News / USA

Home Construction Industry Suffers in Dismal US Housing Market

A construction worker puts a roof on a house in a western suburb of Chicago, (File).
A construction worker puts a roof on a house in a western suburb of Chicago, (File).


In 2010, about 323,000 new homes were sold in the United States.  That’s the worst year on record since 1963.  The dismal housing market in the United States, flooded with abandoned properties and foreclosures, has forced many out of the home construction industry.  The building suppliers and construction workers who remain in the U.S. Midwest are trying to deal with the worst economic environment their industry has seen in decades.

Builder Hal Stembridge started his construction business in 1979, during a recession, when interest rates were high and fewer new homes were constructed.  Nothing he learned then could prepare him for what he’s dealing with now. “People say that it’s a recession when your neighbor gets laid off, it’s a depression when you get laid off, well this is just devastation," he said.  "This is just coming out and wiping everybody in the trades… it’s just wiping everybody out.”

Stembridge is one of the few home builders in suburban Chicago still actively seeking the few customers who want to build new homes.  He is fighting to say afloat, and directs some of his anger at the government.

“They’ve bailed out the banks.  They’ve bailed out Wall Street.  They’ve bailed out the car companies.  But the largest employer in the United States is still suffering and that’s homebuilding,” Stembridge noted.

About 54,000 new homes were built in the Chicago area in 2005.  So far this year, only about 3,000 building permits have been issued to start construction on new housing.

Brandon Weiss got into the new home construction business at the height of the boom.  Now in the bust, he is surviving by retooling. “But kind of as the market dissipated in new construction, we had to find other ways and alternative measures of making ourselves relevant today.  So we definitely went into remodeling as kind of a focus point for a while.  We’re still there,” he stated.

Weiss purchased his recent remodeling project in a foreclosure.  Now completely renovated, this house is one of the most energy-efficient homes on the market in Elgin, Illinois.  It’s still for sale. “It’s tough right now.  Showings are really slow.  But I think that’s just market wide, not specifically on this house.  It’s just the market in general right now.“

The dismal housing market has a ripple effect all the way up the supply chain to independent retailers like the Edward Hines Lumber Company. “Hines at their peak was at 27 locations," he explained. We’re down to four.”

Doug Jones is the President of Hines Lumber.  “At the high point of Hines, they had over 1,200 employees.  We’re a little over 100,” Jones said.

Jones says the low point for Hines in 2008 was 60 employees, but hiring has picked up, thanks to new investment in the company.

But Jones’s small, independent building supply company still competes with bigger retail stores and other small suppliers for the business that remains. “The new home construction, at least in Chicago, is down over 90 percent from where it was in 2007.  So there are still enough suppliers out there but not enough people building homes.  It just makes it tough.  There’s not enough to keep them going,” he said.

Builder Stembridge says there would be enough to keep them going if the government stepped in to help. “The bottom line is each new home provides three jobs for one year in the U.S. and creates about $90,000 in tax revenue.  I don’t understand why the government doesn’t get behind new home construction [and help them get] back up on its feet,” he stated.

Even interest rates at record lows (below five percent) have not encouraged people to buy or build new homes.  And with unemployment rate in the U.S. at over nine percent, potential buyers are concerned about their jobs, and whether or not they can afford the mortgage that comes with home ownership.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs