In normal times, the subcontractors working for Faber Builders Inc., would have been spending the next two weeks putting the final touches on a new home for a Rochester couple.
“Their house normally would have been done around the 17th or 20th of April,” Bernie Iacovangelo, CEO of Faber Builders, said.
Instead, in this new abnormal caused by the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all work has come to a halt on the house. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 27 declared residential construction to be non-essential, unless it was a project to create housing for low-income or homeless tenants.
Which leaves Iacovanglo’s clients in what they believe is a potentially dangerous situation. While they have awaited completion of their house, the couple has been living with relatives, one of whom has chronic asthma. Due to breathing complications caused by the ailment, hospitalization has been necessary in the past.
Now they’re worried that with construction on hold, they’ll be spending a prolonged period with their relatives, which means greater potential for spreading the coronavirus to their at-risk loved one, regardless of the precautions they may take.
“And there’s more than one case like that, I’m sure,” said Rick Herman, president of the Rochester Home Builders’ Association (RHBA).
Iacovangelo also is concerned about people who have been renting an apartment and signed their intent to vacate based on an anticipated completion date of their new home.
“One person has to be out of their apartment on April 15 and asked me, ‘Where am I supposed to go?’ ” Iacovangelo said. “He said he asked his landlord if he could stay another month, but the apartment is already re-rented.”
Those examples are why home builders associations across the state have asked the governor to revisit the stop-work order, especially since some sectors of residential construction have been allowed to continue.
Under the current ruling, one person is allowed to work on a residential property. But that means some jobs can’t be completed, especially electrical projects, since few, if any, electricians will work alone due to the potential dangers.
“It’s an industry where the work is the same,” Iacovangleo said of residential construction. “Whether it’s affordable or homeless or market-rate single-family homes, there’s no difference in the technique.”
Contractors contend single-family construction is actually safer when it comes to guarding against spread of the coronavirus. Framers, siders, plumbers or electricians are rarely working in close proximity, or even in the same room, Herman said. Some are working outdoors.
A multi-level affordable housing project, however, would at times have several workers in the same area, they say.
“The more units you have, the more people you have walking around, which means there is less distancing,” Iacovangelo said.
Contractors aren’t asking the state to allow full-scale resumption of projects. They realize that social distancing is imperative.
“We understand what the governor is trying to do, and we want our people to be safe,” Herman said. “But if we could have two people at sites, we could limp along. We might be delivering homes at a later date, maybe a month or six weeks later, but at least we’d still be delivering homes at an acceptable rate.”
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