The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) urged the Biden administration to increase domestic production of timber from federal lands and to work with Canada on a new softwood lumber agreement that will eliminate tariffs during a virtual White House listening session March 14 on resolving the lumber and building material supply chain crisis.
“Historically high price levels for lumber and other building materials are dramatically affecting home prices and rental costs and threaten the nation’s economic stability,” said NAHB chairman Jerry Konter, a home builder and developer from Savannah, Georgia.
He told administration officials that home building material costs are up 20% year-over-year. And since last August, the price of framing lumber has more than tripled and oriented strand board prices have doubled.
“These supply chain price increases have only added to the ongoing housing affordability crisis,” Konter said.
Lumber production has not kept pace with demand despite record-high lumber prices and tariffs that are protecting domestic producers and raising costs for builders and home buyers.
In October 2021, domestic lumber production was only 0.4% higher than the previous year and today stands lower than it was in 2018, despite an increase in demand. And domestic sawmill production increased by just 500 jobs last year despite historically high lumber prices.
“If our trade protectionist policies are not creating domestic jobs or increasing domestic production, then it’s time to revisit our trade positions,” said Konter. “Few things would have a more immediate impact on lumber markets than a swift resolution to our ongoing trade dispute with Canada over softwood lumber.”
Konter also said that significant reductions in timber production from federally owned lands since the 1990s has severely constricted domestic supply. He called on policymakers to do their part to help boost domestic production by seeking higher targets for timber sales from publicly-owned lands and opening up additional federal forest lands for logging in an environmentally sustainable manner.
“Housing can do its part to create jobs and lead the economy forward, but in order to do so, we need to address skyrocketing lumber and building material prices and chronic production bottlenecks,” said Konter.