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Winter 2004

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Over the last 20 years, energy efficiency, affordability, safety, and durability have become increasingly important watchwords in the housing industry. At the International Builders' Show, builders will have an opportunity to tour a demonstration home that marks the evolution of these values. PATH is the driving force behind the building science in the 2004 NextGen Demonstration Home, a 2,300 square-foot modular home being displayed in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center. NextGen will reflect how technological advances and marketplace demands have changed the standards for American home building. Read more: The 2004 NextGen Demonstration Home.

PATH will host the "Breakfast of Innovators" for industry professionals at the NextGen Home on Jan. 21,at 8:30 a.m., to announce the "Top 10 Technologies." HUD's General Deputy Assistant Secretary Darlene Williams will highlight the PATH technologies in the home. To reserve a spot at the PATH Breakfast of Innovators, please RSVP to


At a time when new home sales and American homeownership rates are the highest in history, affordable housing seems to be lagging behind.

According to a survey conducted by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, housing remains "Out of Reach" for millions of Americans. The survey, Out of Reach: 2003, found an enormous gap between what people earn and what housing actually costs. The national Housing Wage for 2003 is $15.21 an hour, or $31,637 a year - almost three times the federal minimum wage -the survey found.  The Housing Wage is the amount a person working full-time has to earn to afford a two-bedroom rental unit at fair market rent while paying no more than 30 percent of income in rent.

The report also highlights the federal minimum wage, which has not been raised in six years. The last increase was in 1997, when Congress raised the minimum from $4.75 to $5.15 an hour. It is extremely unlikely that a federal minimum wage increase will happen again anytime soon.

The last attempt was made by Sen. Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) who introduced S. 20, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2003, which would have raised the federal minimum wage to $5.90 an hour, beginning on the 60th day after enactment; and $6.65 an hour, beginning 12 months after that 60th day. According to Daschle, increasing the minimum wage by $1.50 would mean an extra $3,000 per year for working families. However, the opposition says that raising the minimum wage would negatively affect employers, especially small businesses.

"For our members, this is the worst time possible to increase the minimum wage," says Susan Eckerly, chief Senate lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, as quoted on the Web site. "We're in the middle of an economic slowdown coupled with double-digit increases in health insurance premiums that our members our facing."

Proponents agree that the current minimum wage is not high enough to afford a two-bedroom home at fair-market rent anywhere in the United States. Renter households in 40 states - home to almost 90 percent of all renter households in the nation -Housing Wage is more than twice the current minimum wage.  Eleven states have Housing Wages more than three times the minimum wage, according to the report.

The report found that the least affordable states and their Housing Wages are:

1. Massachusetts$22.40
2. California$21.18
3. New Jersey$19.74
4. New York$18.87
5. Maryland$18.85
6. Connecticut$18.00
7. Hawaii$17.02
8. Alaska$16.75
9. New Hampshire$16.49
10. Colorado$16.29

According to the report, the least affordable metropolitan statistical areas and their Housing Wages are San Jose, Calif. ($35.02 an hour); San Francisco ($34.13 an hour); and Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. ($28.71 an hour). The states with the largest annual increases in their Housing Wages are:

1. Maryland12.09 %
2. Virginia9.07 %
3. California7.59 %
4. Massachusetts5.92 %
5. Connecticut5.70 %
6. New Jersey4.73 %
7. New Hampshire4.57 %
8. Arizona3.52 %
9. Minnesota3.52 %
10. New York3.48 %


Despite years of technology innovation, why do seemingly simple problems-nail pops, cracks and other drywall problems-continue to plague home construction? Perhaps it is because there are so many variables in a house, so many styles, products and materials, that it is much more complicated to build a "problem free" house than it appears. In response, builders are increasingly adopting a whole-house design approach to design, looking at the house as an integrated system, rather than a collection of products and parts, to deliver a better home. Read the story: Whole-House Design.

Look for the January 2004 column, "New Definitions of Affordability," coming soon to

Each month, the PATH column in Professional Builder highlights advanced homebuilding techniques, showcases construction projects that utilize innovative products and designs, and profiles industry leaders and researchers who are developing and implementing cutting-edge technologies, systems, and industry practices.

Content updated on 1/15/2004

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