Congress should consider providing further “sorely needed” economic stimulus to encourage homeownership and limit foreclosures in order to pull the U.S. economy out of recession, NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders said at the association’s Fall Construction Forecast Conference in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 22.

The steep decline in sales of new single-family homes should be coming to an end in early 2009, Seiders said, setting the stage for improvement in new residential construction later that year. However, he warned, that outcome has grown increasingly uncertain in light of the turmoil that has gripped world financial markets.

“Things are a lot worse than any of us had anticipated six months ago,” Seiders said, and the nation’s housing market-which is the root cause of the collapse in confidence among lenders-has continued to spiral downward.

While remaining reasonably optimistic that a housing recovery is beginning to take shape, there is a growing risk that today’s major housing contraction could get even worse.

On the brighter side, Seiders said that housing in the first half of 2009 should be helped by the $7,500 tax credit available to first-time home buyers; legislative efforts to address foreclosures; the continuation of affordable mortgage rates; and the availability of fixed-rate mortgage financing through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs.