By Joshua Burd
Construction is set to continue in New Jersey after being deemed an essential business during the coronavirus crisis, providing a lift to developers even as they await additional guidance.
Gov. Phil Murphy, as part of his sweeping stay-at-home order announced Saturday, included construction workers among those who are permitted to report to work amid the state’s push to limit the spread of COVID-19. The move drew praise from the New Jersey Builders Association, which is now in touch with state officials to establish additional guidelines for the industry.
Carol Ann Short, the association’s CEO, offered this statement on Monday:
“As the voice of the housing industry and the leading trade association for the construction industry, NJBA is pleased that Governor Murphy deemed construction an essential service as long as businesses make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that these essential operations can continue,” Short said. “It is critical for communities to have access to our professionals to build and maintain shelter that ensures the safety, sanitation and economic security for our state’s residents. It is important to keep a level of construction to prevent a domino effect leading to dire negative economic repercussions for an already-burdened economy.
“Additionally, we applaud the Governor for instituting strict social distancing measures to further protect the health, safety, and welfare of New Jersey residents. Worker safety remains the utmost priority. Construction, by nature, is a practice of social distancing and we are strongly encouraging workers to continue to remain dispersed on tasks so that they are more than 6 feet apart. NJBA encourages its members to take all necessary steps to ensure they are meeting all necessary health and safety requirements, and it looks forward to working with the various administrative agencies who will be setting additional guidelines for these unprecedented times.”
Short added that the NJBA is grateful for the “engagement and responsiveness” of several agencies that work with the construction industry, which is highly regulated and requires support from municipalities in which the projects occur. The association noted as much last week in a letter to Murphy, in which it asked the governor to designate home construction as an “essential infrastructure business” and for government building and zoning departments to continue to operate.
“Builders require governmental approvals and permits to begin a project and they are needed through project completion,” the NJBA wrote. “Therefore, governmental inspections occur along the entire process from the land development to final certificate of occupancy.
“As part of the Essential Infrastructure, residential construction requires that government building and zoning departments continue to operate. Furthermore, for the safety and wellbeing of current and future occupants, governments must allow inspections to occur in a timely manner.”
Murphy’s order, which required all non-essential retail businesses to close, allowed hardware and home improvement stores to remain open among its other exemptions.