COLUMBUS, OH (October 11, 2023) – The National Association of REALTORS® hosted the Affordable Workforce Housing Symposium Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. The event included three panel discussions comprised of participants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Commerce, local businesses, and local community leaders.

NAR’s Chief Advocacy Officer, Shannon McGahn, kicked off the symposium by addressing the CHIPS and Science Act's impact on Ohio’s economy and housing supply. President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act one year ago, which makes an investment in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and workforce. In turn, the legislation has unleashed tremendous investment in the Columbus metro area with a new plant being built and the potential to create more than 3,000 new direct jobs and 7,000 construction jobs.

“This unprecedented and exciting growth presents both opportunities and challenges for your communities, especially when it comes to affordable housing supply,” said McGahn. “Today, we want to talk about how we, as REALTORS®, can work with all stakeholders – from government officials to advocacy organizations to the private sector – to ensure that the economic growth that comes with the CHIPS investments is sustainable for the region and its workforce.”

Panel 1: Housing Supply for CHIPS Implementation

In the first panel discussion, Bryan Greene, vice president of policy advocacy for NAR, was joined by representatives from HUD and the Department of Commerce. The dialogue focused on addressing the challenges of meeting the affordable housing demand for Ohio workers and their families considering industrial growth brought by investments through the CHIPS and Science Act.

Access to affordable housing is often critical to workforce retention and attraction. During the conversation, Greene asked Adrienne Elrod, director of external affairs for the CHIPS program at the Department of Commerce, if there are any housing-related support measures for the CHIPS Act to accommodate the increased demand for housing in areas where new plants are being built. “Not just here in Ohio but across the country, we are going to see significant job growth because of CHIPS, and the affordable housing in those areas will be critically important. We at Commerce have zero jurisdiction over housing, but we as a federal government do, so we have to rely very heavily on our partners at HUD and, of course, our state and local governments to make sure that we have a strong infrastructure that supports this job growth,” said Elrod.

Elayne Weiss, special policy advisor for HUD, outlined the work HUD is doing with state and local governments to incentivize creating additional housing and provide access for the growing workforce in places getting CHIPS investments. She then was asked by Greene about the affordable housing crisis, and Weiss closed out the panel discussion, stating, “This is a huge priority for the administration. We're working hard to get to the bottom of this issue, trying to be creative in our thinking, looking for new ways of financing, looking at what policies are getting in the way of building … affordable housing, unlocking that supply, working with our partners at all levels. We know we can't do this alone. We all know the affordable housing crisis has been decades in the making. And it's not going to be solved overnight. But we know that if we start now, we can really make some good headway.”

Panel 2: Coalition Building to Foster Sustainable Growth

The second panel discussion was moderated by NAR’s Chief Advocacy Officer, Shannon McGahn, and included participants from Ohio’s state government and local Columbus community leaders. With the panel participants, McGahn discussed how state and local government, housing advocates, and the business community are working together to take tangible steps to expand access to housing for Ohio’s workforce.

McGahn asked Erin Posser, assistant director of housing strategies for the city of Columbus’ Department of Development, to identify what affordable workforce housing is. Posser answered, “We want to make sure that there's housing that's affordable for all our workforce and that spans a large number of income and family types and family needs. We want to make sure that the market is providing and that the supply we need is available in our community.”

Lark Mallory, president and CEO of the Affordable Housing Trust of Columbus and Franklin County, jumped into the conversation by further explaining, “When we are talking about housing that is affordable, we’re saying that each of us is spending no more than 30% of our income on housing.”

Kenny McDonald, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, outlined the business community's role in balancing the pressing need for affordable housing with the economic growth and development spurred by the investments in Columbus and surrounding areas. “Columbus is one of the markets where you can see a number of the projects that have been put in place because of policies that the federal government has made. But I want to caution a little bit; there are also things that are down. We're not building new office buildings. There are jobs that are being automated. And so, I keep describing our market as a market in transition as much as it is a growing market,” said McDonald.

Panel 3: Housing Preparedness for a Growing Workforce

Buffie Patterson, treasurer of Columbus REALTORS®, led the final panel discussion with community leaders. The conversation with William Murdock, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, and Alexis Fitzsimmons, executive director of GROW Licking County, covered topics ranging from how to attract developers to the region who will commit to quality affordable housing to what measures are being taken to ensure that long-time residents still have access to affordable housing opportunities in their communities with the increased demand for housing in the area.

Jon Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio, described what steps builders in Central Ohio are taking to address some of these housing issues and how he would suggest others follow in these footsteps. “When we bounced back from the market crash in 2008, even though the market crash and home production subsided, people moving to Central Ohio did not. And we never caught back up with that pace. We have unparalleled cooperation on all levels from what we've seen historically, and it's something that should be modeled by. Unfortunately, a lot of what we've seen is some communities saying, ‘Well, housing is a regional problem’ — they're saying it is not my community's problem. And that's something we're addressing and trying to get over that hurdle today,” stated Melchi.

About the National Association of REALTORS®

The National Association of REALTORS® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.5 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

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