CAMBRIDGE, MA --  Prospects for  cabinetry, windows and related componentry sales could improve, if housing trends continue the upswing suggested by a new Harvard University study.

With kitchen and bath cabinetry, as well as home organization systems closely tied to the health of the housing market, Harvard University's The State of the Nation Housing Report, released last week, verifies government intervention can have dramatic impacts on housing market health. But recovery for housing construction and related wood interiors sales are threatened, says the report, as record foreclosures continue to pressure millions of homeowners.

Improved affordability for first-time homebuyers and extraordinary government intervention last year sparked a turnaround - driving all of the gains in existing home sales last year, says the Harvard study, released last week.

Housing, including remodeling, offers excellent opportunities for energy savings as the nation tackles its carbon emissions, according to Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. “Not only can new green building standards and innovative architectural designs help reduce energy consumption in the next generation of homes, there are opportunities to wring major savings out of the existing housing stock,” Mostafavi said. “Today’s homeowner has the ability to significantly reduce home energy costs through environmentally-conscious building materials and design approaches.”

After adjusting for degree days, energy consumption per square foot of housing built before 1990 fell by 22 percent from 1993 to 2005 largely as a result of improvements, Mostafavi said. This could be trimmed even more if these homes were brought up to the same efficiencies as those built in the 2000s.

Home sales and housing starts staged an uneven comeback starting in early 2009, says the report, released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Despite some positive signs early in the spring buying season this year, housing continues to face significant challenges.

“Many factors are still weighing heavily on the market,” said Nicolas Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “Elevated vacancy rates, record foreclosures, the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit, and continued high unemployment are all causes for concern.”

Still, very low mortgage interest rates and recovering labor markets should be enough to shore up sales and housing starts once the market gets beyond the May dip due to the expiration of the federal homebuyer tax credit.

“If history is a guide, what happens with jobs will matter the most to the strength of the housing rebound,” said Eric Belsky, the Harvard Housing Center's executive director. “Right now, economists expect the unemployment rate to stay high, but if employment growth surprises on the upside or downside, housing numbers could too.”

Download the complete 44-page PDF Harvard State of the housing Industry here>>

www.jchs.harvard.edu

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