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Article for SRQ Daily- April 2024

29 Apr 2024 2:51 PM | Anonymous

By Mary Dougherty

Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) members build hospitals, schools, libraries, the places where you go to work, cool things like Mote SEA and all types of other commercial projects.  The costs for these projects have increased significantly over the past several years for many reasons.  Many GCBX members also provide residential services and the cost do work at your homes has also increased.  We’ve all seen the impact of inflation over the past several years, but another contributing factor is the inflationary effect caused by the lack of affordable housing.

Many years ago, employees at companies could afford to live in or near their places of work.  That changed over time and employees were forced further away to more affordable housing.

The increased commute times for these employees not only affected the quality of life for their families, ie. less family time to spend with children, increased stress due to long commutes and less time for life’s more enjoyable activities such as hobbies or walks and exercise, it also increased costs for their employers which have to be passed on to the end user. 

Careers in commercial construction are good paying jobs.  According to the average contractor salary in Florida is $70,000/yr. and the range is $38,000 - $127,000.  According to ZipRecruiter the average hourly wage is $35.00/hour or $73,000/year. Recent data (2023) from the Federal Reserve reports that construction wages in Florida reached a record high.  These are good salaries, but housing costs in Sarasota are 34% higher than the national average according to Best and 25% higher than the average Florida home.

Another significant cost to businesses affected by this issue is the cost to purchase company trucks which has almost doubled in the last several years.  Additionally, when employees lived closer to work and their service areas the life of a company truck was approximately 5 years.  That has now been reduced to 3 years due to increased mileage and wear and tear on the vehicles.  I’m told by GCBX members, the cost to insure one of these vehicles has jumped from $3,400/vehicle to $5,600/vehicle.  The annual cost for auto insurance for one GCBX member recently jumped from $200,000/year to $230,000/year.  These costs continue to be on an upward trajectory with no signs of diminishing in the foreseeable future.

These are all costs to the business that contribute to increasing project costs for businesses moving to the area, fire and police stations being built, and also to service calls to your home or place of business.  These increased costs impact all of us. 

It goes without saying that there are many variables that impact these increased costs, but the lack of affordable housing is certainly one of those variables.  Affordable/Workforce/Sustainable housing (whichever term is most applicable) has been an item for discussion in the community for a very long time.  It’s important to ensure that people who work (including Police Officers, Teachers, Nurses and yes construction workers) can afford to live in the community.

There have been several articles recently talking about different proposals to address this problem.  These seem more concrete and sustainable than many of the discussions over the years.  It is critical to the health of the community that we stop talking about this issue and start implementing solutions.  This issue is having an inflationary impact on the cost of doing business in the area and that impacts all of us.

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