In March, President Trump signed 25 percent steel tariffs and 10 percent aluminum tariffs into law, and the construction industry reportedly already is being affected, according to archpaper.com.
Although the tariffs currently exclude steel coming from Canada and Mexico, interviews with developers and those in the construction industry suggest some projects are seeing steel increase in cost by up to 10 percent. Speculation about price increases six to 12 months ahead, after the full effects of the tariffs are realized, are to blame.
In November 2017, a 21 percent tariff imposed on imported Canadian timber, which is used in 25 percent of wood-framed projects in the U.S., led to a nationwide rise in construction costs for single and mid-family homes. Contractors were forced to raise their prices, cut back on their use of timber, switch to steel or change the design of their homes to use less materials.
Joe Pecoraro, a project executive at Chicago-based general contractor Skender, told National Real Estate Investor that a client developing affordable housing might be forced to delay its project if steel costs rose further.
"Uncertainty drives people to be very conservative, risk-averse," Pecoraro said. "It is affecting our deals."
Domestic steel fabricators may be hit harder than international firms because of the tariffs only targeting raw steel. With costs rising for raw materials, some domestic fabricators already have lost jobs to competitors based in Canada and Mexico. Reportedly, 1.2 million tons of fabricated steel was produced in the U.S. with imported materials in 2017, which went toward building bridges, roads and buildings.
Two days before Trump signed the tariff order, The American Institute of Architects released a statement warning that rising material costs would lead to decreased project budgets and potentially stifle architectural innovation. It is uncertain how the tariffs will affect the U.S.' building boom in the long term.