Builders Association Wants Young Immigrants to Be Allowed to Work to Help Construction Worker Shortage

The cost of buying a home in North Texas continues to increase.

Home prices are up seven percent from the same time last year.

The increase actually outpaces the national average.

One of the biggest reasons for the increases is that developers can barely keep up with the demand for new homes.

And a major labor shortage is not helping.

The Dallas Builders Association estimates North Texas needs 20,000 more construction workers.

The association says there are some high school students interested in filling the need.

However, many are undocumented immigrants.

Workers from Classic Urban Homes have been hammering away at a 3,000 square foot home in the University Park neighborhood.

The work is non-stop.

“Right now there’s four guys here,” said builder Michael Turner, owner of Classic Urban Homes.

He had to look around at the small crew on hand today.

He counted on an eight-man crew in years past.

But that has changed.

The Dallas Builders Association believes that part of the solution to the construction worker shortage could come from Dallas public schools.

Construction vocational classes are being taught to teenagers interested in the field.

Turner says he’s met students eager to join his crew.

“You bring them out to a job site or you show them a set of plans and they’re super excited and they just to get into the industry,” he said.

These willing workers are quickly met with an obstacle.

“The issue is they can’t legally come on and start working for one of our builders because they don’t have a social security number,” said Phil Crone, executive officer of the DBA.

“They don’t have a guest worker program that they can participate in and be a part of the workforce. You have about 30 kids that are a part of this program, again all perfectly bilingual, ready, willing and able to work and only about four of them have a social security number.”

Crone says it is immigrants, many undocumented, who typically fill the classrooms.

“We’re just not seeing the interest from American students,” he said. “Certainly not to the extent that we need, step forward to take these jobs despite 35% wage growth in certain sectors. They’re just not interested.

Turner has also counted very few Americans.

“It may be one to ten,” he said. “And we welcome everybody.”

Both men want a system in place to help people come out of the shadows and onto the job site.

“These are a ton of kids that want that American Dream and who are we to say that they can’t have it,” said Turner. “They’re not stealing jobs from anybody. They’re doing jobs that we already have a shortage of.”

Crone says all North Texans should care about this issue.

“For one, if you’re building a house or remodeling one you’re paying for this,” he said. “It’s taking up more time. It’s taking up an average of two months longer to build a house. It’s adding $5,000 to the cost of a new home and that’s going to get worse the greater our labor shortage gets.”

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