Sky-high lumber prices impacting Charleston Habitat for Humanity

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Home building materials like lumber, vinyl siding, and pipes are skyrocketing amid the pandemic. This has lead to steep price increases, especially in lumber, nationwide.

The National Association of Home Builders reports a 250% increase in the price of lumber since April 2020.​ The cost to build a single-family home has jumped $36,000 on average since last spring.

So, why are prices sky-high? It boils down to several factors. First, when the pandemic brought worldwide shutdowns, construction projects were put on pause, and lumber producers found themselves with an excess of materials. Sawmills then decided to cut down on production. A few months into the pandemic, home renovation projects began to boom, therefore creating more demand for lumber and other materials. Now, the housing market is slim and more people are choosing to build homes, creating even more demand for materials.

One organization that is feeling the impact of the high prices and shortages is Habitat for Humanity.

David Neher, the construction manager for Charleston Habitat for Humanity, tells News 2 that the price to build a Habitat house has nearly doubled since the beginning of the pandemic.

“So for us, a house package for one of these houses, we’re able to bring in usually around $90-100,000. Our next two houses, the prices are coming in, just for materials alone, at 150-175,000,” said Neher.

Habitat uses OSB plywood because it’s supposed to be cheaper than normal plywood. Neher says the organization used to be able to get one sheet for just under $8, but now one sheet is costing between $38 and $42.

As for vinyl siding, it used to cost $3,000 per house, and now, the cost is somewhere between $6,000-$7,000 per house.

A normal builder would be able to sell the house for a higher price, but that goes against Habitat for Humanity’s mission statement.

“We can’t do that because we strive to keep the mortgages as low as possible so that our homeowners can live a good life,” explained Neher.

Fortunately for Charleston Habitat for Humanity, building homes for people in need brings good karma and several of their regular sub-contractors are helping out.

“Our HVAC contractor, Fogle Services, they’re actually eating the price of all the sheet metal increases so they can keep us at the same price. Our plumber is doing the same thing. PVC pipe, all that is up double so…it’s crazy right now’” said Neher.

This has led to a slight delay in projects while builders with Habitat sometimes have to wait to get the materials they need.

Neher says he doesn’t expect the shortage to go away any time soon and based on conversations with other builders and contractors, it could be another three years before the supply is back on track.

In the meantime, the donation-based organization is trying to get creative with fundraising efforts so homes can be built for those who need them.

If you are interested in donating, volunteering, or learning more, visit Charleston Habitat for Humanity’s website by clicking here.