Shortages of gypsum wallboard used in home construction seem to have ended, but rising prices for gypsum products remain a concern of home builders, members of the industry said this week.
Their remarks came after a hearing Tuesday, chaired by Rep. Gladys Spellman (D-Md.), into shortages of gypsum and other home-building materials.
Spellman noted that the number of a gypsum manufacturers is decreasing, leading to price increases and shortages.
"One of the big problems is when big business moves in," she said. "We plan to take a look to see whether it's healthy for big firms to be involved so heavily (in gypsum manufacturing)."
Robert Day, executive vice president for marketing of U.S. Gypsum Co., testified that his firm is increasing its prices to make up for earning that fell during recent years of slow home construction.
The hearing was in part an outgrowth of complaints Spellman heard last November from area home builders about gypsum prices and shortages. It was one in a series being conducted by a congressional task force on home ownership problems that is composed of members of the House Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and individuals in the building industry and related fields.
Rep. Les AuCoin (D-Ore.), chairman of the task force, called gypsum prices "exorbitant" and said they are contributing to inflation. He said shortages of gypsum are also leading to unemployment in the housing industry.
Area home builders said they are no longer bothered by the shortgage they complained to Spellman about in November, but said they are still concerned about the prices.
William Fay, an economist for the National Association of Home Builders, said, "The shortage problem has apparently been alleviated. The major impact is the numerous price increases that have come about. The major concern for home builders is whether these price increases can be spaced out or moderated so that the full impact is not so severe."
Andrew Mothershead, owner of Sonny's Inc., a building supply firm in College Park, and a Prince George's state delegate, told Spellman in November that the delays in getting gypsum products could cause layoffs of construction workers. Now, he said, the shortage is gone and layoffs that did occur were for short-lived.