Affordable workforce housing demand has skyrocketed recently, but supply is too short even to keep pace with it across cities in the U.S. Maxwell Drever says already, millions of renters and homeowners spend more than half their income on housing. It makes them feel cost-burdened and adversely affects their mental and physical health. For long, the situation of federal inaction and cash-strapped local governments further intensified the affordable housing crisis. After COVID-19, the scene has slightly changed. Everyone is waking up to the need to build affordable homes for the highly efficient and hardworking workforce population that has no other option than either paying exorbitant rents or moving into remote localities to survive.
There is an urgency to do multiple things at multiple ends to ramp up housing efforts. Maxwell Drever says this is not enough as the gap between demand and supply has become too broad. In this context, here are some suggestions.
Affordable Housing Trusts
Housing trusts can be ongoing financial resources for low-to-middle income housing in cities and states. These trusts can eliminate the need for additional local government funding because the state-level fund fulfills all the requirements due to small populations or significant existing investments. All this eventually reduces pressure from the provincial government to arrange for extra funding. Many states suffer from the lack of state-level funds, but they do not have any law that prevents them from starting housing trusts.
Incentives and Tax Breaks
Incentive programs, which are supplemental to federal ones, issue credits to developers for land acquisitions, renewal, or construction of rental properties targeted towards lower-income households. These affordable housing developments can apply to affordable workforce housing projects also. Even when cities may not have much to say about fund allocation, they can incentivize the workforce housing developers in the private sector to build more. It can be a vital step in the city’s economic growth also.
Easy Zoning and Development Rules
Maxwell Drever mentions that zoning laws can hugely impact the availability of affordable housing projects, sometimes blocking construction outright or holding up progress as proponents seek approval. It often results in workforce people getting squeezed out of high-quality neighborhoods and into substandard housing and crime areas. By streamlining zoning restrictions, jurisdictions can open new areas for development that were previously off-limits, allowing developers to build more cost-effective dwellings for the types of employees who make the country’s economy run day in, day out.
Neighborhood revitalization is a very complex endeavor that involves numerous stakeholders and relationships. One typical example of this type of initiative is the redevelopment of abandoned sites, such as hotels, motels, complexes, townhouses, etc. Revitalizing them can help neighborhoods welcome communities that work hard and live sustainably. More precisely, an area with affordable housing problems can be the right target.
Like these, every positive and progressive change in these systems and processes can act as a catalyst to remove the problem of shortage of affordable workforce housing. However, one needs to have an intent and understanding of how this market operates to make an impact.