Fox News reports that President Donald Trump’s immigration policies are creating higher housing costs and adding to the paychecks of Texas construction workers.
Casey Stegall writes, “Just how bad is it? According to the National Association of Home Builders, more than 56 percent of developers nationwide are reporting labor shortages… Ted Wilson with Residential Strategies, Inc. has run the numbers. ‘We’ve seen direct construction costs climb by over 30 percent,’ Wilson said, ‘and a lot of that is directly attributed to what builders are having to pay their subs and trades in wages.’ Meaning, with so few workers out there, construction companies have had to pay more to attract them, which adds to the cost of a home.”
Labor shortages are increasing both the price of homes and the time required for them to be built.
To answer the need for construction workers and help keep home prices affordable, the Wall Street Journal reported recently that Trump’s Department of Homeland Security raised the annual cap on H-2B visas by more than 20 percent to 81,000 this July. H2-B visas are used to permit temporary entry into the country of non-agricultural skilled and unskilled laborers. As the Journal reported, “The majority of workers receiving this type of visa also are from Mexico,” a reference to a parallel 20-percent rise in H1-A agricultural worker visas to 160,000.”
California’s elites have seized on Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods with a demand of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos: “revolutionize the nation’s food system” by demanding that its food come from local organic farmers and ranchers, with the goal that food “can never be cheap.”
The big question that the rest of us, non-elite, have to ask: How much of a dent in our wallet will this “food revolution” cause?
To answer that question, Alice Waters, a Bay Area chef who brought seasonal and organic food to her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, recently told the Washington Post, “People [need to] understand that food can be affordable, but it can never be cheap.” Waters then went on to talk about having shoppers pay $28 for an organic chicken.
The current average price for a whole chicken at Costco, Safeway, and WinCo Foods is around $8.50 – $13.00.
The food snobs like Waters don’t seem to understand that not everyone can afford to pay $28 for a whole chicken. The same goes for our fruits and vegetables.
The goal should be to make all food readily available for everyone. This includes our middle and working class communities that live in urban and rural areas that may not have easy access to grocery stores.
In California alone, it is estimated that more than a million people live in food deserts, meaning that they do not have easy access to a grocery store.
A few years ago, national and regional grocers worked together with First Lady Michelle Obama “to bring fresh foods to impoverished neighborhoods by opening and expanding more than 1,500 U.S. grocery stores in those [food desert] areas.” Also, “In California, a $200-million California FreshWorks Fund will provide financing at or below market rates to encourage grocers to set up shop in under-served communities.”
In 2015, United Ways of California issued a report, Struggling to Get By, where they found that 31% of California households did not have sufficient income to meet their basic costs of living. That includes 51% of Latino households and 40% of African American households. In addition, just over half of all California households with children under the age of six fall below the Real Cost Measure.
If people want to pay $75 at Chez Panisse for some sheep’s-milk ricotta and amaranth greens ravioli with basil and a grilled duck breast, it is their decision. But most Californians are living paycheck to paycheck and are just struggling to get by.
As Amazon revamps our food delivery system, it should devote itself to making fresh produce available for all – not designer organic food that only the Alice Waters types can afford.