Top Builder Confidence at Highest Level in Five Years
This good news was bolstered by the fact that each of the HMI's component measures posted gains for the month, including three-point increases in the components gauging current sales conditions and traffic of prospective buyers, to 39 and 31, respectively, and a one-point gain in the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months, to 44. Likewise, each component was at its highest level in more than five years. Looking at the regional HMI scores, NAHB has just begun offering three-month moving averages for each area of the country in order to better represent emerging trends. Current three-month moving averages show a two-point HMI decline to 29 in the Northeast, a five-point gain to 35 in the Midwest, a three-point gain to 32 in the South and a three-point gain to 38 in the West.
55+ Housing Market Index
In similar findings, NAHB's builder confidence gauge that looks specifically at the 55+ housing market also shows that builder sentiment is improving. The NAHB 55+ Housing Market Index, which is reported on a quarterly basis and uses year-over-year comparisons because the data is not seasonally adjusted, more than doubled between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012 to land at 29 for its latest reading just last week. While still depressed on a scale of 0-100, this marked the index's highest second-quarter reading since it was created in 2008.
State Legislatures Express Support for Key Housing Incentives
In an important expression of support for housing, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has approved new policy guidance that places a strong emphasis on key priorities such as the mortgage interest deduction and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Specifically, a newly revised NCSL policy document contains a section on “Responsible Housing and Housing Finance” that states the “NCSL is supportive of public private partnership programs and initiatives that increase the availability of financing for homeownership opportunities. NCSL supports first-time home buyer tax credits to promote homeownership prospects, preserving the mortgage interest deduction, and low-income housing tax credits that produce new, affordable housing.”
The fact that this newly approved policy received bipartisan support among the NCSL's lawmaker members is particularly encouraging. “As state legislators we understand that Americans deeply value homeownership and for most people it is the largest investment they will ever undertake," said Sen. Gary LeBeau (D-Conn.) and Rep. Anna Fairclough (R-Alaska) in a joint statement that echoed points NAHB has sought to emphasize in the current election season. The lawmakers also noted that "In order to grow our economy and provide increased stability, it is essential to preserve the mortgage interest deduction as it primarily benefits our middle-class taxpayers." Applauding the NSCL's new directive, NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg noted that “The idea of eliminating or curtailing the mortgage interest deduction has been suggested by policymakers at the state and federal level. That’s why it is so important that the NSCL has endorsed the mortgage interest deduction and other housing policies upon which millions of American families depend.”
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- Joanne Loftus