Five Questions for… NAHB CEO Jerry Howard
Jerry Howard has over 25 years of experience in the housing industry. He has worked with the NAHB since 1988, and has served as CEO since 2001. Prior to working with the NAHB, Mr Howard served as a Chief Lobbyist for the National Council of State Housing Agencies, working to develop the low-income housing tax credit as part of the 1986 Tax Reform Act.
A respected industry expert, our editorial team was able to sit down at the International Builder’s show and get the latest on NAHB and industry news.
Question One: IBS 202 was a great success this year. What can remodelers, architects, and builders expect when they visit next year and further into the future?
Jerry Howard: Well there’s no question that the Design and Construction Week, the International Builder’s Show is the preeminent residential trade show, not just in the United States but in this hemisphere. However, anything that stays stagnant in the trade show business gets old fast. So we’ve got to constantly evolve the show and I’m happy to tell you that our organization just approved almost a million dollars for us to make the show more innovative, more happening, easier to manipulate. We’re really looking forward to making the IBS the complete and utter competitor with the Consumer Electronic Show.
Question Two: The NAHB is a force for residential construction, yet attracting young members is a challenge. What are you doing to draw younger members?
Howard: Well you know that the question is very similar to the question about the IBS. The next generation of builder, the next generation of designer likes to get things done quickly, in an organized way, and they expect things to be new and innovative. So we have to innovate the whole membership structure of NAHB. We’ve created a Young Professionals Committee, and now all we have to get the young professionals engaged in the policy committees, in the advocacy committees that we have so that their voice is being heard. As we look to evolve the IBS, who more relevant to be participating in that evolution than the Young Professionals. Once we get them engaged, then we can convince them of the other importance of these associations. So it’s a major focus of mine and the association as a whole.
Question Three: Skilled labor remains in short supply, what is the association’s outlook for workforce development?
Howard: We have tremendous effort underway in the work force development arena. First starting with our subsidiary organization, the Home Builder’s Institute, which is training in high schools, it’s training in prisons, it’s training on military bases, and really helping to put people who need jobs, people who don’t want to go to college, people who need a second chance in life, getting them into our industry. And I’m proud to say, by the way, that in 2020 will be the first year in ten years that the labor shortage hasn’t increased in our industry, rather than staying flat, and I think our HBI and our other efforts have been really part of that tremendous progress.
Question Four: In an election year, what are NAHB’s top policy positions for candidates of both parties?
Howard: Right now we are more engaged in this presidential election cycle viscerally than we’ve ever been before. Pat [O’Toole, editor of Qualified Remodeler] as you know, we’ve been working very hard to make sure that everyone understands the crisis we have in housing affordability. We’ve succeeded. All the democratic presidential candidates are talking about housing affordability as part of their campaign. President Trump created an administration tax force to look at housing affordability. We’ve got them talking about it. So what’s next? What’s next is that we’ve got to refine our message, include proposed solutions to the problem in our message and tailor it to the far left and the far right and everything in between. So we’re working really hard on the topic of housing affordability and we’re really excited about this election year.
Question Five: Building has really ticked up in recent months. Where are these sales coming from in terms of buyers? Are we seeing a new boom?
Howard: Well, I think new home sales are coming basically from the pent up demand that still remains coming out of the Great Recession. You still have that pent up demand, you have household formation continuing at a pretty steady pace, and you have the Federal Reserve easing off on interest rates. Easing off on interest rates have helped a great deal, also unemployment is at an all time low. This is the first time since World War II that mortgage rates and unemployment are both below 4 percent. The economy is there, the opportunity is there, the only question is supply, and we really need to work on the housing affordability issue and make sure that local governments are making it easier for builders to build houses that are affordable for the American people.