December 10, 2008 – The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is spearheading Fix Housing First, one of the largest coalitions of housing advocates ever assembled in the United States, to push for a housing recovery plan that will revive the economy.
“If we are going to successfully pull our nation out of recession, we must address housing first,” said NAHB President and CEO Jerry Howard.
Fix Housing First, which consists of more than 600 organizations, home building companies and manufacturers continues to add new members on a daily basis, is pressing for a major stimulus package to stem the decline in home values, stabilize financial markets and reignite consumer demand. To get the economy moving again, the coalition is urging Congress to support enhancements to the home buyer tax credit and provide below-market 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for home purchases.
“If Congress enacts a meaningful tax credit, coupled with an aggressive interest rate buy-down program, we are confident that these measures will help to stabilize home prices, prevent future foreclosures, restore consumer confidence and start creating jobs,” said Howard.
The coalition cites a similar plan that worked in 1975, when the nation was also in the midst of a recession. Congress then passed a short-term $2,000 tax credit for all new homes ($12,000 adjusted for today’s median home prices) along with subsidized mortgage rates. The stimulus jump started the depressed economy and the effects continued long after the measure expired.
“Entering this holiday season, we saw a sobering loss of more than half a million jobs in November, and major job cutbacks among the nation’s top employers are being announced daily,” said Howard. “We need to put a stop to this dangerous erosion on Main Street before it grows out of control.”
Enzo Perfetto, a third-generation home builder from Cleveland, has gone from constructing 20-to-30 homes annually to just one this year as a result of the economic downturn. The situation is critical and getting worse, he said. “Home building generates American jobs. You can’t outsource the construction of a home. But these jobs won’t return until the credit freeze ends and our government addresses the housing crisis.”
“We are leaving no stone unturned in conveying to our government and the public the message that a housing stimulus is urgently needed, and that restoring demand for housing is the fastest and most effective way of reviving the economy,” Howard said.
The housing stimulus proponents are calling for significant enhancements to the current $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers. Among the improvements:
– All primary home purchases between April 9, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2009 would be eligible.
– The credit amount would be increased to 10 percent of the price of the home, capped at 3.5 percent of FHA loan limits, bringing the credit to a range of roughly between $10,000 and $22,000.
– The current recapture provision would be eliminated. Repayment would only be required if the home were sold within three years.
– The credit would be available at the time of closing, making it easier to be used as a downpayment.
The second component of the stimulus plan would provide qualified home buyers with 30-year fixed-rate mortgages at 2.99 percent on contracts closed until June 30, 2009 and 3.99 percent on closings between June 30 and Dec. 31, 2009.
The coalition has also announced its support for continuing foreclosure prevention measures to keep people in their homes.
To help buyers in California and other high-cost markets, NAHB is also calling on Congress to permanently keep the FHA/Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limits at $729,750. Under current law, the loan limits for high-cost areas will be reduced to $625,500 on Jan. 1, 2009.
Fix Housing First points out that 3 million home building-related jobs have been lost as a result of the slowdown in housing production, which represents $145 billion in lost wages and $4.9 billion in lost purchases. Deterioration in these jobs has now spilled over into virtually all sectors of the U.S. job market.
“Over the past two years, the new home construction market has experienced an unprecedented decline. This has led to major layoffs, lost business and production cutbacks by thousands of building product manufacturers and suppliers nationwide. Clearly, innovative and decisive government action is urgently needed to stem the decline and create positive traction in the housing market,” said Frank Cicero, Executive Vice President of Store Operations for 84 Lumber Company.
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