By Jude Joffe-Block
Fronteras News Desk
PHOENIX — For several years, the housing community of Lantana at Power Ranch in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert was left partially unfinished. The master-planned community included a smattering of vacant lots, a victim of the housing market crash.
But now the industry here in the Phoenix area is coming back to life, and those last houses are going up.
While building rates are nowhere near the height of the building frenzy, in which upward of 60,000 homes were built in a single year, new home and condo starts increased 70 percent in 2012. Projections this year suggest 17,000 new homes will be built in Maricopa and Pinal counties, which would be a 40 percent increase over last year.
On a recent afternoon in front of one new house, a worker prepared a granite countertop for the kitchen inside.
Down the block, a crew hammered in the first studs of a housing frame.
Homebuilders have been waiting for a recovery for years. But now that there are signs of it, relief isn’t their only emotion.
“It makes me very nervous,” said Buddy Satterfield, division president for Shea Homes in Arizona. His company is building dozens of homes in Lantana at Power Ranch. “We are very challenged from a labor perspective.”
Satterfield said the subcontractors he works with can’t find enough workers to fill their drywall, concrete and framing crews. As a result, he claims delays of up to 25 percent in how fast his company can build, and additional costs for labor.
He blames the recession for the labor shortage, and a construction workforce slashed by half after the market for new homes collapsed.
Satterfield also points to Arizona’s own state policies as a culprit.
“We passed some of the most restrictive immigration laws in the country,” Satterfield said.
In 2008, a law took effect that required employers to check new hires against the federal database E-Verify to see if they are in the country legally, and in 2010, the legislature passed the state enforcement law, SB 1070.
“A number of workers left the market,” he said. “Now, they may be legal but may have someone living in their house who is not. So we have a number of Hispanics that left the area and they are not returning and so that is very challenging for us.”
According to calculations from the Public Policy Institute of California, roughly 92,000…
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