The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) commends the bipartisan Senate sponsors of legislation to advance comprehensive immigration reform and called on lawmakers yesterday to improve the guest worker provisions in the bill. The association is urging lawmakers to address the significant role that foreign workers play in the housing industry and to help alleviate current labor challenges that are hampering the housing and economic recovery.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), NAHB Chairman Rick Judson, a home builder and developer from Charlotte, N.C., urged Congress to implement a new market-based visa system that would allow more immigrants to legally enter the construction workforce each year.

“Despite our efforts to recruit and train American workers through the HBI Job Corps program and other programs, our industry faces a very real impediment to full recovery if work is delayed or even cancelled due to worker shortages,” said Judson. “A new, workable visa program would complement our skills training efforts within the nation’s borders, and fill the labor gaps needed to meet the nation’s housing needs.”

In a recent survey of NAHB’s membership, 46 percent of the builders surveyed experienced delays in completing projects on time, 15 percent had to turn down some projects and 9 percent lost or cancelled sales as a result of recent labor shortages.

Foreign-born workers have traditionally played a vibrant and important role in home building. Today, they account for 22 percent of the construction labor force, according to the Census Bureau.

While the W Visa program that addresses a guest worker program for the low-skill sector within Senate bill S. 744 reflects a good-faith attempt on the part of lawmakers to address a serious concern, NAHB believes the program is unworkable for the residential construction industry.

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