NAHB: Senate Immigration Plan Would Put Onus on Remodelers, Contractors

The U.S. Senate late last month hashed out a version of an immigration reform bill that would put a big part of the burden of enforcing illegal immigration on the shoulders of business people, including remodelers, builders and contractors.

In response, the lobbying arm of the National Association of Home Builders swung into action urging its members to call, write and e-mail their members of Congress to oppose the law.

“It makes absolutely no sense to deputize the business community to enforce laws that the federal government has been unable and unwilling to enforce,” NAHB CEO Jerry Howard said in a released statement. “The Senate needs to put the responsibility of verifying a person’s immigration status where it really belongs — with the employer who hires and pays them.

“Such a change in our immigration laws would be unfair, disruptive and almost impossible to enforce. In effect, U.S. employers would be required to literally verify the legal status of millions of workers they never hired. For residential construction, this would drive up the cost of housing and devastate an industry already reeling from the effects of the worst housing downturn in almost two decades.”

In particular, the NAHB cited two sections of the bill. The first deals with the general contractor/subcontractor contract requirements. General contractors must include contract language that requires subcontractors to follow immigration law. They must also verify the subcontractors (not the subcontractors employees) Employer Verification Number (VIN) through the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) employee verification system, which raise two concerns for builders and remodelers. 1. Language in the bill establishes contract requirements that all general contractors must abide by when hiring subcontractors. However, it also includes language that gives the Department of Homeland Security free reign to “make up rules as they go along” when it comes to placing requirements on general contractors to police all of their subcontractor employees. 2. The bill does not create a “safe harbor” for general contractors who have followed all of the requirements outlined by the government, and yet a hiring violation is found to have occurred.

The second section of the bill in question pertains to the “Future Flow of Immigrant Labor.” Serious limitations in the bill impede immigrant workers’ employment eligibility. The Future Flow Program, as laid out in the bill, would make it impractical, the NAHB argues, to devote the time and money to train an employee only to have them leave after two years. To make it even more unworkable, the bill specifically prohibits employers who live in areas with unemployment rates of 7 percent or higher from hiring temporary workers.

One way or another, the bill is expected to be acted on this month.

Spanish Certification

NARI offers Spanish-language lead carpenter training

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, NARI, recently announced that it will make its Certified Lead Carpenter exam available in Spanish by August 1, 2007. The goal is to assist program participants who speak, read and write in Spanish as a first language.

According to a release from the association, NARI has received many requests for a Spanish-language version of its CLC exams. Education director Dan Taddei, says the group is eager to accommodate so that it can ensure the certification is available to this growing segment of the industry.

“Our diversity task force recommended it,” says Taddei. “We want to be as inclusive as possible. And based on the demographics within remodeling, the lead carpenter program is a good place to start.”

Remodeling Expenditures

Harvard Joint Center forecasts slower growth

Homeowner spending on remodeling continues to grow, but the rate of that growth has clearly slowed, according to a recent report issued by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Residential remodeling spending by home-owners (not including spending on rental properties) is expected to hit about $184. 3 billion in the third quarter of this year, although growth in recent quarters has been only in the low single digits compared to double-digit growth in recent years.

Pointing to a “reasonably strong economy” (2.5 percent GDP growth and an unemployment rate of only 4.4 percent), Joint Center chief economist Kermit Baker noted that a series of both positive and negative factors is currently impacting residential remodeling. Among the positives, Baker said, is the fact that the economy “remains in a growth mode,” while high levels of home equity still exist, spurring “cash-out” refinancing activity that often leads to home improvements. Among the negatives impacting the market, he said, are continued declines in home prices and existing-home sales, coupled with high levels of consumer debt.

Existing-home Sales

Slower for remainder of ‘07

A full recovery in housing is not expected until 2008, amid predictions that sales of existing homes will drop by about 3 percent this year and sales of new homes will fall an even steeper 15 percent. That was the forecast issued by the National Association of Realtors last month, in the wake of news that sales of existing homes plunged in March by the largest amount in nearly two decades.

Resales declined 8.4 percent in March, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.12 million units, from a pace of 6.68 million units in February; they were 11.3 percent below the 6.90-million-unit level posted in March 2006, the Washington, D.C.-based NAR reported.

According to NAR chief economist David Lereah, the March decline — a reflection of bad weather and increasing problems in the subprime mortgage market — is masking improved fundamentals in the housing market.

“The combination of lower mortgage interest rates and motivated sellers should contribute to an improvement in existing-home sales during the last half of 2007,” Lereah said.

Industry Calendar

Events from June to October

June 19 - 22
Southern Building Show
Cobb Galleria Centre, Atlanta

June 20
Chrysalis Awards Dinner
Cobb Galleria Centre, Atlanta
6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

September 5 - 9
NAHB Remodelers
Fall Board of Directors Meeting
Seattle, Wash.

October 7 - 11
National Association of the
Remodeling Industry Fall Meetings
Mandalay Bay Convention Center
Las Vegas

October 9 - 11
Kitchen & Bath Design
Remodeling Expo and Conference
Valley Forge Convention Center
King of Prussia, Pa.

October 9 - 11
The Remodeling Show
Mandalay Bay Convention Center
Las Vegas

October 9
Qualified Remodeler’s Top 500 & Master Design Awards Reception
The Wynn Hotel
Las Vegas