Flooded homeowners face impacts of labor shortage post-Harvey

Some homeowners and business owners across the Houston region are having a tough time finding a contractor and facing longer wait times in the aftermath of Harvey.

Some homeowners and business owners across the Houston region are having a tough time finding a contractor and facing longer wait times in the aftermath of Harvey.

On Tuesday, Houston’s mayor said there’s a significant shortage of skilled labor to aid in the rebuilding efforts after Harvey damaged more than 136,000 structures in Harris County alone.

“That’s what I tell all of my clients: this is a process,” said Scott Doctor, who heads SEAS Capital LLC. “Don’t try to speed the process up because you’ll just get frustrated, and it’ll become worse than it already is.”

It’s a process Doctor knows inside and out from his career renovating and selling homes. It’s also one he wasn’t expecting he’d be dealing with inside his own Bellaire home after it flooded for the first time during Harvey, taking on nearly two feet of water.

Since then, Doctor says he’s shifted his business focus from flipping houses to flood restoration.

“Ever since the flood, my phone has been on fire, blowing up,” he said. “I probably get five to ten calls a day asking if I can get on the list, and I’m basically saying, ‘It’s gonna be at least a couple months, and I know you don’t want to wait.’ You just have to say no.”

Inside a flood-damaged home a few streets over, homeowner Kim Grant says she feels fortunate.

“It’s awful, but we can’t really complain because there’s so many people that lost everything,” said Grant, who says she and her family are able to stay on their home’s second floor. “I have a friend who’s a contractor and was able to get him on board soon. He’s worrying about all of it.”

Still, Grant says after Harvey it’s tougher to get estimates. She expects the renovation of her home could take months longer than it typically would.

“A lot of it is on faith,” Grant said. “Thank God, I trust my contractor, and I’m lucky.”

A couple living nearby whose home also flooded told KHOU on Tuesday they have yet to line up a contractor because of the competition. They are planning to wait out the rush.

The Better Business Bureau strongly urges homeowners needing repairs to hire only businesses they’ve accredited. They also recommend getting three to four estimates for major repairs, require a written contract agreement and verify that the business is insured.

The BBB also recommends being especially careful with salespeople that go door to door. They say never pay in cash and suggest not putting down payment for more than a third of the job up front.

“If anybody says, ‘Hey, I can start tomorrow' in this environment, I would be very leery,” Doctor said. “There are a lot of guys that will show up with a toolbelt and a hammer and think they’re a contractor. They’ll find people on the street to do the work, and you’ll end up getting stuck.”

On Tuesday morning, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner spotlighted the shortage in region-wide labor available to help with post-Harvey recovery and rebuilding efforts, while also announcing plans to boost the workforce with a new job placement center.

“One of the many results of the flood was the demand for more skilled workers in the construction trades as we build and recover towards an even brighter future in our city,” Mayor Turner said.

The Workforce Opportunity Center will be located on Telephone Road in southeast Houston and run by SER-Jobs For Progress. The $16.6 million project will be funded by both public and philanthropic dollars.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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