When thinking about a good topic to reignite my blog it seemed obvious that as a home specialist, the effects of the recent and ongoing natural disasters on U.S. housing stock would be a good choice. Going into the research I assumed that building material shortages would be the biggest factor in cost and speed of recovery. Though materials are an issue, the more important shortage is labor. Nationally we were facing a labor shortage before Harvey, Irma, Maria, and the California fires (see graphic below). The National Mortgage News reports that shortages of labor have kept construction underperforming recently as it is. (www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/more-hurricane-pain-fewer-homes-shortage-of-construction-workers) “In Santa Rosa alone, the fires have consumed 2,834 homes, roughly six times the number of new residential units that will be produced this year in all of Sonoma County,” reports www.sfgate.com. (www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/costruction-labor-shortage-will-slow-post-fire-1277178.php) The same article quotes CEO of North Coast Builders Exchange, Keith Woods, saying that contractors already weren’t able to find workers for remodels and repairs before the fire. Replacing homes won’t be the only need; there’s the infrastructure, say telephone poles for example. The businesses need rebuilding as well. And this is just California, the most recent of our nation’s disasters. Estimates are that Houston has lost over 15,000 homes with hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses damaged. Then there’s Florida with at least 25% of homes destroyed in Key West alone. And, worse is Puerto Rico where numerous online searches yielded specific numbers of people without power, without food, without pretty much anything, but no clear number of structures destroyed outside of the ubiquitous term “complete destruction”.
We know that material costs, lumber, sheet rock, etc., will skyrocket. We wonder how we will pay for the repairs. But it seems that even before these two issues are addressed, we have to figure out who is going to rebuild these homes and businesses. I wish I had the answer; but though I don’t it will certainly be an interesting subject to watch play out in the social, political, economic, and psychological circles of our society. I’ll try to keep you posted.