Testimony of the Real Estate Board of New York to the Committee on Civil Service and Labor of the New York City Council Regarding Retirement Savings

Zachary Steinberg

Vice President Policy & Planning

September 22, 2019

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REBNY commends the City Council for pursuing legislation to help more private-sector workers, particularly those without access to savings plans through their employer, put money away for retirement.

After a lifetime of hard-work, all New Yorkers deserve the change to retire with dignity. Although a rich body of evidence indicates that access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan is critical to worker’s ability to save for retirement, too many New Yorkers don’t have the ability to enroll in a retirement plan through their work. According to data released by the New York City Comptroller, over half of all private-sector workers in New York City do not have access to a workplace retirement plan. For the real estate industry, this issue is particularly acute in the construction workforce, where data indicates more than 100,000 construction workers—almost 75 percent of all private sector construction workers—do not have access to a workplace retirement plan.[i]

This data is supported by REBNY’s recent experience partnering with Building Skills NY. Building Skills NY is a not-for-profit organization that helps find jobs in the construction industry for entry-level workers. In 2018, Building Skills NY placed 235 individuals in construction jobs and in 2019 has placed 214 individuals in jobs through September. Of those placed in 2019, 100 percent are New York City residents and 98 percent identify as Black or Latino.

While Building Skills NY has been very successful at placing workers, they routinely find that entry-level workers in the construction industry do not have access to retirement savings plan. Many of these workers, who frequently move between employers, struggle to afford New York City’s high cost of living and without an employer provided plan do not have an easy way to save for their future.

For these reasons, we are pleased that the City Council is considering Int 0888 and Int 0901, which would collectively expand retirement savings options for workers in New York City who work for businesses that do not offer retirement savings plans to their workers. In recent years, many State and local jurisdictions have adopted innovative programs to expand access to retirement plans, including a plan enacted by the State of New York in 2018. While many of these programs have yet to be fully implemented, it is encouraging that both New York City and New York State are pursuing solutions to this challenge. Should the Council move forward with this proposal, we hope that it will be done in coordination with New York State to prevent duplicative or conflicting requirements.