Economy
2:20 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

Home builders, Consumers Energy fix failure to communicate

New home construction grew 30% in 2013, compared to the year before.
Credit hstreetagent

New home construction improved 30% in Michigan last year, compared to the year before.  That's the opposite of a problem, right?

Except......one of the state's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy, wasn't prepared for the growth.

Bob Filka is CEO of the Home Builders Association of Michigan.

He says Consumers had made its plans based on a 5% growth estimate.  The result was the utility did not have enough staff and resources in place to deal with the mini-boom in home building.

"We had some serious backlogs where homes couldn't be completed at the beginning of the year because they had not yet been hooked up to utility service," says Filka.  "And in some instances, we're talking months, not days or weeks."

Consumers Energy held five meetings with home builders across the state to discuss the problems.  The result: the company has hired additional employees, and is completing electric and gas hookups within two weeks of the initial order from a home builder.

Now, says Filka,  "we're not holding people up.  There are actually a lot of other reasons building projects get delayed -- but certainly the industry can't afford to  have delays related to utility hookups."

In some areas, DTE provides the electricity, and Consumers the natural gas.  The two companies are cooperating to connect both services to a new home or subdivision on the same day - which has the added benefit of the companies' only have to dig one trench, rather than two.

Filka says new home construction is likely to grow 20% this year compared to 2013.