Strong Support for Housing Initiatives

Americans remain strongly committed to federal support for home buyers, according to a recent survey of U.S. households.

Roughly 68 percent of those polled said the government should continue to support housing, and 65 percent believe the government should be doing more to keep families from losing their homes to foreclosure.

The poll included both homeowners and renters and was conducted for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) by RT Strategies, a nonpartisan public opinion polling firm based in Washington, D.C. RT Strategies interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide by telephone using live interviewers on Jan. 29-31, 2010. The sample included 170 interviews with respondents from cell-phone-only households.

Among those polled, some key groups said the government should continue to play a vital role in maintaining a healthy housing market. For example, 78 percent of all potential home buyers, including 81 percent of renters intending to buy a home in the near future, said the government should continue to support housing.

Roughly 65 percent of homeowners said the government also needs to do more to keep families from losing their homes. Support for more foreclosure protection was not confined merely to current homeowners. Among renters, 84 percent said the government needs to do more to helped strapped borrowers.

Housing Starts

Single-Family Firm in February

The pace of single-family home production remained virtually unchanged in February, with a 0.6 percent decline to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 499,000 units, according to figures released by the U.S. Commerce Department. Meanwhile, a large decline on the more volatile multifamily side brought the overall number of housing starts down 5.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 575,000 units.

Pending Home Sales

Sales Down, Declines Foreseen

Pending home sales are down and additional declines are expected from abnormal weather conditions, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in January, fell 7.6 percent to 90.4 from an upwardly revised 97.8 in December, but remains 12.3 percent higher than January 2009 when it was 80.5.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said weather is likely to impact housing data. “January pending sales, though still higher than one year ago, remain much lower than expected given that a large number of potential buyers are eligible for the expanded home buyer tax credit. Moreover, the abnormally severe and prolonged winter weather, which affected large regions of the U.S., hampered shopping activity in February,” he said.

As such, abnormal swings are expected in housing data. “We will see weak near-term sales followed by a likely surge of existing-home sales in April, May and June,” Yun said. “The real question is what happens in the second half of the year. If there is sufficient job creation, housing can become self-sustaining with stable to modestly rising home prices because inventory has been trending downward.”

Energy Star

EPA and DOE Defend Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), responding to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office critical of potential fraud in the agencies’ Energy Star program, issued a statement saying that they had launched a two-step process to expand testing of Energy Star qualified products. Tests were to begin immediately on six of the most common product types: freezers, refrigerator-freezers, clothes washers, dishwashers, water heaters and room air conditioners.

In addition, EPA and DOE say they are developing an expanded system that will require all products seeking the Energy Star label to be tested in approved labs.

The agencies say in their defense that a series of actions has been taken in recent months to ensure compliance with both Energy Star and DOE’s appliance efficiency standards, including action against 35 manufacturers.

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