With post-Harvey repair demand, are guest workers the solution to Houston’s construction labor shortage?

Jenny Killingsworth, right, holds the hand of Janeah Tieman, 10, while helping clean up a home damaged by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Monday, Sept. 4, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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Looking to speed up the recovery process across southeast Texas, the chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) recently proposed a short-term “guest worker” program to provide enough laborers for construction crews.

“A successful guest worker program will help alleviate the current labor shortage in the residential construction sector, quicken the rebuilding efforts in Texas and support the overall economic growth of this nation,” NAHB Chairman Granger MacDonald provided in a press release.

Contextualizing the actual demand for the workload, even prior to Hurricane Harvey and its devastating floods, Houston faced a severe shortage of laborers for the 27,000 single-family homes scheduled to be constructed this year.

The effects of the storm left another 30,000 homes destroyed, with thousands more needing extensive repairs, which, in short, turned the labor shortage from an inconvenience to a full-blown crisis.

RELATED: Some Say Undocumented Laborers Will be Essential to Rebuild Houston

The construction labor shortage began when the housing market crashed in late 2008.

Texas saw a healthy rebound from the crash when oil prices shot up in the early 2010s, but the boost came down several years after, when the oil market slumped.

Many of the migrant workers contractors depended on left and did not returned to the area, leaving a labor shortage, and the increase in new projects due to the storm damage may only further exacerbate the problem.

According to construction and immigration experts, another aspect of the labor shortage involves changes in immigration policy under the current Administration.

News reports of immigration raids and calls to build a wall across the southern border, however, are causing many immigrant workers to hesitate on getting involved with the rebuilding process.

RELATED: Demand for Laborers Rises After Harvey

Leslie King, president of Houston-based Greymark Construction, spoke to reporters about the labor shortage situation, issuing a request to immigration authorities:

“I’d ask (them) to please let anybody who wants to come work, is willing to make a dollar, is willing to pay some taxes let them come, please, we need them,” she said.

What do you think?

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