To Create More Housing Jobs, Don't Build—Rebuild

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It's intuitive that if we build more buildings, we'll create more jobs. But given finite resources (and these days, let's face it, resources are pretty finite) cities would be better served by pouring their money into retrofitting and repairing old housing stock rather than adding to it. Residential redevelopment creates more jobs than new construction.

This intuitively makes sense. Rehabilitating old buildings is more labor-intensive than new construction, since much of the cost of new construction goes literally to bricks and mortar. But we asked Heidi Garrett-Peltier, an economist with the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, for some data to back this up. She ran some estimates based on national 2009 data, the most recent numbers available. And it turns out that repairing existing residential buildings produces about 50 percent more jobs than building new ones.

Nationally, about 41 percent of the cost of residential repair goes to labor. For new construction, that number is just 28 percent, meaning considerably more than half of any investment in a new home goes not to construction jobs, but to materials, equipment and things like trucking services.

Read the full story at The Atlantic Cities.


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