April 3, 2020 (Clarence, NY) – Essex Homes of WNY, one of the area’s largest, privately owned custom homebuilders is advocating for a return of “essential” business status for home building and other low-rise construction businesses in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic. The announcement was made by Philip J. Nanula, president of Essex Homes of WNY.
Governor Cuomo is providing bold and determined leadership in this time of unprecedented
crisis caused by the current COVID-19 epidemic. The governor has a difficult and often
thankless task of changing the most basic of human traits — socializing with others, in order to
prevent the spread of the killer coronavirus.
All citizens and businesses in New York must affirmatively respond to Governor Cuomo’s efforts
to enforce social distancing. The residential construction industry has worked diligently with the
National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) to arrive at new stringent safety protocols to
respond to COVID-19. Single-family home construction is uniquely able to provide social
distancing. Limitation on the number of workers committed to working at one time is necessary 2
and easily implemented. A single-family worksite contrasts starkly with the closed quarters
found in high-rise construction.
The Empire State Development Corporation’s recent determination on construction found
“affordable” (undefined) high-rise construction is essential, but single-family home construction
is nonessential. A number of businesses have recently moved from nonessential to essential by
adopting appropriate social distancing methods including car dealers and realtors.
Residential single-family home and low-rise construction needs serious consideration because
there are many home construction sites throughout the state which are in various states of
being unfinished. The construction sites provide an attractive danger for children who are now
home. These sites are especially attractive for vandalism. These sites are also zombie homes in
the making, especially if contractual obligations and building loans are defaulted on. There are
many unanswered questions surrounding what work is required to make a house safe in order
to comply with the recent shut down of residential construction.
The residential construction industry wants to continue to provide quality housing to New York
residents in a way which ensures the safety of its workers. There are unfinished single-family
homes and low-rise rental properties that are unavailable for occupancy based on the current
stop work requirement. This is a public appeal to Empire State Development to work with the
residential construction industry to ensure the safety measures combined with social distancing
are implemented so that residential construction can be essential for all housing not just
At a minimum new safety protocols should enable open worksites to be safely shut down, so the
building is enclosed if residential construction is not otherwise permitted to continue under strict
work rules. A comprehensive definition of a safe closure should be implemented on a
statewide basis to avoid the current situation where there are differing measures applied by
local building code officials. The residential housing industry remains ready to work diligently at
this difficult time to provide innovative ways to respond to this crisis by continuing to provide
employment and shelter for New York State’s residents.
Founded in 1992 and ranked among the area’s top five homebuilders, Essex Homes has built
over 1500 homes across WNY which includes communities in Amherst, Clarence, East Aurora,
Lancaster, Grand Island, Hamburg, Lakeview and Orchard Park. To learn more, visit