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Construction workers leaving Texas due to low wages, political climate

The latest forecast from the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin says labor shortages is one hurdle builders face when tackling affordable housing in the city center. (CBS Austin)

The latest forecast from the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin says labor shortages is one hurdle builders face when tackling affordable housing in the city center.

The Workers Defense Project says construction workers across the state are leaving their jobs because it's hard to be a construction worker in Texas.

"We see construction workers not receiving a living wage, no safety training or worker's compensation on the job so it's really hard to build a career path when there's no benefits to reap," said Sam Robles with Workers Defense Project.

According to Robles, half of Texas' construction workers are undocumented. She tells CBS Austin because of the unlivable wages and the current political climate, workers are not only leaving the industry, but they're leaving the state.

"While many immigrant families are standing up against anti-immigrant laws like SB4, there are many more who are afraid of what could happen under this new law and that may be why we're not seeing construction workers going to work," Robles said.

The Home Builders Association of Greater Austin mid-year housing forecast reveals the labor shortage and rising construction costs makes it nearly impossible to find a home for less than $300,000.

"It's definitely sticker shock," said homeowner Sarah Figueroa.

She and her husband bought a home in the Mueller area a little over two years ago and realized staying within their budget wasn't a reality.

"It was like you can either buy this house or there are 20 people in line behind you who will," Figueroa said.

Affordability is driving homeowners out of the city center, but Figueroa said her heart was set on being in central Austin.

Even two years ago, though, she says they couldn't find a home in Mueller for less than $300,000.

"We were pretty much at the top of our price range when we did buy so I think it's a fair statement that we wouldn't be able to afford a home here now," Figueroa said.

Robles said as the September 1 date nears for SB4 to take effect, she expects more construction workers may be afraid to show up to work.

"As a community organization, that's the reason why we feel the urge to provide as much training to these workers as possible," Robles said.

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