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GIVE HOUSING A VOICE: TOOLKIT FOR BUSINESSES AND EMPLOYERS

Overview:  Economic opportunity and prospects of employment are integral components of the decision individuals and families make when choosing where to live.  If an employer is located, in a high-cost area the pool of skilled workers decrease and the levels of productivity also decline as workers face long commutes.  Potentially valuable employees may lose a great advancement opportunity and pursue work elsewhere if housing costs are too high.  One approach to this issue is through employer-assisted housing, a model that is receiving increased attention as lower-income Americans continue to struggle to find affordable housing in safe and healthy neighborhoods.  Another term, “workforce housing” has been used to describe the gap facing those who earn too much to qualify for affordable housing subsidies, but not enough to afford a home.  Workforce housing allows for your community’s teachers, nurses, sales clerks, police officers, firefighters, and other professionals to live near their places of employment.  Furthermore, workforce housing contributes to the health and economic diversity of the community as well as provides stable workforce for employers.  Affordable housing developments as mentioned not only contribute to individual communities but also serve as an ongoing source of economic benefits by creating jobs and providing increased incomes and tax revenues.

Talking Points on the Benefits of Affordable Housing for Businesses and Employers

Affordable Homes for Local Workforce

“Workforce housing” or homes that are affordable and adequate are essential as teachers, nurses, sales clerks, police officers, firefighters, and other professionals struggle to afford living costs. It is critical for people to have the option to live near where they work, particularly those workers who are most essential to the local economy.  Especially in urban cores and near employment centers, land and development costs are very high, thereby forcing people to live further away from jobs and significantly increasing their commuting times and costs. When people can afford to live closer to their jobs, entire communities reap the benefits.  Commute times and traffic congestion ease, neighborhoods are more diverse and provide the opportunity for families to live and grow in one place over time, and economies strengthen.

Creation of Jobs and Economic Benefits to the Local Community

Affordable development has a wide array economic benefits that go beyond the scope of housing, particularly in terms of employment.  The New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) released a study on measuring the impact of affordable housing in New York State. The report found that the development of affordable housing has a positive impact not just on the families who are able to live in affordable apartments, but on the local economy as well.  Affordable housing projects create thousands of jobs including positions within construction, architecture, engineering, as well as local businesses like restaurants and retail.  By connecting real estate development with efforts to put unemployed or underemployed people in jobs, development can be a force for strengthening neighborhoods through job creation on a micro and macro level.   The economic benefits go beyond the construction and real estate activity associated with building the housing developments; its impacts are recurrent because residents of the new housing will shop in local stores, support area services, and pay taxes.

Strategies

1) Share your own story.  Talking from your own personal experience is powerful.

2) Educate the public about the realities of the risks they fear.  As a business owner or employer, it is important to keep the public informed about the economic benefits affordable housing contributes to each community.  Share the facts demonstrating increases in income, tax revenues and jobs. 

3) Use data to engage employers directly.  Share data on the cost of employee turnover and the value of employee retention, the quality of local schools and transit access, and the mismatch between local wages and local housing and transportation costs.

4) Engage employers through policymakers. When focusing on affordable housing benefits to the local workforce utilize data on local salaries and projected employment trends.  This effort educates local governments about current and future housing needs.

5) Market the proposal in a more attractive manner.  Present a case for affordable housing that proves its value to the community and share evidence showing the lack of negative externalities.

Resources

A Business Leader’s Perspective on Meeting Regional Housing Needs (Brookings)

Investing in Affordable Housing Promotes Economic Development  (Housing Trust Fund Project)

The Impact of Affordable Housing: How Affordable Housing Development Benefits Families and Local Economies (HuffPost)

New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH)

Section 3 – Economic Opportunities (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)

The Role of Affordable Housing in Creating Jobs and Stimulating the Local Economic Development: A Review of the Literature (Center for Housing Policy)

When Employers Help with Housing, Winners Emerge (How Housing Matters)

Why Every City Needs Workforce Housing (National Real Estate Investor)

“Business Owners and Employers” Success Stories

Couple Find Creativity, Privacy at Lace Mill (Youko & Kazuma Yamamato, Lace Mill resident-artists)

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