The city has committed to working with developers to spend nearly $25 billion on Housing New York, a plan that will bring affordable housing to all five boroughs.
Funded mainly through the New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the plan will build and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units in the city over 10 years.
If our scarce city resources are so heavily invested in developing affordable housing, then we must demand the highest operating standards. That means requiring Project Labor Agreements and/or prevailing wages on all projects receiving financial assistance from the city.
Prevailing wages, which are set based on trade and location, call for skilled and trained workers, often members of the Building and Construction Trades Council. This leads to safer and better working conditions.
The Independent Budget Office (IBO) released a report this week stating that requiring a prevailing wage for the Housing New York plan would raise costs by 13 percent.
Is a 13 percent increase on a project already being significantly subsidized really an elevated cost we cannot bear?
Union workers start as apprentices, go through four years or more of schooling and on-the-job training before graduating as full-fledged tradespersons. When starting an apprenticeship, union workers earn about $13 an hour plus benefits, and after years of training, can earn $45 or more hourly pay plus benefits.
Tradespeople are more and more reflecting the great diversity of our city, working hard for the middle class.
In the past, too many HPD projects were built at the expense of our workers. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently found several HPD developers guilty of owing workers almost $12 million. Prevailing wage protects our workers from a future case of wage theft, and ensures they are receiving a fair, livable wage.
This is not a new idea. In 1931, Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act which requires workers working on federally funded projects to be paid the prevailing wage. In New York State, State Law 220 requires workers on public projects are paid the local prevailing wage.
And in 2012, the City Council passed a similar law providing prevailing wage protection for building maintenance staff.
In New York City, the greatest city in the world, we have a responsibility to ensure that wealth and growth is shared with our workforce, and contractors are not padding their pockets while trades workers struggle to get a livable wage.
That is why we sponsor legislation that would require a prevailing wage to any person performing construction work on a project receiving greater than $1 million in financial assistance from the City.
This year, let’s use the IBO report as a guide, and push for the additional 13 percent that would ensure our city is built more efficiently, by experienced workers who are paid fair wages. Through this, and by passing Intro 744, we can ensure New York City is strong for generations to come.
Elizabeth Crowley represents the 30th District in the City Council. I. Daneek Miller represents the 27th District.