Softwood lumber was the top issue as Oklahoma builders held several in-district meetings with their federal lawmakers this week. The meetings were part of NAHB’s national Bringing Housing Home™ week-long grassroots event.
Builders met with Reps. Frank Lucas (R-3rd district) and Tom Cole (R- 4th district) on April 30 and Republican Senator James Lankford on May 1. Meetings are scheduled later in the week with Reps. Steve Russell (R-5th district) and Markwayne Mullin (R-2nd district).
High on the agenda were rising softwood lumber prices brought about primarily by tariffs averaging more than 20% on Canadian softwood lumber shipments into the U.S. The increase in the cost of lumber since the beginning of 2017 has been enough to drive up the price of an average new single-family home by more than $6,000 and the market value of an average new multifamily housing unit by roughly $2,400.
“The meetings went well,” said Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State HBA. “Reps. Cole and Lucas, along with Sen. Lankford, seemed to grasp the softwood lumber issue, understand the basics of the problem and get where builders are coming from.”
Also on the docket were workforce and immigration issues, as Oklahoma builders – like many others across the nation – are having a tough time getting a sufficient number of workers on the construction site.
“We have excellent relationships with our lawmakers and these meetings are important to keep the lines of communication open and let them know where we stand on the issues,” added Means. “We also combined our talks yesterday to give Reps. Lucas and Frank their Defender of Housing Awards.”
The housing awards are given to federal legislators whose actions show they understand and appreciate the important role the home building industry plays in the national economy.
In addition to getting to know their lawmakers, Means also said it is important to know the staff.
“My advice is don’t overlook the staff person with the member of Congress,” Means said. “Lawmakers usually bring aides with them to meetings, so it is important to get to know them as well. You can get hold of a staff person much quicker than a member [of Congress].”