Home builder Rutenberg's busy year as national chairman
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 11:55 p.m.
Gainesville home builder Barry Rutenberg's year as chairman of the National Association of Home Builders in 2012 was spent attending President Obama's State of the Union speech with his wife, Kris, going to both parties' presidential conventions and speaking to the Democratic and Republican governors' associations at least three times each.
As he has done for years, he continued to testify about housing issues before congressional committees — he figures between 15 and 18 times over the past two years — though he said that slowed during the presidential campaigns.
The NAHB's top legislative priorities for the year included restoring the flow of loans to credit-worthy home buyers and builders, replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a federal backstop on mortgage-backed securities, preserving the mortgage interest tax deduction, reforming appraisals to more accurately depict home values, restoring an opt-out provision to tighter lead paint rules in older homes without children under 6 or pregnant women living in the home, extending the National Flood Insurance Program and removing new federal layers of control over building permits under the Clean Water Act.
The building industry is gaining strength in fits and starts, and demand is rising with new home construction not keeping up with pent-up household formation, but the lack of funding to qualified buyers and builders is holding back the recovery, he said.
“It was too easy to get a loan before the crunch. We have seriously overcorrected,” he said.
Rutenberg and the association have spent considerable energy advocating for mortgage reform, but he said the issue has not been on the front burner with Washington dealing with the deficit and debt ceiling debates. The NAHB has introduced a bill that had a “decent number” of sponsors and expects to get congressional hearings eventually.
Rutenberg said he is encouraged that Washington seems to be making progress toward immigration reform. The association has supported the e-verify system that requires employers to check the immigration status of employees, but Rutenberg has testified that that should not apply to subcontractor employees.
“I should not be responsible for the e-verification of those workers because I do not know who is on the job that day,” he said.
In May, Rutenberg testified before a House Natural Resources subcommittee that builders and homeowners who unknowingly purchase illegal wood products from overseas should not have the products seized or face civil and criminal liability.
Rutenberg said the common theme of the NAHB's advocacy is to strike a balance between making improvements and keeping housing affordable.
“We're looking for the most cost-effective way for doing what is good,” he said.
Aside from public advocacy, Rutenberg said some of the internal work included a lot of education to enhance the basic skills and professionalism of the association's 140,000-member companies to help them stay in business. “A member of our association should be a better builder than a non-member builder if they take advantage of the resources,” he said.
Rutenberg negotiated an agreement with the National Kitchen and Bath Show to hold its 2014 convention in conjunction with the NAHB's International Builders Show.
This year marks Rutenberg's 20th year on the NAHB's executive team. His assignments for the year include overseeing a region and working on international issues regarding building materials.
He said he is proud of what the NAHB accomplished during his term, but he is glad to have more time in Gainesville.
“I like building houses. I like doing additions,” he said. “We get to take people's dreams and make them a reality. That is still fun.”
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