NAHB says White House doesn’t care about housing affordability

Commerce Department doubling lumber tariffs on Canadian lumber to 18.32%.
a view of a tall building

Following a move by the U.S. Commerce Department to double lumber tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments into the United States from 9% to 18.32%, the National Association of Builders (NAHB) said the move shows little care from the White House for the current state of housing affordability.

In a prepared statement, the NAHB said the increase arrives at a time when soaring lumber prices have added nearly $36,000 to the price of a new home. At the same time, millions of middle-class households are being priced out of the housing market.

“The Biden administration’s preliminary finding on Friday to double the tariffs on Canadian lumber shipments into the U.S. shows the White House does not care about the plight of American home buyers and renters who have been forced to pay much higher costs for housing,” said NAHB Chairman Chuck Fowke.

“This action clearly shows the White House is disingenuous when it claims the nation’s housing affordability crisis must be an important priority,” Fowke added. “This move certainly demonstrates a lack of courage to stand up to the U.S. lumber lobby that is already reaping record profits off the backs of hardworking American families.”

The U.S. Lumber Coalition has a different take on the Commerce Department’s move, however. The coalition is an alliance of U.S. softwood lumber producers who oppose Canada’s lumber trade practices.

“A level playing field is a critical element for continued investment and growth for U.S. lumber manufacturing to meet strong building demand to build more American homes,” said Jason Brochu, U.S. Lumber Coalition co-chair and co-president of Pleasant River Lumber Company. “The U.S. Lumber Coalition applauds the Commerce Department’s continued commitment to strongly enforce the U.S. trade laws against subsidized and unfairly traded Canadian lumber imports.”

According to the coalition, the Commerce Department’s decision “confirmed that Canadian imports are heavily subsidized and dumped into the U.S. market.”

The coalition argues that since the trade cases against subsidized and unfairly traded Canadian softwood lumber imports were brought by the U.S. industry and initiated by the U.S. government in 2016, U.S. sawmill investment and capacity expansion has been robust, which has produced an additional 11 billion board-feet of lumber over that period — enough lumber to have built 730,000 single-family American homes. 

“Any consideration of the value of the softwood lumber trade case to the U.S. economy must consider the lumber supply situation had this new capacity not been added since 2016,” said Brochu. “More lumber being manufactured in America to meet domestic demand is a direct result of the trade enforcement, and we strongly urge the administration to continue this enforcement.”

But the NAHB says the Biden administration “should be ashamed for casting its lot with special interest groups and abandoning the interests of the American people.”

“It knows that the lumber tariffs are nothing less than a tax on American home buyers, renters and businesses that rely on lumber products and they could not have come at a worse time. Lumber prices are already up more than 300 percent from a year ago,” Fowke said while adding that “the White House has lost all credibility in its claims of fighting for housing affordability and the interests of work-class families."