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Letter: Outdated Scaffold Law drives up housing costs

Outdated Scaffold Law drives up housing costs

The severity of the housing crisis in New York State means that every dollar must be spent as efficiently as possible to produce the highest number of quality, affordable homes.

The archaic Scaffold Law – a remnant of the 1800s – is counterproductive since it drives up insurance costs on affordable housing projects in excess of million of dollars, and makes these important projects harder to build. The Scaffold Law has also reduced the number of carriers that will insure affordable housing projects, and has made it nearly impossible for small firms to find coverage.

New York is the only state where the contractor is held “absolutely liable” if a worker is injured in an elevation-related accident – even if the accident is the worker’s fault, for example, if the worker failed to use safety equipment or was impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Experts estimate the Scaffold Law costs taxpayers $785 million annually and adds $10,000 to the cost of building a new home. Further, the law does little to protect workers. In states like Illinois, where similar laws were reformed, construction-related fatalities decreased.

Reforming the Scaffold Law and replacing it with legislation that applies normal negligence standards will free up money that can be used to build more affordable homes, instead of for high insurance premiums.

As New York confronts a serious and ongoing housing crisis, we must put an end to inflated insurance rates and put those dollars to create more affordable homes.

Jolie Milstein

President and CEO, New York State Association for Affordable Housing

Bruce Levine

President and Founder, 3d Development Group, Amherst