NAHB’s Government Affairs Team Posts Key Wins for Members in 2023
In a year of hyper-partisan gridlock that produced less than two dozen bills enacted into law (the fewest number in decades), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) was able to establish a formidable presence on Capitol Hill and move the ball forward on a number of high-priority legislative objectives.
Congressional Hearings: A Quick Start Out of the Gate
In a sign of NAHB’s clout, the association was front and center at two congressional hearings at the start of the new Congress. NAHB Chairman Alicia Huey on Feb. 8 testified before House lawmakers on the Biden administration’s new waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, calling it “fatally flawed” and urging lawmakers to direct the Environmental Protection Agency to implement a new durable and practical definition of WOTUS. Texas builder Frank Murphy testified before the House Small Business Committee against the WOTUS rule on March 8, and these efforts led to both the House and Senate using a rarely used Congressional Review Act to pass a joint resolution of disapproval calling on Biden to rescind the WOTUS rule.
On Feb. 9, Chief Economist Robert Dietz testified before the Senate Banking Committee on the barriers the industry faces to increase the production of quality, affordable housing. Dietz said that boosting housing production is the best way to ease the affordability crisis and called on Congress to pass legislation to alleviate supply-side bottlenecks, ease burdensome federal regulations and promote careers in the skilled trades.
From February through November, NAHB testified before Congress six times on a host of issues of importance to the housing industry, including the need to:
• Help builders boost the housing supply to ease growing housing affordability challenges;
• Repeal inefficient regulatory rules; and
• Speed up permit approval times.
Legislative Conference Yields Key Wins
On June 7, more than 700 NAHB members participated in our annual Legislative Conference and went to Capitol Hill to discuss critical housing issues with their lawmakers. At the top of the agenda was the need to:
• Increase the production of distribution transformers and oppose efforts by the Department of Energy (DOE) to increase the energy conservation standards for the production of transformers because it will severely exacerbate the current supply shortage.
• Curb excessive regulations that are harming housing affordability.
• Take a stand against excessive energy codes and repeal $1 billion in grants provided to state and local governments to adopt updated energy codes that are more costly and restrictive.
• Support job training programs to help ease the construction industry’s severe workforce shortage and to fully fund the Job Corps program, which is a vital source of skilled labor for our industry.
It is no coincidence that one week after the Legislative Conference, the House approved the REINS Act. The legislation would restore meaningful congressional oversight to regulatory rulemaking by requiring Congress to approve all federal agency regulations that have an annual economic impact of $100 million or more.
• Again, days after the Legislative Conference, the House approved two NAHB-supported gas stove bills that would defend consumer access to gas stoves and ensure that Americans have the option of using natural gas to fuel their homes.
• On June 15, Rep. Richard Hudson introduced the Protecting America’s Distribution Transformer Supply Chain Act (H.R. 4167), which would repeal the DOE’s authority to implement or enforce any energy efficiency standards for distribution transformers for the next five years. Thanks to NAHB’s efforts, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed H.R. 4167 in December.
• The Senate Appropriations Committee in July passed language that includes $1.2 billion in supplemental funding to boost the production of distribution transformers.
• And at NAHB’s urging, 47 bipartisan senators on June 1 sent a letter to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm that called on the DOE not to move forward on its proposed transformer rule because it will exacerbate an already acute supply chain shortage.
• NAHB was able to get two bills passed in the House — the Lower Energy Costs Act (H.R. 1) and the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 (H.R. 2811) — that would repeal the $1 billion energy code grant program. Companion legislation to H.R. 2811 (the Homeowner Energy Freedom Act, S. 2806) was introduced in the Senate in late summer.
• At NAHB’s urging, the House on Dec. 11 passed the Promoting Resilient Buildings Act (H.R. 5473), which would allow FEMA to consider whether a jurisdiction has adopted one of the two latest editions of building codes, rather than just the single latest edition, when awarding funds from its pre-disaster mitigation program.
• NAHB continues to pursue legislative solutions to prevent a proposed rule that sets the 2021 IECC as the minimum energy standard for HUD- and USDA-financed new construction housing. Twenty-six senators sent a letter to HUD Sec. Marcia Fudge and USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack urging them to reconsider this proposal, and legislation to prevent implementation of this rule was narrowly defeated in the Senate.
• The House and Senate on May 11 introduced the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, legislation that would improve the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and allow builders to increase production of badly needed affordable housing. This bill garnered the most bipartisan support of any tax bill in this current session of Congress.
• The House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Dec. 12 approved NAHB-supported legislation (A Stronger Workforce for America Act, H.R. 6655) that would reaffirm congressional support for Job Corps and help address the nation’s skilled labor shortage. NAHB also fought for Job Corps funding through the appropriations process.
State and Local: NAHB Gives Nearly $300,000 to 18 HBAs in 2023
While NAHB has established a well-deserved reputation on Capitol Hill as an elite power player that wields influence to get pro-housing bills introduced and passed, the association’s Intergovernmental Affairs team is also delivering concrete results by fighting every day on behalf of our state and local home builders associations on major issues that affect our members’ bottom lines. In 2023, NAHB tracked 360 housing-related bills across all 50 states.
Through its State and Local Issues Fund, which provides financial assistance to HBAs involved in advocacy efforts on issues affecting the affordability of homeownership, NAHB distributed $298,000 to 18 HBAs in 14 states during 2023. Here are a few notable success stories:
• The HBA of Delaware worked to overcome potential mandatory fire sprinkler installation requirements in all new construction in New Castle County, Del., which would have added thousands of dollars to the cost of a home.
• NAHB helped the HBA of Greater Portland to defeat a ballot measure that would have established a countywide 0.75% capital gains tax to fund a tenant resource program designed to provide legal representation for tenants in eviction proceedings.
• The HBA of Greater Austin worked with the Austin City Council to pass new code amendments for the first phase of the “Home Options for Middle-Income Empowerment” Initiative. The approved code amendments are among a series of updates to the city’s Land Development Code, which governs land-use regulations in Austin, intending to provide more housing types and increase housing supply within single-family zoned areas of Austin.
BUILD-PAC, NAHB’s political action committee, helps elect the most qualified pro-housing, pro-business candidates to Congress. By supporting Democratic and Republican candidates, BUILD-PAC opens doors on Capitol Hill and ensures housing remains a top priority in Washington.
As we look to the pivotal 2024 November elections, BUILD-PAC at the end of 2023 was more than halfway to its goal of raising $3.25 million for pro-housing candidates in this election cycle.