Rising costs, material shortage putting crunch on Mobile’s Habitat for Humanity

Rising costs, material shortage putting crunch on Mobile’s Habitat for Humanity

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Out-of-whack construction costs are not just affecting commercial builders. Charities like Habitat for Humanity are feeling the pinch, as well.

For years, Habitat for Humanity has helped low-income families get their own homes through a combination of “sweat equity,” volunteer labor and donated money and supplies. But the massive spike in the prices of everything from lumber to concrete – plus shortages for those same materials – are delaying families from moving into their new homes.

Courtney Rouse-Heinz, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Alabama, said the organization raises money well in advance of new projects.

“So we have a goal in mind of how much it’s going to cost us to build a home and when it practically doubles, it’s very challenging,” she said. “That means we go back out and we have to raise more money and we have to, you know, find more resources in order to get these projects done.”

Justin McWhorter, the charity’s construction director, said the rising costs and materials shortages also mean contractors often aren’t in a position to donate lumber and other materials as they have in the past.

The price hikes have been staggering, he said.

“Just this roof, alone, you know, a couple years ago was $15 a sheet,” he said, pointing to a house under construction in Mobile’s Hillsdale community. “Now we’re paying $70 a sheet of plywood.”

And that’s when Habitat can get the items at all. McWhorter pointed to the unfinished house.

“If you can see the house right now, we don’t have any windows in,” he said. “And so typically our wait times on windows were two to three weeks. Now, they’re 14 to 16 weeks.”

And that was the best deal McWhorter could get after calling 16 companies, which means instead of already being finished, the house probably won’t be ready until November.

“Everything’s up, and then, there’s a wait,” he said.

McWhorter said the house in Hillsdale was supposed to be finished by now. Now, it looks like it will not be finished until November, he said.

COVID-19 also impacted the labor, McWhorter said.

“It’s been hard with volunteers, too, because, you know, we’re based on volunteers coming our for the labor side of it so we can get as much free labor as possible to make the houses affordable,” he told FOX10 News. “And with COVID and everything else going on, you know, everybody, we can’t have a large group of 30 people here.”

The Mobile chapter of Habitat currently has three houses under construction but is doing many more home repairs. The increased costs are impacting that work, too. The same issues impacting new construction are causing delays and spiking the cost of repair projects, Rouse-Heinz said.

“Just the time it takes to get the product in is time that people are waiting with, you know, rain coming in their homes and living in conditions that are just substandard,” she said. “And so, it’s very frustrating for us – but certainly for the families.”

 And Rouse-Heinz said there’s no shortage of need after last year’s hurricane season.

“We could probably do 10 roofs a day for the next 20 years and still not touch them all,” she said.


Published at Tue, 15 Jun 2021 22:58:01 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos


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