In Tuesday's State of the Union Speech which
covered a lot of ground both domestic and foreign, President Obama made only
two brief mentions of housing. The first
was a passing reference in the speech's introduction when he said, "Our housing market is healing, our stock market is
rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections
than ever before." The second came near
the end of the domestic portion of his speech when he told Congress, "...and since the most
important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that
protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and
keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations of Americans."
Still, housing industry leaders found ways
to comment on the speech. David H. Stevens, President and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers
Association said, "Just as the President mentioned tonight, we believe that the
time is now for Washington to take a more active role in housing reform. Be it
through legislation as President Obama suggested, or other measures that don't
require Congressional action, strengthening the real estate finance system is
good for borrowers and will only improve our recovering economy."
Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) said
the association agrees with the President that 'the most important investment
many families make is their home." He
added that, "Nothing packs a bigger economic punch than home building. Building
100,000 homes creates more than 300,000 full-time jobs and $8.9 billion in tax
revenues that are essential to help local communities build schools, hire
police and firefighters, and fix roads.
"With the right policies in place, housing can lead the economy to higher
ground. Tonight, the President called on Congress to send him legislation that
will avoid another housing crisis and 'keeps the dream of homeownership alive
for future generations.' Such a plan
must provide proper federal support that will protect 30-year mortgages, limit
taxpayer exposure, encourage increased participation from the private sector,
and ensure liquidity and stability for homeownership and rental housing."
Cindy Chetti, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs of the National
Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) commented on behalf of NMHC and the National
Apartment Association (NAA), applauding the President for "highlighting housing
finance reform, immigration and tax reform."
These issues, she said, "directly affect our ability to provide homes to
millions of Americans, including student housing, seniors housing, affordable
housing and military housing.
"We applaud the President's support of housing in his speech, but would
remind him that housing preferences are changing and a growing number of
American households are choosing to rent for lifestyle and financial reasons.
The number of renter households grew by almost five million from 2007 to 2012,
with this trend continuing over the next decade.
"For that reason, housing finance reform must avoid a "one-size-fits-all"
approach. The multifamily market uses commercial mortgage debt products, and
imposing single family reforms would jeopardize our ability to meet the
nation's need for millions of new rental homes over the next decade."
She said her groups encourage the President and Congress to enact pro-growth
tax reform for both individuals and corporations including factors to promote investment
in rentals "without unfairly burdening apartment owners and renters relative to
other asset classes." She also urged
passage of comprehensive immigration reform "to address the current patchwork
of state and local laws. Immigrants are a key driver of apartment demand and an
important force in apartment construction and operations."
Reactions of some groups were, at least on the surface, unrelated to real
estate. For example, American Institute
of Architects President Robert Ivy said, "The President's focus on economic
mobility is timely, considering that the architecture profession is still
struggling to recover from the Great Recession. That's why we are encouraged to
hear the President talk about energy and college affordability in such an
He said that among his group's top legislative priorities is reinstating an
expired tax deduction that helps make commercial and federal buildings more
energy efficient. "We urge the White
House and Congress to make such initiatives a top priority in this session of
Congress, and to adopt the AIA's list of legislative priorities (link) as a way
to ignite the construction economy by spurring much needed improvements in
energy efficiency, infrastructure and resiliency, and create jobs for small