Sunday, December 14, 2008

Residential Prevailing Wages

In Washington State, the Department of Labor and Industries establishes separate prevailing wages for residential public works construction projects. Housing authorities, a separate type of governmental entity, along with other types of jurisdictions, frequently construct residential projects.

Residential prevailing wage rates are often significantly lower than prevailing wages for commercial prevailing wage rates. For example, the commercial prevailing wage rate for a carpenter in King County (as of August 31, 2008) is $46.16 per hour, while the residential carpenter rate is $23.47 per hour. The difference in wage rates is primarily due to the fact that residential construction as a whole is not as unionized as commercial construction. In conducting surveys to establish the rates therefore, lower rates end up prevailing for residential construction.

In order to qualify for the residential construction wage rates for various trade classifications, the project must meet certain criteria that are outlined in WAC 296-127-010 (9):
  • Type of Work: The definition of residential construction establishes that the work must be "construction, alteration, repair, improvement, or maintenance."
  • Type of Building: The definition of residential construction establishes that the work must be performed on "single family dwelllings, duplexes, apartments, condominiums, and other residential structures."
  • Height of Building: The residential structure must "not exceed four stories in height, including basement." An apartment building with four stories of structure above grade and with a basement would not meet the definition for residential construction.
  • Purpose of Building: The residential structures must be "used solely as permanent residences." Thus, a weekly or monthly apartment or hotel type arrangement would not qualify for residential construction prevailing wage rates. Neither would a single family home that was used on a rotating basis by different individuals to be housed in a location based on business needs.

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