Donald I. Hovde, the newly elected president of the National Association of Realtors, talks more like a builder than a real estate broker.
That's because Hovde, 47, a resident of Madison, Wis., is tremendously concerned about anti-building regulations, particularly at the local level. He also foresees a shortage of ownership and rental housing unless production is maintained at least at the 2 million level that has been achieved in the past two years.
With forecasts indicating that single-family house and apartment starts are likely to decline this year as the result of mounting borrowing rates, Hovde said in a recent interview here: "We need 2 million-plus starts for at least four or five years in a row. Housing has been in a catch-up position since the low production years of 1974, 1975 and 1976. If new construction is constricted now, the need for more housing to satisfy the new household formations would break out more dramatically in future years."
Not unlike home builders whose Washington representatives have been criticizing federal, state and local regulations, Hovde said that his recent travels have revealed what he perceives as an anti-housing philosophy. "No one seems to be against new housing construction but almost everyone seems to want it to be built in someone else's backyard," he observed.
In regard to inflation, which realtors and home builders decry as much as the rest of us, Hovde said that a higher level of housing production is a means of price stabilization.
"I get the message that people are thinking that they must buy now because prices will go higher," he said. He said he is also hearing that "inflationary incentive is a motivation for buying and that high interest rates and high prices of housing are not a real or psychological barrier today."
Not surprisingly, Hovde is a foe of rent controls. He sees them as destroying the incentive to build new rental apartments and to maintain ownership of existing rental units. He pointed out that rents have increased only 55 percent in the last 10 years while the consumer price index has increased 77 per cent.