U.S. homebuilders say lumber tariff will hurt wages, raise house prices

FILE PHOTO: New residential homes are shown under construction in Carlsbad, California September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Blake

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. homebuilders on Tuesday criticized as “short-sighted” a government decision to impose anti-subsidy duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, saying it would cost American workers nearly $500 million in lost wages and raise house prices.

The National Association of Homebuilders said the duties averaging 20 percent announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday affecting some $5.66 billion worth of imports of the construction material were not the solution to the U.S.-Canada lumber trade dispute.

“If the 20 percent lumber duty remains in effect throughout 2017, NAHB estimates this will result in the loss of nearly $500 million in wages and salaries for U.S. workers, $350 million in taxes and other revenue for the governments in the U.S. and more than 8,200 full-time U.S. jobs,” the NAHB said in a statement.

“Lumber prices have already jumped 22 percent since the beginning of the year, largely in anticipation of new tariffs, adding nearly $3,600 to the price of a new single-family home.”

It said the protectionist measures to prop up domestic lumber producers would come at the expense of millions of U.S. home buyers and lumber users.

“This is not the way to resolve the U.S.-Canada trade dispute or boost the U.S. economy,” the NAHB said.

Thirty-three percent of the lumber used in the U.S. last year was imported, it said, with more than 95 percent coming from Canada.

Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chris Reese