March 5, 2015

Builders and Associates United in Legislative Decisions

The week of March 9th will be marked by builders and HBA staff meeting with members of Congress. I would take it a step further by making sure your engaged associate members are not only included in these visits but relay their concerns about the building industry to the legislators as well. This is about builders, who take the risks involved with obtaining land and building a home, and those that the builders employee. Associates, if they are directly impacted by housing, are without question part of the builders' team and are as affected by legislative decisions as the builders themselves.

Back in the mid to late 1990s, the associate members volunteering at the national level delivered a message to builders and associates around the country. The message was clear, to the point and helped to have associates sitting on the sidelines to get up and take part in the defense of our great industry. The message? "It's our industry too!" 
Around 2009 the national associates, utilizing the great recession as their example, developed the awareness phrase "if it affects builders, it will affect associates." What greater example to demonstrate what happens when builders can't build or are greatly hampered? No one in our association could ever forget the nationwide layoffs, or closures, for any company directly affected by the housing crash and the deep recession that followed.

Which leads us to the importance of communicating with our legislators, both federal and state. For this article we are going to focus on federal, the House and the Senate. In just a few days, the National Association of Home Builders will "Bring Housing Home."  

As current national associate leadership we would like to help you, our fellow associates, take part in "Bring Housing Home" week. Make sure you speak with your local and/or state president and ask that you be included in the congressional meetings. "Its our industry too" means that associates are every bit a part of what happens with housing and "if affects builders it most definitely affects associates." The power of the associate member should be utilized by builders in their congressional meetings as associate members represent all facets of home construction and enhancement supply and service. What a great one-two punch!
Just a few facts that legislators should understand when visiting...
  • There are currently 86, 161 associate members (roughly two-thirds of NAHB membership)
  • Each associate member accounts for, on median average, 9 employees
  • On average, there are 1.5 votes per employee household (not including relatives or friends that could be influenced to your concerns)
  • Quick math: 86,161 x 9 = 775,449 x 1.5 = 1,163,174 votes (all approx.)

How legislation and regulation on housing affects associates?
  • Less land to build on means less houses that could be built = less product or services to be sold
  • More costs added to the overall cost of house construction means the builder a) has to eat costs because house won't sell at higher number, leaving less money for potential future projects b) builder passes cost on to potential home buyers causing a potential problem with acquiring a mortgage at the new sale price, risking less qualified buyers c) asking associates to shoulder part or all of the extra cost burden by "sharpening our pencils" which affects the associates profit margin. It could also be a combination of all three!
  • Houses, that are turned into homes, provide quite a few jobs. Less houses causes, as the Great Recession demonstrated, quite a few less jobs.
It is so important to take the above associate talking points and blend them into the overall  conversation that is based on NAHB talking points. Remember, the congressmen you meet with represent your districts so how it impacts you locally, will impact them, meaning you support those who help you support your family, your employees and your employee's families.

When meeting, here are a few Dos and Don'ts;

  •  Understand the reason for the meeting. Know NAHB talking points. If you don't understand the talking points ask someone from your HBA government affairs staff to clearly explain the meaning of talking points and how they affect you.
  •  Stay on message. You will have roughly 15 minutes to get your message through to your legislator. Keep him/her focused on the issue(s) at hand for the home building industry.
  •  Make sure you have at least one builder AND one associate in attendance who understand the issues and can speak to how the issue(s) affects  their own businesses so the legislator(s) understand that it is a building industry issue, not just builder related.
  •  Have one or two of your group's members be the key speakers in the group, but make sure that they identify all in the meeting and how they are each related to the building industry.
  •  Bring updated building industry literature, specific to reason for meeting, to leave with the legislator and have HBA staff follow up with whatever you could not answer for the legislator(s).
  •  Invite your legislator(s) to one of your HBA events when their calendar permits.
  •  Don't be unprepared. Shooting from the hip is great in old TV westerns but not when our industry's survival, your income, is on the line.
  •  Don't discuss campaign contributions when discussing your reasons for the visit. Ever.
  •  Don't allow a fellow member(s) to stray off message. It confuses the issues and the reason you set up the meeting will become lost in other discussions.
  •  Don't forget to follow up with the legislator(s) on issues that were unresolved or he/she said would be taken care of (like co-sponsoring a bill).
submitted by:

Michael Kurpiel,  NAHB BUILD-PAC Associate Vice Chairman
Dianne Beaton, National Associate Vice Chairman
Michael LeCorgne, National Associate Members Committee Chairman

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