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Dallas Builders Are Pushing For Immigration Reform. Why? They Need More Workers.

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According to the latest numbers, North Texas housing prices are up 8 percent over last year. That sounds like great news for home builders. Yet, Phil Crone of the Dallas Builders Association went to the nation’s capital last month to make a desperate plea for immigration reform.

In our Friday Conversation, Crone talked about the link between immigration policy and soaring house prices with Rick Holter.

Interview Highlights: Phil Crone…

…On the link between housing and immigration: The two of them are linked because it’s basic supply and demand. You are seeing about 100,000 jobs moving here. I always tell people homes are where the jobs sleeps at night. And when you see that kind of demand, the corresponding demand comes for your workforce, and a lot of our workforce comes from areas outside of the U.S., in Mexico in particular. We need those folks. They’re essential to get the job done in the residential construction industry.

We’re about 18,000 to 20,000 workers short in D-FW area, and I would argue that makes the shortage as bad here as anywhere in the country right now. The biggest thing driving the increased pricing is the lack of labor. We did a survey of our members, and on average, they said that the labor shortage alone is adding about $4,000 and about two months to every project.

"We're about 18,000 to 20,000 workers short in D-FW area."

…On his trip to Washington and potential solutions: Talking to some of the area representatives and members of Congress from the Dallas area, they understand it, and they were certainly vocal in the meetings that we had about the undue distractions and inability to get the job done. And this is one of the jobs they would like to do if Congress could kind of coalesce around an idea that makes sense. And for our industry, that idea would be a guest worker program that takes into account the demand that’s here.

Hopefully, there can be some programs that are set up to incentivize these folks maybe to get licenses and maybe get on the path to becoming a citizen here. It’s certainly not an amnesty program that we’re talking about, but there should be a pathway for some of the people who are coming here and finding some good opportunities and really contributing to our economy and would all be people who we’d love to have stay here.

Phil Crone is the executive office of the Dallas Builders Association.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and KERANews.org. She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.