Labor groups back incentives for new 'green' subdivision

Tim Landis

Four labor unions are going after a piece of the residential construction market with the groundbreaking Monday for a 33-home, “green” subdivision in Chatham.

Spruce Estates subdivision is just west of Chatham Area Public Library.

The labor organizations also are backing home-buying incentives for the project one local labor leader described as a first of its kind here.

“We are putting people to work and going after a share of the residential (construction) market,” said Brad Schaive, business manager for Laborers Local 477.

The other unions involved are Teamsters Local 916, Carpenters Local 16 and Operating Engineers Local 965.

In addition to boosting jobs and the housing market, Schaive said the unions agreed to offer incentives as a way to put homes within reach of working families.

“You’re starting to see a lot of houses selling for $200,000 to $300,000, and there’s a lot of blue-collar working men and women having a hard time affording that,” Schaive said.

The project also represents the first large development since a partnership was announced early last year between the unions and Springfield contractor Mike Suhadolnik of CXP Construction of Illinois.

Suhadolnik, one of the area’s largest non-union contractors prior to last year’s agreement, said Monday the group is working on a 133-home subdivision as well, though a location has not been picked.

“We’ve got areas that we’re looking at. I’m telling you where I really want it to be — in the heart of Springfield,” Suhadolnik said.

Colorado developer Michael Cruz, who said he learned of the Spruce Estates project through connections at Aspen Real Estate Co. of Springfield, said it would have been difficult to justify without the union incentives.

“It’s a double-edged sword because Chatham is growing, but I think it could withstand some more building with these incentives,” Cruz said.

Aspen Real Estate is marketing the homes.

Jeff Burnett of the Mid-Central Illinois Regional Council of Carpenters said the “home sweet home” mortgage-rate buy-down of up to one-half percent should save buyers $25,000 to $30,000 on the Spruce Estates homes.

He added that the buy-down, which is paid for through union dues, is offered in 41 central Illinois counties.

The payback, he said, is in additional union jobs.

“We used to be in the residential market at one time, but we kind of got away from it,” Burnett said.

Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536