More than 750 builders from across the nation met with their respective senators and representatives on Capitol Hill last week during the annual National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Legislative Conference urging them to support policies that will keep the housing recovery moving forward and increase housing opportunities for all Americans.
The message: A strong housing market is critical to create jobs and boost economic growth.
The latest government employment data indicates the rate of construction sector job openings is at its highest level since 2007. Consistent with reports of some labor shortages for builders, the number of open, unfilled positions in the construction industry remains near post-Great Recession highs.
Successfully filling open positions with qualified workers has been a top concern for home builders in 2013.
Marking four consecutive months where the total number of open positions was greater than 100,000, the number of unfilled positions in the sector stood at 108,000 in April. This is the first time this has occurred since a stretch that began in 2007.
With the increase in unfilled positions consistent with the uptick in construction sector activity, expected increases in building should lead to further growth in residential construction employment over the course of the year. So far, home building employment is averaging monthly growth of about 12,000 in 2013.
In as many as 300 individual meetings with lawmakers, builders discussed the following key housing issues, according to NAHB:
• Tax reform - To meet the nation’s growing need for affordable rental housing and home ownership opportunities, NAHB members urged Congress to maintain its support for vital housing tax incentives, including the mortgage interest deduction. Builders also emphasized that the Low Income Housing Tax Credit is essential to ensure that lower-income families have access to safe, decent and affordable housing.
• Housing finance reform - With Congress preparing to address the future of the nation’s housing finance system and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, NAHB continued to advocate that any restructuring provides for a reliable and adequate flow of credit for home buyers and that the federal government plays an appropriate role in backing up the housing finance system.
• Immigration reform - NAHB called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform that protects the nation’s borders; focuses on the direct employer-employee relationship so that U.S. employers remain accountable only for the identity and work authorization status of their direct employees; and creates an efficient, temporary guest worker program that allows employers to recruit legal immigrant workers when there is a shortage of domestic workers.
• Credit for housing production - Despite the recent upturn in housing, builders in many markets are still unable to obtain construction loans for viable home building projects. NAHB called on lawmakers to support House bill H.R. 1255 sponsored by Reps. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) and companion Senate bill S. 1002 introduced by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) that would help resolve the ongoing credit problems for builders.