Last year was a good year for the housing industry in the Tri-Cities.
Housing starts have progressively increased since 2014 and topped at 1,128 units for 2015. That is a 9.2 percent increase over 2014, and I predict a steady pace for 2016. While Kennewick is still leading the way in new starts for the area, Pasco and Richland are not far behind.
Richland continues to grow with the Clearwater Creek development near Claybell Park, and the addition of a plat in Badger Mountain South — an area that has struggled to get off the ground — now seems to be picking up momentum.
Pasco is heading in the right direction with an increase in new homes over last year, and Kennewick continues to see great success in the Southridge area.
With all the housing options in our area, it’s hard not to see the potential for all of the Tri-Cities.
Despite of all the recent success, there’s also new challenges. A declining inventory in available homes has put a strain on the industry to keep pace. The industry, however, has a shortage of skilled labor. Back when the recession hit in 2008, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported that 2 million construction jobs were lost and that only about half of those jobs would be returning.
A survey from NAHB showed that shortages of laborers and subcontractors has become substantially more widespread since 2013.
A survey from NAHB showed that shortages of laborers and subcontractors has become substantially more widespread since 2013. The incidence of reported shortages is surprisingly high compared to the state of new home construction.
The shortages are particularly acute for workers with basic skills like carpentry, who are needed in substantial numbers for the construction of any home.
In addition, the survey data showed more builders reporting a larger shortage of subcontractors than of workers they employ directly. Partly as a result, subcontractor costs are increasing faster for builders than costs of directly employed workers.
What’s the fix? Programs like the Pasco Bulldog House, Columbia Basin Student Homes (Hermiston), Tri-Tech Skills Center and the Walla Walla Community College Carpentry Program are all great starts for supplying skilled labor. Offering high school students the opportunities to see potential in the trades with the hands-on experience these programs offer is a stepping stone into the industry.
The HBA believes that encouraging more opportunities in the trades to high school students who may not want to seek a four-year degree could help solve the labor storage issue for the construction industry.
The need for educating those who desire to enter the industry is a high priority for the HBA.
With new technologies, sustainable building options and more concern for the type of homes being built, building has become more advanced than ever. The need for educating those who desire to enter the industry is a high priority for the HBA. The future home builder is going to need to be concerned with all the new advancements in the industry, and having that educational opportunity at the high school level can only strengthen the industry.
I applaud all the efforts that our community makes to offer choices in schooling. The HBA will continue to support those students seeking careers in the trades with scholarships. The next Master Builder is only a trade class away from discovering his or her dream.