The Housing Chronicles Blog: Builders step up the political pressure

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Builders step up the political pressure

Both at the national and local levels, builders and developers tend to be politically savvy, and serve as major donors to candidates running for everything from city council to senator. But generally this type of lobbying is done behind the scenes in a nice and quiet fashion, and not something conducted through press releases. That's why it really IS unusual that the NAHB has announced a complete halt to donations through its political action committee -- in fact, I can't recall when such an action has been taken. And the timing also couldn't be better -- this year's International Builder's Show run by NAHB (or IBS, which ironically shares the same acronym with Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is this week in hot- and happening Orlando, Florida. But clearly, builders want the federal government to do more:

A home builders' group on Tuesday halted donations to federal congressional campaigns over concern that Congress and the Bush administration have not done enough about the housing slump and the economy.

In an unusual move for a Washington lobbying group, the National Association of Home Builders' political action committee said in a statement it has ceased contributions to candidates until further notice.

"This extraordinary action was taken because ... over the past six months Congress and the administration have not adequately addressed the underlying economic issues that would help to stabilize the housing sector and keep the economy moving forward," said NAHB President Brian Catalde...

"More needs to be done to jump-start housing and ensure the economy does not fall into a recession. This action will remain in effect until further notice," Catalde said in a statement.

In a $152 billion, economic stimulus package approved last week by Congress, measures aimed at propping up the troubled housing market and preventing foreclosures were central.

But to win more Republican support for the package in the closely divided Senate, Democrats had to drop a tax break that would have helped home builders...

While the NAHB won't (and really can't) admit that the the dropping of the tax break and the halting of donations are related (just pure coincidence!), they're definitely using their political muscle in an election year in which the Republicans are already nervous. It will be interesting to see if this action gets them what they want.

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