Technology Boost Needed in American Homes
Despite the importance of the housing industry to the American economy, the private sector invests little in the development of new residential technologies. This is especially true of the single-family homes that make up most of America's housing stock. It can take 10 to 25 years for a new housing technology to achieve full market penetration. The homes that manage to enter the market fully equipped with technological advancements are often costly and not readily available to the average consumer.
The housing industry consists of home builders and remodelers; homeowners, renters, building owners and housing agencies; design professionals and planners; product manufacturers; researchers; financial institutions; realtors and appraisers; and government agencies. They all share in the technology development process - whether they know it or not. And they often don't know it. Home builders may hesitate to apply a specific technology to their new development because of percieved risks, a seeming lack of market demand, or regulatory barriers. Homeowners may not have access to information that could help them make educated choices for their families' needs.
Product manufacturers may not have the resources to develop innovative new ideas. Researchers may not have the connections with industry leaders necessary to help them apply the latest research in the field. And financial institutions may not know the full potential effect of a new technology on home appraisals or mortgage rates.
PATH's goal is to fill these gaps and forge connections between industry sectors to speed the development and use of advanced building technologies.
The residential building industry is one of the largest and most important sectors of the U.S. economy. In recognition of the role of housing in the U.S. economy, in 1994, the White House convened representatives from all segments of America's construction industry to consider a broad set of National Construction Goals. Over the next three years, the residential segment of the construction industry, represented by home builders, code officials, product manufacturers, and other interested parties, developed a research plan for implementing National Construction Goals for the housing sector. PATH was developed as a result.
Residential construction stimulates the economy directly by generating jobs, wages and tax revenues and indirectly as the demand for goods and services created by the construction of new homes "ripples" through the economy. The construction of 1,000 single-family homes generates 2,448 full-time jobs in construction and construction-related industries; $79.4 million in wages; and $42.5 million in combined federal, state and local revenues and fees, according to NAHB figures.
The construction of 1,000 multifamily units, according to NAHB, generates 1,030 full-time jobs in construction and construction-related industries; $33.5 million in wages; and $17.8 million in combined federal, state and local tax revenues and fees.
In 2003, congressional activity signaled a vital segment to the American economy. During the 108th session of Congress, Senate introduced a variety of legislation that focused on housing. Among others was the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund Act of 2003, which established this fund in the Treasury to promote the development of affordable low-income housing through grants to states and local jurisdictions.
Many obstacles confront consumers who are striving to grasp the "American Dream" of homeownership.
The economic expansion of the 1990s, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, obscured certain trends and statistics that point to an increased, not decreased, need for affordable housing. The generally accepted definition of affordability is for a household to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing, says HUD. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more then 50 percent of their annual incomes.
The new generation of homeowners and buyers want more for their money. They want quality homes that serve as a solid long-term investment: affordable, energy efficient, environmentally safe, durable, disaster proof, as well as safe for the people who labor to build them. Innovative technologies are key components in the redefined home.
By accelerating the development and use of technologies that radically improve the quality, affordability, energy efficiency, environmental performance, and durability of America's housing, the "American Dream" can more easily become a reality. This process also strengthens the infrastructure of the United States.
Without a significant investment in residential technologies, the burden of construction costs and market barriers will fall to American families. A partnership that brings together all segments of the housing industry can expedite the development and the adoption of new housing technologies. PATH is that partnership.
The ultimate test of the resilience of the American housing industry lies in its ability to offer a clear path for American families to the next generation home. These homes will be more affordable, energy efficient, environmentally safe, durable, disaster proof, and safe--as construction sites and as homes. Advanced and innovative technologies will make them possible.
Content updated on 11/5/2004