Lumber and building material dealers--including one ProBuild official who told reporters about the anxious workers in his company--are increasing their involvement in efforts to persuade Congress to enact a housing industry rescue package.

"The associated trade partners are being dramatically affected" by the housing downturn, Mike Kurpiel, a Cherry Hills, N.J.-based market development manager for ProBuild, said today on a conference call to Pennsylvania reporters. Like others in housing, he said ProBuild has had its share of layoffs, and now "We've gone well past [cutting] the fat. We're into the bone." Staffers with 25 years of experience are losing their jobs, and others still on the payroll are getting wage cuts.

"It has caused a tremendous mental health issue--anxiety--in the company," Kurpiel continued. "You don't know when you'll get the tap on the shoulder."

ProBuild, Stock Building Supply, 84 Lumber, Building Materials Holding Corp., and Builders FirstSource all are official supporters of Fix Housing First, an NAHB-led coalition pressing Congress to include housing-industry measures in an economic stimulus bill that it is expected to take up early next year. Fix Housing First also has won official support from the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the Illinois Lumber and Material Dealers Association, Bloch Lumber, Dare Building Supply, Hiwassee Builders Supply, and Pelletier's Building Supply of Fitchburg, Mass. See complete list.

Fix Housing First's multipart rescue plan calls for:

  • Expanded protection against foreclosures to help keep people in homes and stabilize home prices;
  • A tax credit of up to 10% of the home price, providing as much as $22,000 in tax relief depending on the area; and
  • Below-market rates (2.99% for contracts through June 30, 2009; 3.99% for contracts between July and December 2009) for 30-year mortgages.

"There is an urgent need for policymakers to address this problem," said David Seiders, an economic consultant to the NAHB. He said he expects the housing and labor markets to remain weak at least through spring 2009.