Jerry Konter, CEO, Konter Quality Homes
Jerry Konter, CEO, Konter Quality Homes

The past year for the housing industry has been characterized by housing affordability challenges, supply chain concerns, rising interest rates, inflation, and concern of an economic recession.

Outgoing NAHB chairman Jerry Konter has led the organization through the challenging year, focusing on legislative and code agenda goals on behalf of builders while also working to address another key issue facing the industry: the skilled labor shortage.

Ahead of the 2023 International Builders' Show, Konter spoke with BUILDER about his tenure as chairman, the agenda items for the NAHB moving forward, as well as highlights of the show in Las Vegas.

BUILDER: Looking back at 2022, what were the biggest challenges that faced the housing industry? What challenges remain present facing builders in 2023?

Konter: Builder confidence fell each month of 2022 as the industry struggled with rising mortgage interest rates, supply chain bottlenecks, and a shortage of skilled construction workers. NAHB took action on each of these fronts to support the industry through a challenging year as the nation sought to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking ahead at 2023, it is likely that many of these challenges will persist, but a turning point is in view. With continued macroeconomic weakness, inflation affecting the cost of materials, and supply-side challenges, we have a lot to work on this year. However, while NAHB’s chief economist Rob Dietz expects these weaker housing conditions to persist in early 2023, a home building rebound will begin later this year as the Federal Reserve ends its monetary policy tightening. He anticipates recovery will gain steam in 2024, when the nation’s ongoing housing deficit, combined with lower mortgage interest rates and the Federal Reserve’s eventual easing of monetary policy, will yield a stronger market for new-home construction.

BUILDER: As an organization, what were the successes for the NAHB in 2022?

Konter: NAHB responded to the major headwinds slowing the industry in 2022 and enjoyed several major successes that advanced the agenda of the association and its members.

One of the key victories of 2022 was NAHB’s engagement in the development of the Inflation Reduction Act. When initial drafts of the legislation were put forward, NAHB’s Government Affairs group worked with various members of Congress to amend portions of the proposed bill that would have been detrimental to home building, with broad success overall.

Another NAHB victory was realized in the codes development arena, where 79% of the measures NAHB supported made it into the final version of the codes updates. When NAHB members engage in this process, helping to recruit codes officials and spreading the word about how reasonable codes can lead to increased housing affordability, the industry is benefited greatly.

Another success came from NAHB emphasis on preparing the next generation of skilled construction workers. The Home Builders Institute, NAHB’s nonprofit workforce development partner, prepared more than 15,000 young people for careers in residential construction through training programs that leverage its industry-recognized curriculum.

BUILDER: In an interview at 2022 International Builders' Show, you highlighted how internally you wanted to focus on “rebuilding a membership culture” in 2022. How would you assess progress toward this goal and focus?

Building a culture of membership was a key goal of mine during my year as NAHB chairman. This was achieved through a multipronged approach, including member-focused events and education, with the main goal of supporting the membership from the bottom up and from the inside out. When we engage in membership-strengthening activities at every opportunity—every networking event, every golf tournament, every meeting—we reinforce the importance and value of membership at the local, state, and national level.

This has been an incredibly successful initiative, reengaging with existing members and showing the value of the federation to prospective members. It also helps to further our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals as we work to bring younger, more diverse members into the fold and encourage them and mentor them, ultimately guiding them toward future leadership opportunities.

BUILDER: Looking at the year ahead, what is the NAHB focused on as the housing market may enter a downturn?

As I mentioned, the housing market has already experienced a downturn. The NAHB-Wells Fargo Housing Market Index saw a decline in home builder confidence every month in 2022. The good news is that we see light at the end of the tunnel this year and a rebound in 2024.

As far as key items on our agenda, it’s no secret that the Biden administration leans toward a more assertive regulatory posture. We see that in “Waters of the U.S.,” we see it in energy codes and electrification and labor issues, and many other aspects of policy. We will work with the Biden administration and other policymakers to make sure they understand the real costs of the regulations they are considering and the effect of their decisions on home buyers and renters. And we will push back when we believe that proposed regulations will do significant harm to housing affordability with little tangible benefit.

BUILDER: How would you reflect on your tenure as chairman of the NAHB?

I grew up in the housing industry, so I’ve always known that home builders and remodelers are big-hearted, hard-working people with an incredible can-do spirit. What I’ve seen during my time as chairman is that there are proven leaders all over our federation—people who step up day after day to make sure home builders are represented in city halls, county hearings, and state legislatures all over the country. I am humbled by the passion and dedication of my fellow builders. I look forward to working with my peers for years to come.

I’m proud that my son, Mark, has gotten involved in NAHB at the national level. Some people express concern about the future of the residential construction industry, but I look at Mark and his generation and I see a bright future for NAHB and America’s home builders.

BUILDER: What are you most looking forward to at the 2023 International Builders' Show?

I have been attending the Builders’ Show for decades, and it is always a highlight of the year. What I enjoy most is the opportunity to connect with so many industry professionals. Over the years, so many have become good friends, and their stories and good counsel have made me a better home builder.

As far as specific things at the show, I am looking forward to the opening ceremonies with Mike Rowe, and I’m excited to see The New American Home. I would encourage attendees to visit one of the NAHB Centrals—special spaces for niche markets, including 55+, Custom Building, Design, International, Multifamily, Remodeling, and Sales. I would also encourage folks to visit our special zones, including the New Product Zone, the Start-Up Zone, the Construction Performance Zone, the Craft Techniques Zone, and the Safety Zone. These zones showcase experts doing step-by-step demonstrations of exciting new products and techniques.