From City Limits:
Many of the people building decent, low-cost housing in New York City are not earning decent wages. But according to a new study, the city cannot afford to pay those workers any better unless it dramatically scales back its affordable housing plans.
The city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is in the middle of a $7.5 billion initiative to preserve or build 165,000 units of affordable housing. As has been true historically, most affordable housing today is built by nonunion laborers who earn significantly lower wages than union tradespeople.
Unions and some analysts have called for subjecting affordable housing to "prevailing wage" rules, which link workers' pay to local collective bargaining agreements. They say the lack of wage rules in affordable housing invites a race to the bottom in which contractors pay low wages and offer few or no benefits, permit unsafe working conditions and produce shoddy buildings—all on the public's dime.
But a report issued last month by the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization headed by former HPD commissioner Jerilyn Perine, finds that imposing so-called "prevailing wages" on affordable housing projects would boost construction costs significantly, forcing major changes to the mayor's program – which the administration has already acknowledged is going to take longer than desired to accomplish its goals.
BUILDING A BETTER MODEL FOR CONSTRUCTION WAGES