Yesterday evening Natalie Gauldin, Brendan Wittstruck, and I had a conversation with Jessica Castilleja regarding how her organization, the Better Builder Program, could partner with FAN. She shared how the Better Builder Program works and we brainstormed ways we could team up to ensure that Austin grows into the inclusive and affordable city that it should be.
The Better Builder Program was developed by the Worker’s Defense Project, and is a state-wide, project based service that a developer can participate in that provides onsite safety monitoring and OSHA-10 training, ensures a living wage for construction workers, prevents wage theft, and ensures the contractor provides worker’s comp for injured workers. They also advocate for affordable housing within residential projects.
They have recently partnered with Evolve Austin and have been sought out by the City of Austin and Capital Metro on past as well as upcoming construction projects. Many developers have signed onto the program due to public demand, and Natalie expressed concern that it would have the effect of slowing the path to construction, an already incredibly lengthy, complicated, and expensive process. We asked if it was possible to look at it as a benefit for developers to participate in the program. Jessica was able to come up with a lot
of reasons why it would be beneficial for developers to participate:
· Participation in the program lowers the developer’s insurance rates
· Independent monitoring and safety training reduced onsite injuries and deaths and thus prevents costly lawsuits and construction delays
· No risk of lawsuits due to wagetheft
· No risk of liens on the property due to subcontractors not getting paid
They are also currently working on a program that would make the permitting process much faster for developers who work with them. Developers who participate in the Better Builder Program would get to ‘skip the line’ and bypass a lengthy wait to have their plans reviewed.
We talked about ways we could help each others’ organizations. Because the BBP is
project based, they need to know about next big construction project in order to talk to the developer early in the process. They also rely on public support to demand that developers participate in their program. Natalie had the idea to develop a citizen’s guide to new development, which could list questions to ask the developer as well as city officials. Among the list could be to ask the developer to participate in the
Better Builder Program.
They have a website which explains their mission and goals:
And Jessica is also now a member of FAN.