At the International Builders’ Show in January, Dean Mon officially became the National Association of Home Builders' chairman—the next step on a path he’s been on since his election as a senior officer in 2017—punctuating a decades-long commitment to the association at the local, state, and national levels. A builder of green, multifamily, urban housing in Hudson County, N.J., Mon emigrated with his parents from Cuba in the 1950s, served a tour in Vietnam as a U.S. Army sergeant, and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering before pursuing a career in home building, starting his own company in 1985. He is the first Hispanic chairman in the history of NAHB and will serve a one-year term.
PRO BUILDER: What does the role of NAHB chairman involve?
DEAN MON: My job is to lead the band, so to speak, and to be the conduit between Jerry [NAHB CEO Jerry Howard] and the senior officers and committees. I also participate in our lobbying efforts in Congress and at the Federal Reserve. I can tell you, they take us seriously and listen to us.
PB: What is your agenda for 2020?
DM: I’ve been a strong advocate for diversity in our industry and our association since I became a senior officer in 2017, and really since I joined NAHB.
Back then, I was usually the only Hispanic in the room, and few people of color stick around for very long because, frankly, it’s not very comfortable to be in such a minority. I want to change that. It has to be done.
PB: What diversity initiatives have you introduced or advocated?
DM: When I was NAHB’s third vice chairman, in 2017, I was responsible for making nearly 300 committee appointments and I sought out women, people of color, and younger members.
I also continue to support our Young Professionals and Professional Women in Building groups, and I also often meet with the Latino community and media to encourage people to consider careers in our industry.
PB: How do you see this year for housing?
DM: We believe we have a very good year ahead of us—a little better than last year. I won’t say we’ve turned the corner, but we’ve stabilized.
That’s mainly because of President Trump, who has cut a lot of the regulations that hinder our industry. When the senior officers met with him as a candidate in 2016, he asked how he could help us. We gave him a three-page list of regulations that we would like to see cut, and he’s probably halfway through that list and wants to do more. He’s a builder, not a politician, and we’re thankful for his help.
We believe we have a very good year ahead of us—a little better than last year. I won’t say we’ve turned the corner, but we’ve stabilized.
PB: How is NAHB addressing affordability?
DM: For one thing, I want to restore a more collaborative relationship with the International Code Council [ICC] to get them to see the cost burdens on builders to comply with, and on cities to enforce, the most current version of the building codes.
Some jurisdictions are two or three versions behind, but if it’s working for them, I don’t think they should have to change. Also, the ICC is being strong-armed by manufacturers to get their latest products in the code, which is not the best way to develop codes or to build homes.
PB: What has NAHB done to alleviate the skilled labor shortage?
DM: Since I’ve been on the senior officer ladder, we’ve put a lot of money into promoting and recruiting more skilled labor through our Workforce Development initiative, including Home Builders Institute, the National Housing Endowment, and the Skilled Labor Fund, to support initiatives such as private vocational training programs and attracting ex-military personnel.
PB: Do you see off-site construction as a possible solution to labor and supply issues?
DM: There’s really nothing out there we can confidently say will accelerate what we’re doing now. Modular certainly can play a part, but we need to address the problem holistically. And that means bringing other industries to the table. We have already started that process and look forward to NAHB continuing its leadership in this regard.
Access a PDF of this article in Pro Builder's March 2020 digital edition