* CEO says U.S. currently underbuilding houses
* Sees Japan recovery as business opportunity
By Ernest Scheyder
NEW YORK, May 19 The United States needs to
build more homes to keep up with long-term population growth
trends, the chief executive of homebuilder and forest products
maker Weyerhaeuser Co (WY.N) said on Thursday.
Demand for the company's timber, houses and logs has
dropped sharply in the past three years due to an anemic
The market for new houses is being squeezed by competition
from an abundance of previously owned homes for sale and a
deluge of foreclosed properties. Builders, hurt by the weak
market, are holding back on new home construction.
While there are fewer houses being built in the United
States, the population is still growing and Americans continue
The United States needs to build 16 million to 18 million
housing units per decade, roughly 1.6 million to 1.8 million
homes per year, CEO Dan Fulton said at Weyerhaeuser's analyst
day in New York.
In 2010, construction began on just 586,900 new homes,
according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
"We are underbuilding today, just as we overbuilt in 2005
and 2006," Fulton said. "I come back to long-term trend
Fulton was quick to acknowledge that other factors,
including unemployment and the glut of foreclosed homes, are
affecting new construction.
"Just because we're underbuilding today doesn't mean we
should go right out and start building them," Fulton told
He added that he believes the housing market will recover
in the future, presenting a strong business opportunity for
The rebuilding of Japan after the March 11 earthquake and
tsunami should also boost sales, Fulton said.
Weyerhaeuser already has a large export business to Japan.
That network should help as the country rebuilds, Fulton said.
Shares of Weyerhaeuser fell 0.9 percent to $22.00 in
(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder, editing by Gerald E.