Champion Community Workforce Housing
The REALTOR® Party Initiative is more than campaigns and political advocacy. It helps REALTOR® associations take the lead in assisting working families with affordable housing.
Much of the workforce today cannot afford to live in the communities in which they work, or even in a nearby safe, desirable neighborhood. This includes the people who provide vital services to a community—teachers, firefighters, police officers, and health workers. Shortages of affordable housing choices close to where families work can lead to longer commutes, sprawl, and traffic congestion that degrade the quality of life for all residents.
Funding is available for REALTOR® associations to hold forums and invite community stakeholders to identify local housing needs. Forum discussions generally include the effect a lack of affordable housing has on communities, as well as strategies and programs to mitigate those effects. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® provides financial resources, including housing opportunity grants, plus technical assistance, so that state and local REALTOR® associations can plan, organize, and host forums in their communities.
Association-sponsored housing forums provide unique opportunities to bring REALTORS® together with regional, state, local, and nonprofit housing leaders; local and county governments; financial leaders; lenders; developers; and the business community to connect and explore opportunities to address workforce housing challenges in their communities.
Associations can choose to hold an all-day forum that focuses on broad workforce housing issues or a two- to three-hour forum that focuses on a specific solution, such as employer-assisted housing (EAH). Organizing such a forum can be part of an association’s employer-assisted housing program strategy as detailed in NAR’s online guide Employer-Assisted Housing Initiative Guide for State & Local REALTOR® Associations at REALTOR.org.
The success of both national and regional workforce housing forums in the past four years has enabled NAR to provide state and local associations with practical, step-by-step methods to ensure effective programs locally.
The Missoula Organization of REALTORS®, Mont., is one of those success stories. In 2009, when the Missoula REALTORS® produced a housing report showing that the city’s average four-person family could not afford to purchase a home within the city limits, Mayor John Engen made affordable housing one of his campaign priorities. The Missoula association and its CEO, Ruth Link, also stepped up to the plate and helped the mayor with his initiative, providing a real turning point in the working relationship between the REALTORS® and local government. “This allowed the local government and the REALTORS® to come together, when we had so often been at odds,” says Link.
Just two years later, in 2011, MOR’s Missoula Housing Report noted that the city’s average four-person family could now afford a home within Missoula. “The affordability gap has been narrowed as the economy recovers,” says Link, “and at the end of the day, REALTORS® have a strong and healthy working relationship with the mayor, which is good for all of us.”
If your association is interested in organizing a workforce or employer-assisted housing forum, NAR can help. Visit Realtoractioncenter.com/for-associations/housing-opportunity or contact the NAR Housing Opportunity staff: Lora McCray, firstname.lastname@example.org; Holly Moskerintz, email@example.com; or Wendy Penn (Housing Opportunity Grants), firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workforce Housing Resources on REALTORActionCenter.com
Outlines how to plan and conduct a workforce housing forum to identify and develop strategies to address a community’s workforce housing needs.
Provides a road map for associations to plan and implement an EAH initiative to increase affordable housing opportunities.
A collection of resources for REALTORS® and associations. Includes helpful tips and suggestions for associations looking to improve their housing opportunity programs.
Supports the efforts of state and local associations that are implementing affordable housing programs and initiatives.