WASHINGTON — Architects are urging lawmakers to reinstate the Build America Bond program.
The American Institute of Architects issued the plea on Monday, saying the BAB program financed between $44 billion and $50 billion in new construction between early 2009 when it was created and Dec. 31, 2010, when it expired. The funding helped support the employment of architects during the recession as housing construction evaporated.
Design costs typically account for about 5% of a project’s overall price tag, according to the AIA, which estimates BABs provided $2.2 to $3 billion for the architectural sector.
Now, Congress is focusing on providing financing assistance for the transportation sector, either through a possible revival of some form of the BAB program or a tax-credit bond program, such as the one being floated by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The architects’ group says transportation-only assistance would leave out financing support for the type of construction projects drawn up by architects.
With other sources of credit still scarce, BABs provided a way for these projects to get financing, according to Andrew Goldberg, AIA’s senior director of federal relations.
“There are a lot of clients out there who want to build, who have good projects, public or private, and can’t get the financing,” he said.
The BAB program is needed to keep architects working, he said. The architectural sector has lost 18% of its workforce since the end of 2007, when the recession started, according to AIA.
Goldberg acknowledged that reinstating BABs “is an extremely uphill battle” in the face of Republican criticism that the program is too expensive.
But he said AIA will work with members of Congress, particularly Wyden, and the Obama administration to move forward with such an initiative. Lawmakers need to see BABs as “a jobs engine,” he said.
Issuers sold $181.5 billion of BABs during the life of the program, according to Thomson Reuters.