Have you ever seen the highway billboard signs noting that, “If you lived here, you’d be home now.” For many daily commuters who find themselves sitting in nightmare congestion, this sign may be validation that they should live closer to work. Unfortunately for many hardworking individuals and families this sign is merely wishful thinking due to the lack of workforce housing in the community where they are employed. During recent political addresses, both Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker discussed the issue of high end apartment buildings and condominium complexes dominating housing development and not enough affordable housing for the population that is considered moderate and medium income households. Let’s take a closer look at the workforce housing issue and why addressing it is critical to our region.
Workforce housing can be described as housing that is affordable for households with an earned income that is sufficient to secure quality housing within a reasonable proximity to a workplace. If we crunch the numbers, this translates to housing costs no more than 30-40% of a person’s annual income. Workforce housing, therefore, is housing that is affordable to households earning 60-120% of an area’s median income. The people whom this impacts most are not typically thought of as the focus for affordable housing. A vast majority of the individuals in this population are gainfully employed in the industries such as: the service industry, tourism industry, emergency services workers (police and fire), teachers, senior citizens, and even nurses. The average incomes for many of these professions have been stagnant for the last 20 years while the median rents have set records and put quality housing out of reach for the workforce that is so vital to our economy.
Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker have recognized that special housing programs need to be offered by local and state housing authorities and they have both indicated that they will approve funding for such programs. These programs are beneficial to not only the individuals it will serve, but also to the community at large. Research has shown that when workers live closer to their job, entire communities reap the benefits. For example, commute time decreases, traffic congestion is relieved, neighborhoods become more diverse, and businesses are able to attract and retain employees thus strengthening the economy of our region.
While funding programs that support workforce housing is important, it is also critical for finance lenders, building owners, municipalities, and architects to work together on workforce housing projects. At DMS design we have extensive background dealing with the funding aspect of workforce housing. We understand the red tape and administrative paperwork associated with such projects and have comprehensive understanding and experience dealing with agencies including HUD and Massachusetts Housing Authorities. We work closely with owners and developers in the design process to make quality workforce housing a reality.