From the Chair: New Year, New Battles to Be Fought

By John Young
2010 CBIA Chairman

The calendar has turned to 2010, and many of us in the homebuilding industry are more than pleased to bid farewell to 2009.

The past year was one to forget – a record-setting year for homebuilders in the worst sense of the term. The number of permits pulled for new home construction in California was the smallest amount since records began being kept in 1954.

The last time we made such a statement was just a year ago, which signifies something homebuilders know all too well. The downward spiral which began a few years ago is ongoing, and unless steps are taken by all of us, it will continue.

The change of the calendar year is not a reason to breathe a sigh of relief. It is a reason to recommit our efforts as an Association to boost our industry.

The current financial crisis touches all aspects of the economy at both the state and national levels. Unemployment is high, spending is down and consumers are reluctant to purchase big-ticket items across the board. But this crisis provides a tremendous opportunity for our Association to reach out to policymakers, legislators and regulators to work to find solutions.

Housing is the catalyst for the economy, and our Association will continue to push a wide range of initiatives to help our industry recover. That will in turn help lead the state and national economies back in the right direction.

Thanks to the influence of the National Association of Home Builders, federal leaders took positive steps by extending a federal tax credit for homebuyers. In extending the program, legislators also altered the rules so that move-up buyers could take advantage of the tax credit. Qualified first-time buyers can receive an $8,000 tax credit, while qualified repeat buyers can receive up to $6,500.

But in California, a state tax credit which began last spring was not extended. The $10,000 credit had spurred activity in the market, but when the funding was exhausted, the program ended. Efforts to extend it were unsuccessful as the 2009 legislative session came to a close.

It is imperative that the program returns, and Gov. Schwarzenegger has included it in his latest budget proposal. Our Association will fight with complete conviction to see that this happens in 2010.

But that is only the beginning.

Under the new leadership of CEO Liz Snow and Governmental Affairs Vice President Richard Lyon, CBIA will fight from every corner to lift burdens off homebuilders and get construction moving once again. Whether it’s regulations, impact fees or water issues, our Association will fight on your behalf.

That is my goal as your chairman, and I’ve been put in a position to succeed thanks to the excellent work done by the staff and volunteer leadership that make CBIA an outstanding and successful association.

But we can’t do it alone. There is power in voices, and state leaders need to hear yours. Our leadership team can set the path, but only with the power of numbers can we be successful. Call your legislators. Meet with your local council members and supervisors. Let your story be heard.

Only then will a complete message be delivered. Only then will our industry begin its recovery. Only then will the economy turn around.

The new year has just begun, but as I look ahead to 2011, I don’t want to see another record-setting year for our industry. That would be painful to everybody.