Adapting Processes and Policies to Lessen Housing Delays

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.

Read Time: 2 minutes

May 12, 2020, 9:00 AM PDT

By Lee Flannery @leecflannery

Housing Construction

Tom Grundy / Shutterstock

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. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020 in Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Aerial view of dense single-family homes in neighborhood still under construction

How Virginia Counties Use Zoning to Stifle Development

Some state legislators are proposing action at the state level as counties block development using zoning and development requirements even as housing prices rise sharply in the region.

January 23, 2023 - The Virginia Mercury

New York City Coronavirus

The Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity to Remake Downtown

Urban cores around the country were transforming into live, work, and play destinations before the pandemic. The pandemic was a setback for this transformation, but it could also be a rare opportunity. It’s up to city leadership to seize it.

January 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Rendering of red seven-story student housing building with students walking in open grassy plaza in front of building

L.A. Times Editorial Board Calls for CEQA Reform

The Board argues that the environmental law, while important, has too often been ‘weaponized’ by NIMBY groups to delay or halt housing development.

January 31 - Los Angeles Times

Seattle buses in line at a depot with Seattle skyline in background

Seattle Brings Free Transit to Public Housing

Linking transit programs to housing can lower administrative costs and streamline the process for riders.

January 31 - Route Fifty

Broad street in downtown Columbus, Ohio with two pedestrians in crosswalk

Columbus Could Lower Downtown Speed Limits

The city council will vote on a proposal to lower speed limits to 25 miles per hour to improve safety and make downtown more walkable and welcoming to pedestrians.

January 31 - The Columbus Dispatch