Monday, July 2, 2012

Labor an issue for housing industry -

Many in Arizona's homebuilding industry have been concerned about Senate Bill 1070 since it passed two years ago. Thousands of undocumented immigrants picked up stakes and left the state then, and many of those people worked in the construction industry.

The Supreme Court's ruling on Monday struck down three of the key parts of the law but validated the part that allows a law-enforcement officer to try to determine the immigration status of people stopped or arrested, if there's reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally.

In 2010, the housing market had crashed, the nation was dealing with the effects of the recession and homebuilding in metro Phoenix had slowed to its lowest level in decades. But metro Phoenix's housing market is recovering. Homebuilding is picking back up, and more construction workers are needed. New-home permits are on track to reach 14,000 this year, double last year's pace. And many homebuilders are optimistic that demand for their houses will continue to steadily grow next year.

Michael IlesCremieux, vice president of land acquisitions at Scottsdale-based Meritage Homes Corp., said homebuilders have been talking about a potential labor shortage because of SB 1070 since 2010 and are beginning to see it. He said it would be unfortunate for the state's economy if demand for new homes continues to climb but builders can't keep up because of labor shortages.

Two to three jobs are created for every new house built, according to industry estimates. For more than 50 years, homebuilding has been one of Arizona's biggest economic drivers.

Most homebuilders hire subcontractors to build their houses. Both builders and subcontractors have long maintained they check workers' immigration papers. But they know papers can be faked, and some contractors might not be as vigilant as others.

Andy Warren, president of Scottsdale-based Maracay Homes, believes Arizona's homebuilding industry will have the workers needed to keep up with growing buyer demand. He said people from other parts of the U.S. will learn of job openings here and move for the work.

Also, when the building industry slowed, many of former construction workers stayed in Arizona and found other work. Ask employees at any Home Depot, and many will tell you they worked for subcontractors or had their own subcontracting business four or five years ago.

Whether what remains of SB 1070 keeps some needed construction workers out of Arizona won't be known for months. If new-home buyers have to wait a year after signing a contract before they can move in, that could be a sure sign.

by Catherine Reagor USA Today Jun 30, 3012

Labor an issue for housing industry -

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