Lumber is wildly expensive now. Even picnic table prices are through the roof

Andrew Khouri, Carly Olson, Andrew Mendez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

But some builders are starting to slow down. If that choice becomes widespread, it could exacerbate a supply shortage that’s been driving up housing costs for years. Some are pressing pause on existing projects, while others say it’s harder to find new deals that still work financially given the rise in lumber prices.

For some companies, the big issue isn’t even price, but rather whether they can find supplies, whether it’s wood or other staples made scarcer by pandemic-ravaged supply chains.

Shay BenZvi, a contractor and owner of Green Remodeling Solutions in Canoga Park, said he sometimes walks into the store only to find two-by-fours that are warped and ruined.

“A lot of the companies took out their bad stock ... and they put it out there on the shelves so people will have lumber,” he said. “But this is not something that can work.”

At the Black Cat restaurant in Silver Lake, manager Benjamin Schwartz struggled to track down affordable picnic tables for the eatery’s outdoor dining section. When he called home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and looked online, he often found the wooden tables at double or triple the price he’d expected.

Finally, he found something in the normal range.


“We have some picnic benches that we bought for $100 each that were really hard to come by,” Schwartz said.

Among those pausing projects are affordable-housing developers who have to cobble together financing from myriad sources that enable them to subsidize rents.

“We are getting to a point where we have to slow down our pipeline,” said Jesús Hernández, director of housing development at Community Corp. of Santa Monica, a nonprofit builder. Continuing at the former pace, he said, would cut too deeply into the group’s funds and prevent it from putting together projects.

Rapidly rising home prices, on the other hand, give developers of single-family homes more of a chance to keep building, and some developers said they’ve been able to pass along price increases.


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