nation, and homeowners have a total of more than $8 trillion in home equity.

7. The nation has a major housing gap. The national homeownership rate stands at a record 68 percent, but millions of working families still struggle to obtain decent shelter, and the homeownership rate of minorities lags 25 points below that of white households.

6. The job of housing America is far from complete. Builders will have to construct 18 million new-home and apartment units over the next decade just to keep up with population and household growth.

5. There is a growing need for affordable housing for America's workers. As the number of immigrant, minority, and female-headed households grows, demand for starter homes and affordable rental housing will increase. Unfortunately, working families are being priced out of the markets where they work and are commuting two hours or more each day to their jobs.

4. Smart growth is key to meeting the nation's housing needs. New household formations are expected to average between 1.3 million and 1.6 million annually during the next decade. To satisfy the resulting housing demand, local and state governments need to enact sound land-use policies and reform and streamline the zoning and regulatory process.

3. Credit is the lifeblood of the housing market. During the next decade, America's families will need 125 million mortgage loans, or an average of $3 trillion annually, for home purchases and refinancings, so policymakers must guard against any backdoor attempts to alter the regulations affecting government-sponsored housing enterprises.

2. Meeting the housing needs of the underserved is essential. The federal government should support special programs and tax incentives that help low- and moderate-income families buy or rent decent housing.

1. Housing must be a national priority. By reaffirming this commitment, the next Congress and presidential administration can help fulfill the promise of the Housing Act of 1949: “A decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.”

Bobby Rayburn
President, NAHB Washington, D.C.