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Poughkeepsie’s Housing Fiasco

A recent study in Poughkeepsie confirmed that they are experiencing the same thing happening across New York State: a significant housing crisis. With a vacancy rate of under 4%, it's correct to call this situation a housing emergency; a healthy city has a vacancy rate of around 10%, and anything less than 4% is a major crisis.

Building more housing is the only solution. When there aren't enough units to go around, it's the obvious answer. However, that can't be done when costly, exclusionary mandates like Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and Prevailing Wage (PW) are imposed on housing projects.

PLAs increase the cost of construction because they eliminate opportunities for non-union workers, reducing competition. A typical PLA forces contractors to hire most of their workers from a union hall; in NY, over 75% of the construction industry chooses not to be part of a union, meaning a PLA is guaranteed to sideline 7/10 available workers in an area, minimum. Most local workers will be forced to the sideline, watching as expensive union contractors are imported from out of town/state.

This sharp decline in competition drives up costs. A study by Dr. Paul G. Carr, P.E., shows what happens when the number of bidders on a project is reduced. The study looked at 125 public works projects in New York State, finding that the construction bid costs increased more than 4% when only 2 bidders were removed. NY got into this housing crisis by decreasing competition while driving up costs. The only way out is allowing everyone to build, regardless of their labor affiliation.

The Empire Center's report, "Prevailing Waste," outlines how New York's PW process costs taxpayers billions of dollars yearly on public projects, concluding that PW causes construction costs to increase by 13 to 25 percent, depending on the region and trade. It's unacceptable to sign a mandate that guarantees significantly higher costs during a housing emergency. A PW mandate is nothing more than a signal that building the maximum housing isn't the priority. It's lining donors' pockets.

ABC and its members agree that Poughkeepsie and NY as a whole need more affordable housing. That's why we're advocating against these policies, which will be hugely detrimental to these projects. These problems can't be solved by increasing costs before the projects even start or by excluding most construction workers across the state. We only ask for a fair, open, competitive bidding process for all workers.