Public Backs $15,000 Tax Credit in Economic Stimulus Bill
Intense negotiations last week between a group of centrist Senate Democrats and Republicans resulted in a compromise over the weekend that removed about $100 billion of spending from the economic stimulus bill. This paved the way for the Senate to vote 61 to 36 on Monday evening in favor of moving the legislation forward. The chamber is expected to hold a final vote on the stimulus legislation on Feb. 10.
Resulting in large part from the efforts of the entire NAHB federation, the bill includes an expanded home buyer tax credit in the amount of $15,000 available to anyone buying a principal residence. The tax credit would apply to all purchases occurring within a year after the bill is signed into law and it is a true tax credit. It would not have to be repaid.
However, there remains the possibility that the $15,000 home buyer tax credit could be scaled back before the Senate casts its final vote on Tuesday.
As the Senate moved to wrap up consideration of its version of the economic stimulus bill, NAHB President Jerry Howard on Feb. 9. conducted several media interviews on why it is critical for the entire $15,000 home buyer tax credit to remain in the final Senate package. In discussions with CNN/Money, Dow Jones, Bloomberg, The Hill, National Mortgage News, ICIS News and SNL Financial, Howard said that the full credit amount is needed to help stabilize home values and revive the housing market and U.S. economy.
Further, NAHB is urging all members of the housing community to call their senators at 1-866-924-NAHB (6242) and tell them to preserve the entire $15,000 tax credit in the Senate version of the economic stimulus bill.
The $15,000 home buyer tax credit would replace and sunset a much narrower tax credit that was enacted last year. Available only to first-time home buyers, the current $7,500 tax credit works like an interest-free loan that must be repaid over a 15-year period. It is set to expire on July 1.
The House stimulus plan approved last month would slightly improve the $7,500 home buyer tax credit by eliminating its recapture provision.
Extending and expanding the home buyer tax credit as proposed in the Senate bill will help to end the free-fall in the housing market and save and create new jobs, said NAHB Chairman Joe Robson.
“Increasing demand for housing will help reduce excess inventory, mitigate foreclosures, bolster consumer confidence and set the stage for a broader economic recovery,” said Robson.
Poll Finds Broad Support for $15,000 Home Buyer Tax Credit
A new national telephone survey conducted by Voter Roll Call of Verona, N.J. on Feb. 8 shows that a robust home buyer tax credit has broad public support.
Two-thirds of Americans support a $15,000 home buyer tax credit now being considered by Congress as part of its economic stimulus package and believe it will be effective in stimulating home sales.
“This survey reinforces our view that the $15,000 home buyer tax credit in the Senate stimulus package will successfully tackle the housing and economic crisis head-on,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.
The survey of more than 1,200 registered voters found that one-third of all respondents and 61% of renters would be more likely to buy a home if the $15,000 home buyer tax credit were to be enacted into law.
“This is extremely significant because normally in any one year only about 5% to 7% of households purchase a home,” said Crowe. “This temporary, timely and targeted tax credit will push folks off the fence the day the bill is enacted, helping to stop house price declines and bring confidence back to the housing market.”
After the Senate unanimously voted last week to add the $15,000 home buyer tax credit to its stimulus bill, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), a co-sponsor of the amendment along with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), issued a press release quoting Connecticut builder Greg Ugalde and citing NAHB statistics on how the tax credit would boost economic activity.
The Senate stimulus package, as modified by an agreement brokered by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), includes several other provisions that will help small businesses and bolster the housing market. The legislation would:
- Increase bonus depreciation and Section 179 small business expensing
- Allow a five-year carry back for net operating losses
- Provide $2 billion in gap financing for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program and accelerate credit claims for LIHTC investors
- Provide up to a 10-year deferral for income taxes arising due to cancelled or restructured business debt
- Extend the New Markets Tax Credit
- Provide an Alternative Minimum Tax patch for tax year 2009
Last week, NAHB received a setback when the Senate struck down an amendment by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) to create a mortgage rate buy down of 4% to 4.5% for new and refinanced mortgages through the end of 2010. Prior to consideration, NAHB sent a “key vote” letter to all senators urging passage of the Ensign amendment. However, a procedural budget point of order was raised and senators voted 62 to 35 not to waive the budget rules on the amendment. Therefore, the amendment was killed before it had a chance to be voted on.
There is still speculation that the Obama Administration could tackle rate buy downs on its own when it unveils later this week its plan to address the banking and foreclosure crisis.
A Collective Effort
As the Senate began work on its stimulus package last week, NAHB teamed up with its local and state HBAs to conduct a broad grassroots outreach in support of an enhanced and expanded home buyer tax credit to address the crisis in the housing market. EOs from across the country arranged for groups of builders to visit their local congressional offices and push for policies that will stimulate housing demand.
Local media in several states picked up on this message. A group of Virginia builders who visited and held rallies at the local offices of Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) in support of a robust home buyer tax credit received favorable news coverage from NBC affiliate WWBT-TV in Richmond and Petersburg. KELO-TV reported on home builders in Sioux Falls, S.D. who urged their congressional delegation to support an expanded home buyer tax credit. Builders in Seattle and Columbus, Ga. also received TV coverage on their efforts to urge Congress to help the housing sector and show how bad the industry is hurting.
To help builders prepare for their visits, NAHB’s members-only Web site provided talking points, economic data, press documents and other resources. Builders who were unable to visit the local offices of their federal lawmakers were encouraged to call 1-866-924-NAHB (6242) and urge them to support any amendment to enhance or expand the home buyer tax credit. Several hundred calls were logged from builders in every state.
On the public relations front, NAHB ran a week-long series of ads in Roll Call, The Hill, Politico, Congress Daily and CQ Today calling on Congress to enact a stimulus package with a more significant home buyer tax credit to get the economy moving again.
To get the message directly out to the media, NAHB President Jerry Howard conducted several interviews on the need to spur housing demand to jump-start the economy. He spoke with AP, USA Today, U.S. News and World Report, Bloomberg, National Mortgage News, ICIS News and Builder magazine and conducted a live one-on-one radio interview with Jerry Doyle, whose show is carried on 240 radio stations nationwide.
NAHB also updated its federalhousingtaxcredit.com Web site to highlight Senate inclusion of the $15,000 home buyer tax credit in the stimulus package and to urge consumers to call their senators and support this provision.
Once the Senate bill is approved, it will go to a House-Senate conference to be reconciled with the House version. Lawmakers are still hoping to get a final bill to President Obama by the end of this week. Through its lobbying, grassroots and public relations efforts, NAHB will continue its push to ensure that the final package includes the full $15,000 home buyer tax credit and other housing priorities that will put housing and the economy back on the right track.
For more information on participating in NAHB’s grassroots campaign on the stimulus package, e-mail Molly Murray at NAHB or call her at 1-800-368-5242, x8282. To learn more about the legislation, e-mail Greg Brown or call him at x8421.