Growth picture is mixed with challenges

Workers finish a show home in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Las Vegas -- One speaker at the President's Council Advisory Board meeting here during the International Builders' Show explained that "we're not in full panic mode," anymore. Another pointed to a 32% increased in single-family home starts for 2014. 

But what are the challenges that might slow the industry’s growth trajectory?

Robert Dietz, VP tax and market analysis for the National Association of Home Builders, focused on that question during his presentation at the President's Council event.

Home affordability -- as expressed by the NAHB's housing opportunity index -- is in good shape, he said. "The percentage of households that can afford to buy a home is taking a dip but still high," he said.

Credit availability, however, is a possible growth inhibitor. So is labor availability. "We have the highest unfilled construction jobs opening rate in five years right now," he said. 

That may seem like a disconnect given the nation's high unemployment, but what's happening is a "skills mismatch" between the type of work needed and the type of worker available.

Several policy issues also cloud the topic of growth. Dietz pointed to several during his presentation: housing finance reform, possible tax reform affecting the mortgage interest deduction, immigration reform, as well as fiscal and monetary policy unknowns. 

Through all that though, the forecast for single-family starts shows a recovery in progress. From 621,000 in 2013, single-family starts are expected to hit 822,000 in 2014, according to the NAHB's tally. That's an increase of 32%. In 2015, the forecast is for 1.159 million single-family starts.

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