More than 700 home builders trekked to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to call on Congress to make housing and homeownership a national priority and to take concrete steps to get housing back on track in order to create jobs and keep the economy moving forward. "Though we are seeing some hopeful signs of recovery in many markets throughout the nation, our industry still faces stiff headwinds," said National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla.
Persistently tight lending standards for home builders and homebuyers, uncertainty regarding the future of the housing finance system, ongoing threats to vital housing tax incentives, and overly burdensome regulations are hampering a housing recovery and keeping countless home building firms from constructing viable projects and hiring new workers, he added.
In more than 250 individual meetings with their representatives and senators, builders called on their lawmakers to:
►Support legislation to restore the flow of credit for new housing production. NAHB is urging the House Financial Services Committee to consider HR 1755, the Home Construction Lending Regulatory Improvement Act. Sponsored by Reps. Gary Miller (R-CA) and Brad Miller (D-NC), the measure currently has 96 co-sponsors and would remove barriers to lending while preserving the regulators' ability to assure the safety and the soundness of the financial institutions they oversee. NAHB is seeking cosponsors for similar legislation in the Senate, S. 2078, the Home Building Lending Improvement Act, sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
►Pass comprehensive legislation to reform housing government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks that provides a federal backstop to ensure a reliable and adequate flow of affordable housing credit in all economic and financial conditions.
►Preserve current housing tax incentives, including the mortgage interest deduction and Low Income Housing Tax Credit, as the debate on tax reform moves ahead.
►Support legislation to make much-needed improvements to the Environmental Protection Agency's Lead: Repair, Renovation and Painting (LRRP) rule. Sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012 (S. 2148) would offer several reforms to EPA enforcement of the lead paint rule, including reinstating the opt-out provision to allow home owners without small children or pregnant women residing in them to decide whether to require LRRP compliance.
►Co-sponsor House and Senate bills that would reduce the overreach of federal power under the Clean Water Act. House bill HR 4965, the Preserve the Waters of the United States Act, and its identically named Senate companion measure (S. 2245), would prevent the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing or implementing their draft guidance to expand the reach of the Clean Water Act to include virtually every ditch, pond and seasonal runoff ditch in the nation.
"In this pivotal election year, it is imperative to ensure that presidential and congressional candidates on both sides of the political aisle understand the importance of housing and homeownership," said Rutenberg. "Today, builders from across the land reiterated this message to their legislators and reminded them that there can be no economic recovery without a housing recovery."