The Real Deal New York

Construction unions support lower pay for affordable housing

Squeeze play as construction unions back activists' housing plan, pressuring de Blasio
August 20, 2014 11:01AM

New York City construction unions have struck an agreement with housing advocates to support a plan that would see some hardhats paid significantly less for working on affordable housing projects.

The move puts pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio to require developers to hire organized labor as the city moves toward its goal of building 80,000 affordable units over the next decade. Policy makers, developers and housing advocates have traditionally aligned against unions because lower labor costs tend to yield more units.

The arrangement would see unions accept a 40 percent reduction in wages for less experienced workers who build affordable housing in certain neighborhoods, the Wall Street Journal reported. In exchange, the unions would throw their support behind housing advocates’ push to set aside half of all new units for low- and middle-income people.

Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, told the Journal that 80 percent of member unions support the plan.

The proposal is likely to face opposition from developers, whose projects would likely become less profitable under such a system, according to the newspaper. [WSJ]Tom DiChristopher