In order to create hundreds of thousands of badly needed jobs and move the economy to higher ground, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today called on Congress to extend and expand the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit set to expire at the end of next month.
Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe warned that builders are reporting that business generated by entry-level buyers is already declining because it is now too late to complete a new home sale in time to take advantage of the tax credit.
"Not only will builders soon be losing one of their most effective selling tools when the $8,000 federal housing tax credit expires on Nov. 30, they are also facing significant challenges that threaten to derail the fragile housing recovery before it even has time to take root," said Crowe. "Strict mortgage underwriting and low appraisals are making it difficult for a willing buyer to complete the sale, and terms and credit availability for builder acquisition, development and construction (AD&C) loans are extremely tight. The bottom line is that housing and the economy are at a critical crossroads."
To spur job growth, help reduce foreclosures and excess housing inventories and stabilize home values, NAHB is calling on Congress to extend the home buyer tax credit for an additional year through Nov. 30, 2010 and make it available to all purchasers of a principal residence.
"We estimate this would increase home purchases by 383,000 and create nearly 350,000 jobs in the coming year," said Crowe, adding that it would also generate $16.1 billion in wages and salaries; $12.1 billion in business income and tax income of $11.6 billion for federal, state and local governments.
Congress can also help put the housing market back to work by encouraging regulators and the banking industry to restore lending for viable home building projects and to take meaningful steps to avoid unnecessary foreclosures on outstanding AD&C loans by accommodating loan modifications and workouts.
"This would provide relief for a major sector of the economy that has suffered because of regulatory excess and the inability of banks to provide the necessary funding and flexibility that would otherwise keep loans performing as scheduled," said Crowe.
To further contribute to a housing and economic recovery, Crowe urged Congress to call on the Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to adopt new regulatory guidelines for conducting appraisals under distressed market conditions.
Citing a recent survey by NAHB that found that 25 percent of builders are losing sales because their appraisals are coming in below the contract price, Crowe said: "You just cannot compare a well-constructed new home with a foreclosed home that has been vacant for months and was probably neglected for a long time before it was vacated. They simply are not comparable, and the standards need to be adjusted to reflect that reality."