Builders' Parley Gets Word: Another Good Year in Housing

Times Staff Writer

The housing industry just finished one of its best years in the past half decade, with 1.75 million new housing starts and should have nearly as good a year in 1985, according to predictions here at the 41st annual convention of the National Assn. of Home Builders.

Tucson builder Peter D. Herder, outgoing bresident of the 130,000-member trade association, said that housing starts this year could reach the 1.6-million to 1.65-million units range, with interest rates declining somewhat.

Michael Sumichrast, the association's chief economist, said that about one million of the 1.65 million housing starts predicted for 1985 will be single-family detached houses, a segment of the industry that is strong in virtually every part of the country. Condominiums, on the other hand, continued to be very weak and show no sign of improvement, he added.

"Virtually nobody is forecasting a major decline in home mortgage interest rates," Sumichrast said, adding that interest rates may rise slightly before they decline somewhat later in the year.

But another speaker, Leonard Santow, a partner in Griggs & Santow, New York, predicted that housing starts should reach the 1.7 million mark this year, with fixed-rate mortgage rates declining to 12.5% or even 12% by the end of the year.

"We're going to be pleasantly surprised by the strength of the housing markets toward the end of the year," Santow predicted.

As recently as 1982, housing starts barely exceeded the one-million level, about half the rate of 1977 and 1978, before the recession devastated the housing industry.

About 850 exhibitors and suppliers displayed housing related items throughout the 325,000-square-foot Astrohall complex.

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