LAPLACE, LA (WVUE) - Midway through his term as president of the National Association of Homebuilders, a local man finds himself in the middle of a controversy that's affecting home ownership.
Randy Noel of Laplace has been meeting with some of the highest ranking members of Congress and the Trump administration to try and get a break on new tariffs, which are driving up the price of homes.
For three decades, he's been one of the region's busiest homebuilders. But now Noel wears two hats as head of one of the largest associations in the U.S.
"I'm probably out of town three days out of the work week every week," he said.
One of his big tasks is keeping homes affordable, and home prices are on the rise largely because of new tariffs. The 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber is hitting home-buyers hard.
"Homes I built in the first part of 2017, compared to today, I'm seeing a 45 percent jump in lumber prices," said Noel.
Those higher prices are hurting home building, one of America's biggest industries. They are also keeping would-be home-buyers in rentals.
"For every thousand dollars higher the cost for a house, 150,000 people in the U.S. are precluded from getting a house," said Noel.
Noel says that equates to 5,000 people for every thousand dollar rise in Louisiana.
Noel and the National Homebuilders are now lobbying the Trump administration to lift the tariffs and make homes more affordable. They are also backing a plan to cut more trees in federal forests, something that environmentalists oppose but Noel says is needed.
"Where these trees are so close together, and fall, this is all kindle for fire, and makes it harder to fight those fires," said Noel.
He advocates a program that he believes will better manage forests, help the home building industry, and reduce forest fires.
Though Noel is away from home half the week, his business goes on.
With battles looming over trade tariffs and flood insurance, the homegrown president of the National Homebuilders Association looks to have a busy year.
Noel's work with the Louisiana Homebuilders Association prior to becoming the president of the national association left a big mark. He was at the center of new building codes enacted after Katrina, and he's now working with Puerto Rican authorities to help that country rebuild after last year's hurricane.