Concerns grow over tariffs’ construction impact in Indiana

Construction crews on Nov. 8, 2013, work on rebuilding a home across the street from ground zero of the blast. The Richmond Hill neighborhood was devasted by the explosion on Nov. 10, 2012. Michelle Pemberton/The Star

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration may be increasing project costs for government agencies and homebuilders in Indiana.

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski told The Journal & Courier that local developers believe their construction costs have risen by 10 to 15 percent because of the tariffs.

Federal officials aim to have a 25-percent tariff on imported steel and a 10-percent tariff on imported aluminum reduce the United States’ trade deficits and improve the country’s manufacturing industry. The Trump administration also imposed a 20-percent tariff on Canadian lumber. But some government agencies and homebuilders in Indiana say that’s unintentionally driving up costs.

West Lafayette Fire Chief Tim Heath said the price of the firetruck his department is looking to buy has increased by 7 percent to about $70,000.

“Price of aluminum and steel are changing every minute that companies can’t guarantee prices,” he said. “There’s a time crunch to get a contract signed.”

Kristy Wozniak, president of the Builders Association of Greater Lafayette, said it’s too early to tell the effect of the tariffs. Material cost increases in the area may be driven by a strong residential construction sector, Wozniak said.

“I know this will be one of our best years,” she said in the statement. “I don’t see it slowing down in the near future.”

The price of an average single-family home has risen by more than $6,000 since the cost of lumber has gone up, according to the Indiana Builders Association.

A labor shortage is also driving up costs of home building, said Tony Hardebeck, president of Cornerstone Home Builders.

“I’m afraid that at some point in time, (the squeeze) will be coming,” he said.

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