The National Association of Home Builders‘ (NAHB) chairman Chuck Fowke called on Congress to increase domestic lumber production from federal lands to address the resilience of national forests, resolve lumber supply shortages, rein in elevated prices and improve housing affordability.
Appearing at a forum conducted by members of the House National Resources Committee and the House Western Caucus to discuss rising lumber prices, Fowke says that boosting domestic lumber production is only part of the solution.
Fowke adds, “We also need to resolve the long-standing trade dispute with Canada over softwood lumber imports, as well as solve supply chain and labor supply disruptions that continue to linger.”
He told lawmakers lumber prices increased more than 165 percent since April 2020 and illustrated that the rapid rise in lumber and building material prices has added nearly $36,000 to the price of a new home.
“These historic price increases are dramatically raising home prices and rental costs and threaten the nation’s economic recovery,” Fowke says.
Lumber prices currently stand at elevated levels, though, in recent weeks, prices have fallen. These recent price declines are not due to an increase in supply, however.
“We see it due to a slowdown in housing production, which should alarm everyone,” Fowke says. “In May, single-family starts fell 5.9 percent and that follows significant downward revisions to the April estimate and previous months’ readings.”
Fowke noted timber harvests from the National Forest System averaged between 10 and 12 billion board feet for a 40-year period from the mid-1950s, then plunged to an average between 1.5 and 3.3 billion board feet per year stating in the mid-1990s due to bureaucratic red tape and litigation.
“We must strike a more appropriate balance in how we manage our national forests,” Fowke tells lawmakers. “Doing so will restore the health of one of our great natural resources and offers the potential to reinvigorate the forestry industry while improving housing affordability. That’s a win-win-win in my book.”