After a 22% drop in housing starts in March, municipalities and state governments continue to assess whether or not housing construction is essential, weighing factors like workforce safety and availability of construction materials.
In a Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University blog post, Whitney Airgood-Obrycki identifies four reasons that construction projects could be delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. "COVID-19 will have many effects on housing markets in the coming weeks and years. One of the near-term consequences of the spread of and response to the virus is likely to be delayed construction due to office closures, construction moratoria, supply chain disruptions, and risks to the labor force," writes Airgood-Obrycki.
Closures of city offices and remote work means impeded permitting, inspection, and review. According to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders, 90% of participants reported an increase in the time required to obtain a plan review. Of the same group, 76% experienced delays in inspections.
As of Airgood-Obrycki's writing, construction bans were in place in six states (Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington) in addition to many cities. New York and New Jersey are allowing construction on affordable housing projects. Difficulties in sourcing materials due to disruption in the global construction material supply chain leaves many projects at a standstill. Concerns about keeping construction workers safe on-site include a lack of access to sanitization products and a shortage of N-95 masks that protect workers from particulate matter. Retention in the construction labor force will depend heavily on the ability of project managers to protect staff where work is available.
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