Now that the 113th Congress has rolled up its shirt sleeves and settled in to work, it is likely to address a number of issues that could result in sweeping changes to the home building industry.
Reform of the nation’s housing finance system, the tax code, and the immigration system potentially could impose major changes on the way we do business and make it much harder for Americans to achieve homeownership. Fortunately, the NAHB is well-positioned for the challenges ahead. And that’s not just my opinion as chairman—that’s what noted political analyst Charlie Cook told the NAHB Board of Directors during the International Builders’ Show.
The NAHB anticipated that Congress and the regulatory agencies would be addressing issues that seriously could impact the entire industry, and it has put a lot of time and effort into being prepared for the challenges ahead. It’s reassuring to know that one of the keenest observers in Washington, D.C., agrees that the NAHB has built a strong foundation for the future.
Tax reform is a particularly contentious issue, and some important housing measures—including the mortgage interest deduction, the deduction for state and local property taxes, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit—are likely to come under fire. Armed with public opinion surveys showing that Americans value homeownership and oppose efforts to limit or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, the NAHB held rallies for homeownership in swing states nationwide in the months leading up to the elections. In addition to engaging the attention of key policymakers, those rallies helped galvanize members and the public and resulted in media coverage that took NAHB’s message to more than 20 million people nationwide.
Regarding reform of the housing finance system, the NAHB issued a well-received white paper that sets its priorities and emphasizes the need for a reliable and adequate flow of affordable credit for home buyers.
The NAHB also has issued a blueprint for reform of the nation’s residential appraisal system, which is impaired on a number of levels. The white paper was written in consultation with other appraisal stakeholders and focuses on the need for a coordinated, streamlined process along with consistent rules, a robust database of supporting information, and uniform credentialing standards for appraisers.
Immigration reform also could have a significant effect on builders. The NAHB is on record that comprehensive reform must provide safeguards to businesses that make good-faith efforts to avoid hiring illegal workers. It also must create a guest worker program allowing more immigrants to legally enter the residential construction workforce each year and be put on the path to temporary or permanent legal residency or citizenship.
Along with such efforts, the NAHB maintains frequent contact with key legislators, regulators, and administration officials to provide them with credible, empirical research and analysis on key housing issues and to ensure that they know where the NAHB stands on them. It’s very important that the NAHB presents these decision makers with accurate and reliable supporting information. Fortunately, NAHB’s members and staff do a great job of compiling the data we need and analyzing the various aspects of the housing market, so we are always well-prepared.
Although we’re confident that the NAHB has built a strong foundation for action and is well-positioned for any battles that may lie ahead, Charlie Cook also emphasized that we must be vigilant. Rest assured, that’s advice we’re going to follow.