Friday, February 8, 2013

"Housing's Lost Decade" and where the market is headed

by Cynthia Adcock, National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy

A trio of seasoned housing sector veterans are adding their voices to a rising chorus of assertions that the housing industry is finally on the upswing. A new report, Housing’s Lost Decade: Where We Go From Here, focuses primarily on where the market might be headed in the years ahead. The report’s authors, NHC Board member Kent Colton, Gopal Ahwulahlia and Jay Shackford have between them more than a century of combined experience as housing market observers.

Colton, who also serves as chairman of the board of the Center for Housing Policy and a member of the NHC Board of Directors, was CEO of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for 15 years and director of President Reagan’s Housing Commission; Jay Shackford headed up NAHB's media and public affairs operation for 35 years; and Gopal Ahluwalia, was NAHB's chief economic and market researcher for three decades until he stepped down in late 2009.

Playing to Ahluwahlia’s strength as a master data manager, the report’s 40-slide PowerPoint presentation is chock full of backup charts and data. It covers a wide range of issues, including the excesses leading up to the subprime mortgage fiasco and the 2008 financial market collapse, what needs to be done to fix today's struggling housing finance system and the mountain of student debt (now over $1 trillion) and challenging job market weighing down 65 million echo baby boomers, many of whom are doubling up with friends or family and standing on the sidelines waiting to get into the housing market. Says Colton, “It's a comprehensive and candid look the housing market and an appropriate reminder of what went so fundamentally wrong during the housing boom years, a story that needs to be told and retold to avoid repeating those same mistakes again. “

Ahluwahlia, an oft-quoted housing statistician during his time at NAHB, likens “echo baby boomers” consumers born between 1981 and 1995 to children at the beach—gingerly dipping their toes into still frigid waters at the beach. “You know they are going in, it’s just a question of time,” said Ahluwahlia.

While all three authors agree that the bottom is in the rear-view mirror Shackford cautions that the path forward will be slow. “Major obstacles need to be hurdled before a solid and sustainable recovery can get fully underway, “he notes.

For more information on the report, contact co-author Jay Shackford at

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