Breaking Down Barriers

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Crucial legislation making its way through Congress this spring could go a long way toward knocking down the barriers to affordable housing in this country.

June 14, 2000

 

Robert Mitchell, NAHB President

 

Crucial legislation making its way through Congress this spring could go a long way toward knocking down the barriers to affordable housing in this country. "The American Homeownership and Economic Opportunity Act," introduced by Rep. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.), seeks to alter the regulatory climate, thereby balancing the need to provide for public safety against the equally important goal of providing for affordable housing.

Specifically, the bill would require federal agencies to submit a Housing Impact Analysis with any proposed regulations when those regulations would have a significant negative impact on the affordability of housing. The bill would also create a clearinghouse charged with collecting and disseminating barrier removal strategies to the housing industry.

Equally important, the bill would allow cities and states to provide targeted homeownership programs for police, firemen, teachers and other municipal employees under the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs.

Lazio's bill would open the door to down payment and closing cost assistance, home buyer counseling services and interest rate reduction programs for precisely those workers on whom every community depends the most.

NAHB has been lobbying hard for this bill in Congress. Not only would it elevate affordable housing to its rightful priority status, it would also help thousands of potential homeowners obtain the American Dream.

In April, the day before the House of Representatives was to vote on the bill, NAHB held a press conference with the aim of igniting crucial support. Three of the brightest stars of the House Republican leadership joined us, helping to ensure a victory. Republican Conference Chairman Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), House Banking Committee Chairman Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and the bill's original sponsor, Housing Subcommittee Chairman Rick Lazio, each stood up for what was right, and within 24 hours, the House overwhelmingly approved the measure.

Each of these men realized, as builders instinctively do, that excessive regulatory burdens translate to higher housing costs, forming a barrier many buyers can't surmount.

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