Workforce Housing Initiatives
Workforce housing focuses on expanding housing opportunities for America's working families. In many communities, the people that provide vital services—teachers, firefighters, police officers, and laundry and restaurant workers—often cannot themselves afford to live there. With the downturn in the economy, many areas of the country have seen their cost of living increase while wages remain virtually unchanged or have declined. It has become more and more difficult for workers to secure a home that is moderately priced, located near work and transportation, and in a desirable community setting.
Communities across the country increasingly are recognizing the link between workforce housing and their communities' economic and social well-being. Shortages of affordable housing close to where families work can lead to longer commutes, sprawl and traffic congestion that degrade the quality of life for all residents. Communities are starting to see the value of making their communities a good place to live, work, play and learn. Employers are also starting to understand that there is a link between housing costs and their bottom line as housing costs continue to create challenges for businesses seeking to attract and retain workers.
The National Association of REALTORS® has been tracking these growing concerns among its members. REALTORS® are in a unique position to become partners in workforce housing solutions. REALTORS® see firsthand the frustration and discouragement of working families unable to realize their dream of homeownership. As members of the business community, REALTORS® understand how the lack of housing for working families – both rental and homeownership – threatens the vitality of their communities. They, together with other business partners – chambers of commerce, homebuilders, industry associations, economic development groups, lenders, and individual employers – can work alongside mayors, local officials and nonprofit housing organizations to help expand housing opportunities for low- to moderate-income working families unable to afford to live in the communities where they work.
In 2009, NAR launched the Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grants program, a two-year, $5 million grant program to facilitate the development of workforce housing programs across the country, resulting in the creation of 52 workforce housing programs across the US. The program report—Tackling Workforce Housing State by State is a great resource for associations interested in developing programs in their communities to meet the housing needs of working families.
NAR is currently focusing on two strategies to address workforce housing issues. The Housing Opportunity grant can be used by our REALTOR® Associations to help fund these projects.
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