MFE: What are your thoughts on the state of the economy in 2009?
DB: It's not optimistic. We are in a worldwide slump. That, in turn, will hurt exports and trade. All sectors of our economy have been dragged into this crisis and are being impacted by it. So there's nowhere to turn for any countercyclical support. The consumer does not seem to be helping this time around. With continued foreclosures in the single-family market, I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel in 2009.
MFE: What does that mean for multifamily this coming year?
DB: Multifamily is heavily dependent on job growth. If losses—which are beginning to accelerate—continue to persist into 2009, and the unemployment rate heads north of 7 percent, this year is going to be very tough for our industry. There's an old rule of thumb that for every percentage point above 7, it means another year of recovery for us. We were probably the last real estate sector to go into the recession. I'm hopeful we won't be the last to come out of it.
MFE: Green building seems to be growing in importance—NMHC has partnered with the NAHB to get a green multifamily standard on the books. Will green continue to impact the multifamily industry in 2009?
DB: There is still a disconnect between what the consumer thinks is the right thing to do and what the consumer will pay for. I don't think you'll see the bar move that much in 2009 as people are not finding jobs or getting raises. From the state and local government level, green is not going to go away. We are focused now on foreign oil dependency. We have an incoming administration that has signaled that they are interested in ways to become more energy-efficient and more energy independent. Green will be with us from now on, and all sectors of the economy will be asked to do more and to do better.
MFE: NMHC has argued for more transparency on the myth of American homeownership. What role can the industry play to assist this recovery?
DB: We try to focus on the facts and the most productive courses toward economic recovery rather than sectors with vested interests that want to be bailed out from their own ill-advised contributions to the housing meltdown. Instead, we need to all pull together and figure out what the most productive role is that government can play instead of all bellying up to the trough to get funds.
MFE: Do you have a New Year's resolution?
DB: I am going to meet with every single member of the Senate and the House of Representatives who has jurisdiction over our industry to help them understand that precise issue of balanced housing.