With the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework now law and the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act awaiting Senate approval, this much-needed $170 billion investment in affordable housing initiatives would be the largest since the New Deal, if not the nation’s history. Broadly, the plan aims to build or preserve more than 1 million affordable homes nationwide while also increasing safety, energy efficiency and weather resistance, and that means new opportunities abound for contractors and specialists.
One expert, Benjamin Johnston, the chief operating officer with Kapitus, where the construction industry represents the largest segment of the company’s borrowing community, is particularly well-positioned to recognize the legislation’s prospects for the construction industry. As not only is he very optimistic, but he also sees several ways savvy contractors can capitalize on this cash infusion.
“The significant deficit in housing means we’ll need to build a lot,” asserts Johnston, “and that means huge demand for construction workers, materials, technology, etc. And with people spending more time in their homes than in the past, they’re also looking around thinking, ‘Should I remodel? What should I change?’”
Given the already sizzling housing and remodeling markets, any extra fuel the plan may add will spark demand for professionals with a breadth of specialties, but a bit of preparation is always wise.
“One option is to consider getting the licensing required to work on government buildings,” recommends Johnston. “Contractors who don’t go that route should have a strong understanding of the newest and most efficient materials likely to be targeted in the bill. For instance, there’s a real opportunity in retrofitting for energy efficiency.”
Weatherization and energy efficiency across the nation
Indeed, the bill makes clean, efficient energy a cornerstone of the plan, earmarking $320 billion to expand tax credits for 10 years for both residential and utility-scale clean energy, storage and transmission, clean energy manufacturing and even the production of clean vehicles. Another $105 billion in investments and incentives will go to tackle extreme weather and legacy pollution in communities, as well as to create a Civilian Climate Corps.
In addition to generating greater demand for things like efficient heating systems and insulation, solar panel installation and the development of high-level efficiency products, Johnston also forecasts a flood of weatherization and retrofitting services.
“The Administration designated $3.5 billion for weatherization assistance, home efficiency and electrification, clean energy procurement and upgrades for federal buildings, and providing rebates to consumers who weatherize and retrofit their homes,” says Johnston. “The infrastructure plan has additional clean energy funding, so with weatherization and clean energy being reflected in both plans, there will be numerous ways those in construction can benefit.”
Reaching rural areas and tuning up the tech
Home technology has never been so smart nor so ubiquitous, and in recognition of its necessity for low-income earners in the country’s more rural corners, the plan would spend north of $4 billion helping these Americans either purchase or upgrade affordable, healthy and efficient homes, which would also include prefabricated structures. And as technology continues to revolutionize the built environment, the areas for specialization are almost limitless.
“As technology becomes more integrated in to building the foundations of a home, there may be even more demand for consistent maintenance,” advises Johnston. “The more complex something is, the more maintenance it usually requires, so if everyone’s home becomes a miniature power plant, there may be even more repair opportunities.”
Provided the Senate doesn’t make any significant changes to the bill, the Build Back Better Act will be a boon for builders nationwide.
“With the Administration making it clear they want to support and advance efficiency across the country and specifically in housing, the construction industry would benefit enormously,” concludes Johnston.