ULI Westchester/Fairfield News

Cuomo says prevailing wage expansion should exempt affordable housing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today a potential prevailing wage expansion should exempt affordable housing developments, though he didn’t specify the particular carve-out he would prefer.

“I would exempt the affordable housing projects, because you can make a case that it increases the cost of construction,” Cuomo said on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.

State lawmakers are considering applying prevailing wage requirements to a greater portion of publicly-subsidized projects by broadening the definition of “public works,” which require paying higher wages.

Construction unions have pushed for an expansion, but opponents say the change could jeopardize affordable housing production and other development due to heightened labor costs. Current proposals call for excluding affordable housing projects that set aside at least 75 percent of residential units for households making up to 60 percent of area median income.

Cuomo said Friday he doesn’t think the issue will make it into the final budget and pointed again today to definitions that need to be straightened out.

“How big a project, what do you consider a public function, those are all question marks,” he said.

Asked about the cost concerns, he referenced similar fears around the $15 minimum wage.

“Look, I was the first state in the nation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and people said, ‘well now everything’s more expensive,'” he said. “I believe ultimately it stimulates the overall economy because you have more money coming into the economy, but it also pays people a fair wage, you know, you need to pay people a wage that allows them to live … prevailing wage is the same argument on the labor side.”

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