Carpenters union eviscerates REBNY over housing

“They would rather your constituents endure homelessness and poverty”

Carpenters Union Trashes REBNY Over Housing Failure
New York City District Council of Carpenters executive secretary Joe Geiger and REBNY president James Whelan (NYCDCC, Getty)

There’s plenty of blame to go around for New York’s housing crisis. But the carpenters union is pointing fingers at the Real Estate Board of New York.

The New York City District of Council Carpenters went after REBNY in a letter to members of the state Assembly. The missive was obtained by Politico.

The union’s executive secretary-treasurer Joe Geiger called out “bad actors,” including REBNY, for refusing to compromise on housing solutions.

“[REBNY] would rather your constituents endure homelessness and poverty because they cannot stand the idea of making one dollar less — despite their billions of dollars in revenue,” the letter read.

The rub is that union wages and work rules raise construction and operating costs, making housing more expensive, although there is disagreement over how much. REBNY members often use union workers but want the flexibility to do open-shop projects. Affordable housing developers, for their part, say their projects don’t pencil out with union labor. The unions argue that nonunion construction is dangerous and unfair to workers.

Geiger wrote that a “comprehensive housing plan that increases affordability and pays workers a family sustaining wage is possible.”

The carpenters’ letter advocated for a 421a tax abatement replacement, protections for tenants and an expansion of the Housing Access Voucher Program. The union previously demanded prevailing wage requirements be added to a proposal to extend 421a deadlines.

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Despite the harsh rhetoric in the letter, REBNY declined to bite back. In a statement to The Real Deal, a spokesperson said it was “committed to working with a broad range of stakeholders, including public officials, labor unions and other advocates, to address New York City’s housing supply crisis,” adding it would seek to ensure “good construction wages and benefits.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul has struggled to get any housing proposals moving, in part because they are not supported by organized labor. Last week, the governor revealed that she was ditching her pursuit of legislation forcing localities to accommodate more housing.

Even if REBNY and the carpenters union were to agree on a housing proposal, there is no guarantee it would go anywhere in Albany, given the opposition in suburbia to new housing and among far-left New York City groups to market-rate development. [See “Death of a housing plan: Who’s to blame?”]

Hochul’s agenda, announced in January, called for the addition of 800,000 homes over a decade. Its most controversial provision was three-year housing growth targets that localities needed to make possible, or developers would be able to circumvent them to get projects approved.

Holden Walter-Warner

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