Housing leaders call on Congress to boost domestic lumber production

ConDig (30-Jun-20). Leaders of the US house building industry are urging Congress to boost domestic lumber production from federal lands in the wake of elevated lumber prices due to deepening supply shortages.

National Association of Home Builders chairman Chuck Fowke told a forum conducted by Republican members of the House Natural Resources Committee that the move was required in order to improve housing affordability and address the resilience of the country’s national forests.

He also noted that raising domestic lumber production was just one measure that could help bridge the supply deficit.

“We also need to resolve the long-standing trade dispute with Canada over softwood lumber imports as well as solving supply chain and labor supply disruptions that continue to linger,” Fowke said.

He noted that timber harvests from the National Forest System averaged between 10 and 12 billion board feet for a 40-year period from the mid-1950s and then plunged precipitously to an average between 1.5 and 3.3 billion board feet per year starting in the mid-1990s due to bureaucratic red tape and litigation.

This underlines that over the course of three decades there has been a dramatic decline in timber production from federally owned forests, he added.

“We must strike a more appropriate balance in how we manage our national forests,” Fowke told lawmakers. “Doing so will restore the health of one of our great natural resources and offers the potential to reinvigorate the forestry industry while improving housing affordability. That’s a win-win-win in my book.”

Lumber prices have increased more than 165% since April 2020. Oriented strand board prices are also up nearly 400%, and the Random Lengths Framing Composite Index price shot past the $1,500 barrier for the first time ever in May.

NAHB estimates that the increase in lumber prices over the past year has added nearly $36,000 to the price of a new home.

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