The New York Times: How tariffs could make that new apartment more expensive

The New York Times, August 7, 2018: How tariffs could make that new apartment more expensive

The Trump administration’s new tariffs on imported metals are rattling the construction industry and sending ripples of anxiety through related concerns, including the city’s housing market.

New fees imposed this spring on imported steel and aluminum are making it more expensive to produce the kinds of walls and windows that are found in apartment buildings, according to people who work in the development business.

Because builders buy materials well before any ground is broken — and months, if not years, ahead of the opening of sales and rental offices — the effect of tariffs on apartment prices and rents may take a while to filter through the system. But if the import fees remain in place, buyers and renters will inevitably feel a pinch, said suppliers, contractors, construction trade groups, developers and brokers.

“It’s still a little early yet,” said Steven Rutter, the director of Stribling Marketing Associates, which has development projects in various stages, “but I think these tariffs could have ripple effects all down the line.”

Thus far, hard data about the effect of steel and aluminum tariffs on New York’s development business are relatively scarce. And many developers seem loath to discuss the subject, perhaps unwilling to spook a market already showing signs of weakness, or hoping to avoid a charged political atmosphere.

The new tariffs — 25 percent on foreign steel and 10 percent on foreign aluminum — are intended to level the playing field for international trade by encouraging companies to buy domestic rather than imported products, but some builders believe that American suppliers can’t currently meet every demand.

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