Editorial, Items of Interest
Affordable Housing by Paul Stehle
So here we are in 2023. Every community in Florida is facing similar problems…lots of work…in need of employees…no place for employees to live. In order to describe this issue, we have all jumped on the phrase “affordable housing”. But don’t worry we have the government to assist us in “fixing” the problem.
Every politician, local to federal, has used this phrase to demonstrate their compassion for the plight of the people who need to work (actual work…not blowing hot air) and their need for good, fair and yes therefore affordable housing. It all starts with the “American Dream”. The “American Dream” was renting a place for a while, work at your chosen trade and earn enough money to buy a small house that is fit for you and your two kids and then your career goes forward so you can afford college, bigger houses and TOYS! That worked well for many families for many decades. That’s how we built this wonderful country. We built in the incentive of the “American Dream” to incentivize the work force as THE most important incentive to motivate a workforce that shows everyone can prosper. And then we changed our priorities.
Our government decided they needed to regulate everything they could. Power is intoxicating. And because this is an industry specific publication, I will keep my focus on the HVAC side of this affordable housing issue. There is plenty there to shake your head at. In the good/bad old days we were polluting the world with R22 so in the 1990’s we (the government) decided we needed to change refrigerants. In case you are not a manufacturer this is a HUGE expense to change equipment from one refrigerant to another. Last I checked, manufacturers are “for profit” businesses (and they are doing very well) so their increased expense has to be passed on in the form of increased pricing. To paraphrase an old plumbing saying…excrement flows downhill, so look out consumer the increased pricing went to the group trying to afford housing.
Now, the group that governs us does not have high respect for our intelligence, so 20 some odd years later, we now have two trick ponies to buy into. The first pony was and is the SEER2 mess that raised prices of our equipment and installation and exaggerated our supply chain crisis. The second pony will be later this coming year with ANOTHER refrigerant change with the same group redefining goals. Those two ponies will end up increasing the costs of our services substantially (figures vary but from what I gather something in the 30% range). It was not like our services were necessarily cheap yesterday, but today and tomorrow it will be making our customers yearn for the “good old days” of 2020. All this leads me back to “affordable housing” (and remember I’m writing about this for just our industry).
I think all of us can agree we need affordable housing. However, the group that will define “Affordable Housing” has had issues defining things we all thought we knew like “recession” or “gender”. If in the definition and implementation of “affordable housing”, we don’t allow for some of the regulations to be overridden, overlooked or rescinded then the definition of affordable will have to be preceded by the word NOT!
Paul Stehle cut his teeth in the HVAC industry at an early age, helping his father operate a sheet metal shop out of the family’s basement in Long Island, NY. He joined his father and older brother when they opened Climatic Conditioning, Inc. in Sarasota, FL in 1972. They all earned ac contractor’s licenses and built the business successfully, at one point employing 65 people. Paul and his brother recently sold the business and retired.
Paul has served on local and statewide air conditioning contractor associations and has consistently been among the first to defend the industry when it has been threatened and been an advocate for unity, apprenticeships, professionalism and fairness. He has supported other trade associations as well, most notably the Gulf Coast Builder’s Exchange. Though “retired”, Paul continues to be involved in the HVACR industry and his community. Stay tuned for more literary contributions.
Contact Paul by emailing [email protected].