Home Builders Will Oppose Republican Tax Bill

By Richard Rubin Features Dow Jones Newswires

The National Association of Home Builders will oppose the House Republicans' forthcoming tax bill, a blow to the party's attempt to forge unity among business sectors.

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The builders' group, which had expressed openness to changes in the mortgage interest deduction, decided it couldn't back the GOP bill because it isn't expected to include a tax credit for homeowners to replace the loss of deductions for property taxes and mortgage interest.

"It's a bad bill for the housing sector," Jerry Howard, CEO of the builders group, said in an interview on Saturday. "We will not be for it."

House Republicans plan to release their tax bill on Wednesday.

The plan nearly doubles the standard deduction, ends personal exemptions and may repeal the deduction for state and local taxes. The combination would remove much of the incentive for the mortgage-interest deduction outside the highest-cost areas and could potentially hurt home prices.

Republicans had been talking about replacing those breaks with a tax credit for all but the highest-income households. Such a credit might include property taxes and mortgage interest. It isn't yet clear what will be in the House plan or a subsequent Senate bill.

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Mr. Howard said Saturday he had been working with House Ways and Means Committee staff on a credit to replace the mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and was optimistic throughout the week.

But he said he got a call Friday night from Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R., Texas) and another Saturday from House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.).

According to Mr. Howard, Mr. Ryan said the idea hadn't gotten enough discussion among rank-and-file lawmakers.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ryan didn't immediately comment Saturday.

Mr. Brady, in a statement, said the issue would remain under discussion.

"The home builders have been great partners in developing a new home credit that helps more Americans with both their mortgage and property taxes, by expanding this tax relief to homeowners who don't itemize," Mr. Brady said. "I hope members of Congress will examine it closely to determine if they want it included before tax reform heads to the president's desk."

Many business groups are backing the Republican tax framework on the promise of lower tax rates for corporations and other businesses. The home builders, along with the National Association of Realtors, are a powerful lobbying force, with members spread throughout the country and a significant stake in changes to homeownership incentives currently in the tax code.

Mr. Howard said his group's members urged him to fight the bill even more aggressively than he had been prepared to support it.

Write to Richard Rubin at richard.rubin@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 28, 2017 16:44 ET (20:44 GMT)