Traditionally, this is one of those plop-plop-fizz-fizz mornings and you may not be ready for what is subjectively presented as a serious view of how housing fared in tely presented as a serious view of how housing fared in the year past and may fare in the year ahead.
But housing is always with us and one usually recovers from a New Year's Eve hangover at home.
In fact, if you can recall anything clearly it may just be that you and the folks with whom you spent the evening probably got around to talking about the place where you live . . . or where you'd like to live . . . or where you can't afford to live butwould like to., or who will buy the Gerald Ford house . . . or what will happen to the Rockefeller estate . . . or whether it's a good idea to buy a condominium . . or better idea to sell your house for a big profit and rent an apartment, if you can find one that suits your taste and pocketbook.
And now that the conversational door to housing topics is open, let's quickly review 1976 as a year when much of the economy was straggering along but housing starts, nationally, exceeded the 1.4 million forecast for 1977 has been revised upward again to 1.8 million, even in a general economy that is not wall-to-wall roses. Locally, the pattern is similar, with production and sales of new single houses and townhouses having surged in 1976 and likely to maintain tha surge well into 1977. Also, some of the area-wide surplus in unsold condominium apartments and multiplex dwellings has been moved and the market is generally healthier.
However, that is not to infer tha the sun shines all day long over all aspects of the market. Although households (as related to the number of persons) have increased, the population growth has slowed in this and other areas. And while the resale market may show record numbers of sales at prices higher than ever in all categories, nonetheless the number of unsold listed houses for sale is higher than ever. Thus, there could be a brake on the almost incredible increase in housing prices witnessed in this area for the past five years.
On the positive side for prospective buyer s is the fact that early 1977 should be more of a buyer's market than a seller's, in terms of where the trump cards are held. And it certainly is a considerable incentive for today's prospective buyer to be able to do business in a lending market that has seen long-term mortgage rates drop 1/2 to 3/4 per cent in the past year. The FHAVA interest rate ceiling has been down at 8 per cent for some weeks and the private or conventionally finance picture for loans on new and resale houses is generally in the range of 8 1/2 to 8 3/4 per cent if the dwelling passes muster and you have more than a minimum down payment and a track record as a saver with the thrift institution.
On balance, from this spectator's viewing spot, it appears that this Washington area still faces unusually high prices for both new and resal ehouses for reasons endemic to this high-income-high-price scene. Yet, the public buying strength and interest are very evident when the product turns on the buyer, who is still interested when his budget registers green. However, the likelihood of a strong year ahead in construction of new single and town houses and a fairly strong upturn in the building of rental apartments does cause some observers to advise some caution lest the market be overbuilt.
On still another aspect of housing, it is interesting to note that this new year soon will bring two new persons in two top positions that deal with housing.
Patricia Roberts Harris, a resident of the upper District, adjoining Rock Creek Park, just wes tof 16th Street NW, will succeed Carla A. Hills as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. She will be the second black, the second woman and the third lawyer to hold this relatively new (1965), cabinet post.Like Carla Hills, Harris holds strong personal credentials but no prior experience in housing. For instance, the National Association of Home Builders articulated disappointment, as it did with the selection of Hills, that a person experienced in housing was not chosen. And NAHB, which likes to think of itself as the voice of organized home builders, added that the Harris selection"underscores the vital need for appointment to the post of UNdersecretary and FHA Commissioner of persons with experience and knowledge . ." However, the National Association of Realtors, generally more conservative and Republican than NAHB in viewpoint, complimented President-elect Carter who "will choice of Harris as a person who "will bring to this extremely important cabinet position valuable business background and knowledge which will serve the nations well." And the Mortgage Bankers Association, which is plumping for a revival of a traditional FHA, expressed high expectations for Harris and happiness that a woman was selected.
Additionally, NAHB gets a new executive vice president on Jan. 15 in time for an introduction to many of the 85,000 members at the annual hoem builder convention and exposition that begins Jan. 23 in Dallas. He's David E. Stahl, 42 and a home owner at Lake Barcroft. He will leave the Urban Land Institute here to move over to take the heavier NAHB reins from Nathaniel H. Rogg. The reaction to the Stahl selection has been low-key and generally favorable. It is known that he is taking over one of five or seven best-paying association executive jobs in the land, with the starting stipend likely about $60,000. A Democrat and a native Chicagoan, he holds a degree in business administration from Miami University at Oxford, O., and he was special assistant for housing to the late Mayor Daley of Chicago from 1966 to 1968.His reputation as an administrator is that his hard-nosed and strong on fiscal matters. So some changes at NAHB can be expected within the next year.
There can be expected to be some other new faces, in addition to those of Harris and Stahl, on the housing scene in 1977. But one Oakley Hunter, who is president and board chairman of the Federal National Mortgage Association (a post with a salary about doubel that of the Secretary of HUD) is taking an aggressive stand in maintaining his post that has become a target of some Carterite jobseekers. Hunter says on the record that he has a contract with his board of directors and that he expects to be in the same job when 1977 is rung out. Shortly
-Robert N. Wolpe Enterprises Inc. has recently sold the contract for the 17,419 square feet of SP-zoned ground at the northwest corner of 19th and N streets NW to a generally partnership of developer-builder Melvin Lenkin and the Julien J. Studley firm. The price for the contract was reported to be more than $80 a square foot for the site formerly occupied by Arnold & Porter.
- Among the recent deaths mourned by their many friends in the housing and realty fields were those of Carl A.S. Coan, staff director of the Senate subcommittee on housing and urban affairs for 15 years, and veteran appraiser Curt Mack. Mr. Coan had forumulated a number of housing acts and guided them through Congress with his mentor-friend Sen. John J. Sparkman (D-Ala.). Mr. Coan was particularly interested in programs for low and moderate income housing. . Mr. Mack, a veteran appraiser whose earlier career had included being deputy FHA Commissioner, is remembered for his wry sense of humor.
National Ofice Products Assocation recently paid $1,132,283 to Simpson Co. for a new offie building in the Old Town area of Alexandria. The association has been located at 1500 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. The new site is at 319 M. Fairfax St.
It's one thing t retire once. Henry E. Bouscaren, an executive with Natinal Permanent Federal S & L, did that two years ago and went back to work two days a week. As of Thursday, he finished that stint and now will be playing even more golf. A veteran of more than 40 years in real estate and related fields here, this D.C. native can recall delivering The Washington Post to the Henderson Castle, now demolished ad the site of the new Beekman Place townhouse-department condominium complex.