Workforce Housing: Overcoming Affordability Obstacles

RMag_At_MidYear1Even though prices have come down dramatically in several markets, mortgage payments and even rentals are out of reach for many of the country’s workers. The speakers at yesterday’s Housing Opportunity Forum really drove that point home for me.

For interesting data about the affordability of housing in your market, I recommend you visit the National Housing Conference Web site and click on the Center for Housing Policy’s Paycheck to Paycheck database. The purpose of the database is to examine how working families are faring in housing markets around the country. You can look at wages against rents and home prices for more than 60 occupations in more than 200 metropolitan areas. Maya Brennan from NHC showed the database during the forum.

With one click, you can view five pre-selected occupations, five green economy occupations, or up to 10 occupations that you select by clicking on Customize Selections. I took a moment just now to check out Chicago, where I live. I used the pre-selected occupations, and what I discovered (surprise, surprise) is that Chicago isn’t affordable for any of them.

Paycheck to Paycheck - Chicago

Obviously, within metro areas, there are wide price swings from neighborhood to neighborhood—and wage information can vary greatly, too. But the database offer a quick snapshot of how affordable the housing stock is in your area (if your metro area is included). That’s great information for affordable housing advocates.

And speaking of affordable housing advocates, three of them spoke during the forum. All were representing associations that were recipients of the National Association of REALTORS®’ new Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grants. The grant-winning programs they described were too new to report any results, but the initiatives are interesting nonetheless:

  • The Maine Association of REALTORS® is using a $50,000 grant to provide 0% interest downpayment and closing cost loans to buyers moving closer to their work.
  • The Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® is using $120,000 grant to launch The Community Reinvestment Project (CORE), a statewide effort to get unused government-owned property sold and converted to workforce housing.
  • The Nevada Association of REALTORS®  is using an $80,000 grant to establish a Security Deposit loan program for low-income renters.

Visit to learn more about the Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grants  and to see a list of the funded programs.

workforce housing brochureDownload the progress report, Tackling Workforce Housing State by State.

Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is vice president of business-to-business communications for the National Association of REALTORS®, overseeing the association's key communications with NAR members and REALTOR® association executives.

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