Steve Klein’s subdivisions are quiet with people hunkered inside the custom homes as they ride out the new coronavirus pandemic to help decrease the rate of infection.
But at one corner the Terravista subdivision, located near Schorlemmer Elementary, remains busy with construction workers. About 20 homes in Terravista are under construction, Klein said.Although the March 31 executive order issued by Gov. Gregg Abbott closed gyms, salons, dining rooms and other non-essential businesses, it did not stop construction, which was deemed an “essential service” industry.Guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security define residential construction as essential “to ensure additional units can be made available to combat the nation’s existing housing supply shortage.”Klein said this March was his busiest ever.“We sold six homes,” he said. “Smart buyers know that now is the time to buy a house. People can receive anything from 2.75% to under 3% interest rates.”Klein said he’s also happy to be providing employment.Johnny Longoria was in a Terravista home on Tuesday installing electrical lines.He said he’s lucky to still be working and employed by a company. As an employee of Hall Electric Inc., he said he would be eligible for unemployment benefits if he were laid off because of the market downturn.
He knows that isn’t an option for some construction workers, such as contractors and subcontractors who are considered self-employed.Nor are those benefits an option for undocumented workers, who account for about half of the state’s construction workforce, according to Workers Defense Project.Jacob Castillo, another Hall Electric employee working at Terravista, said he’s also happy to be making money.“I have a friend in Pecos who got laid off, and he’s got twins coming in June. I have friends in Houston who work in offices there, and they’re furloughed,” he said. “Hearing them talk, it’s not too good.”Castillo was working on a home in the subdivision with his father, Johnny Castillo, a situation that Klein said is typical of home construction.
Klein also said he thinks that makes work safer in this situation, but he’s also sending supervisors to make sure there are no more than 10 people in a home at one time.