Soaring lumber prices hinder affordable housing

Soaring lumber prices hinder affordable housing

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The US is facing a lumber shortage. It is causing mass delays, meaning it takes longer to get the supplies, longer to build the homes and longer before homeowners can get inside their house.

Work is under way for caregiver, Marie Odette Niyitegeka, and her family’s new Habitat for Humanity house. Her family of 7 is excited to have a place to call their own.

“It will be safe, it will be stable, no more movement because we will live there permanently, and it will be quiet for our children,” she said.

It is taking longer than expected. Her home dedication was pushed back by about six months, meaning they have to stay in their small apartment until April or May.

“It’s a national, world-wide issue, we cannot complain about that. We understand, and we are patient about that,” said Niyitegeka.

COVID-19 delays, lack of volunteers, a host of other delays and the price of lumber are to blame for the push back. Lumber has soared more than 180% since last spring, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

“In October 2019, we were paying $8.68 per sheet of plywood,” said J.J. Swinney, chief production officer, Habitat for Humanity Tucson. “Today’s price is $35.75 per sheet. That’s one product. We’re noticing that price increase on almost every product we purchase—from our metal material, to our concrete material, to our lumber materials, everything has increased 10,15 and some 100 percent.”

This could impact how many houses they can build for families and the cost of them. Habitat said skyrocketing lumber prices are a threat to affordable housing, but it is impacting all home builders.

A spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity sent this statement, “Record-high lumber prices are having an impact on homebuilding. This is especially devastating for affordable housing projects which have already been delayed due to the pandemic. At a time when 1 in 7 families in our community is struggling to pay housing costs -- this is hurting families in need of a safe, decent place to call home. Habitat for Humanity’s work changes lives: those of the families who build homes and improve their communities and those who volunteer, donate and advocate beside them.” Said T. VanHook, Habitat Tucson CEO “We will continue to work with our community to advance affordable homeownership opportunities and help families live in safety. We couldn’t do our work without the support from the community, including tax credit gifts.”

NAHB says the average price of a single-family home increased by about $24,000 dollars since April 2020 due to increased lumber costs.

“As the lumber goes up and increases in price, we lose that money,” said Andrew Carranza, owner, Settlers West Home Builder, LLC.

Carranza said business has taken financial hits because of the quick and steep increase in lumbers and many other building materials. While the housing market is still hot, the rising costs are transported to buyers across the board.

“I think it’s going to be at least a year to get us all back on track and get us back to some type of normality in the industry,” he said.

Several factors could contribute to the increase in lumber costs such as increase in DIYers, California fires, the Texas winter storm, quarantine and COVID-19 restrictions and even higher gas prices. But, decades long trade spats with Canada also aren’t helping. The Trump administration put at 20% tariff on Canadian lumber—something that was lowered to nine percent in December. Still, the chair of NAHB sent a letter to the new Biden administration asking for a return to the negotiating table and an end to Canadian lumber tariffs.

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