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The remodeling industry has received a boost from government reporting agencies, but those same agencies continue to be unable to gather information on remodeling spending. News that remodeling firms will soon have their own industry identification code was tempered by the inability to put hard numbers on remodeling activity during the Remodeling Industry Information Summit held in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11.
|Nicolas Retsinas, director of Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, introduces Susan Wachner of HUD. Kermit Baker, project director of the Remodeling Futures Program, is at right.|
Officials from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development joined remodeling industry representatives to discuss the information dearth. HUD's assistant secretary for Policy Development and Research, Susan Wachter, acknowledged that there is "a knowledge gap" when it comes to rehabilitation work.
Kermit Baker, project director of the Remodeling Futures Program at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, agreed. "We have to develop an information infrastructure before we can unify the industry," Kermit Baker said in introducing the conference. He was joined by Liza Bowles, president of the NAHB Research Center, who noted that specific data on remodeling are nonexistant. "How do expenditures differ by type of household, region, etc.?" she said. "What are the average expenditures per household?"
With the need for accurate information on the industry serving as the call to action, government agencies and industry representatives debated how to collect information and present a unified information base. With government agencies decrying limited funding and lack of permit data collection, industry representatives called for larger sample sizes, quicker reporting cycles, and more detailed data.
|Mark Richardson, CR, president of Case Design/Remodeling, tells attendees that the remodeling community needs to be built up before accurate data can be assembled.|
According to Bill Bostic Jr. of the Census Bureau, the remodeling industry will be included in the new North American Industry Classification System, NAICS. NAICS is replacing the U.S. Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. The new designation should be introduced in 2002, Bostic says, which will enable remodelers to be included in 2002 Census.
Remodeler Mark Richardson, CR, president of Case Design/Remodeling in Bethesda, Md., asked those attending the summit to consider the industry before trying to determine how to collect data. "If you take a lot of data from unhealthy sources, what does that do?" Richardson asked. "Only 4 percent [of remodelers] are in a national association such as NARI or the Remodelors Council. Before you worry about gathering information, do something about the health of the industry." Richardson said the first step in building up the remodeling community is through increasing membership in the associations and through the use of technology in businesses.
John Quaregna of Homestore.com, agreed. "[Remodelers] need education, they need to learn how to be professional," he said. "The problem is getting people to understand how to manage." Baker said that the summit served its purpose of helping government agencies understand the importance of the remodeling industry. "I felt positive about the government role [in the summit]," he said. "They seemed much less defensive than in other meetings I've seen. They seemed to have connected to the industry. "It was useful for the government people to see first-hand what the industry is facing."
Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodler. Please email him  with any comments or questions regarding his column.