In response to the skyrocketing cost of timber, the National Association of Home Builders is asking President Clinton to convene a summit on forestry issues.
The builders' board of directors -- at its convention in Las Vegas two weeks ago -- adopted a policy statement calling on the president and Congress to "develop a comprehensive strategy that acknowledges the nation's need for timber and other natural resources, affordable housing and jobs, as well as the nation's desire to protect the environment and wildlife."
"The cost of lumber is on just about all our builders' minds. It could be a drag on housing starts and on housing affordability," said J. Roger Glunt, a small-volume Pittsburgh-area homebuilder who is the new president of the organization, of which 159,000 firms are members.
Lumber, a basic component in residential construction for centuries, has become so expensive in so short a time because of a combination of factors, including a reduction in tree cutting on government lands, a sharp increase in demand caused by rebuilding from Hurricane Andrew and what builders say is price gouging by some suppliers.
Homebuilders say that the price increases translate into an additional cost of $4,500 for a typical 2,000-square-foot home and that if nothing is done to bring the price down, that figure will continue to rise.
Consumers in most markets probably haven't felt the pinch. That's because builders with signed contracts for new homes must deliver those to the buyer at the contracted price, even if it means absorbing a huge lumber bill.
But eventually housing will get more expensive if the lumber supply can't be increased, the builders said.
Michael Carliner, an economist for the builders' group, said prices for framing lumber, have risen to about $460 per 1,000 board feet from about $250 per 1,000 board feet in October.