Even as school districts and municipal governments in major urban areas struggle to keep rental housing affordable for essential service workers, smaller towns located near the nation’s coastal population centers are tackling the workforce housing crisis from a different angle.
In Lynnwood, Wash., county officials and local employers met just this January for a workforce housing summit to trade ideas on how to bring housing into the mix when it comes to attracting and keeping key local employees.
To that end, the county has set up a Web site in partnership with the local chamber of commerce and apartment owners to allow visitors and prospective new residents to search for rental housing. The initiative works through a link to a rental search Web site known as forrent.com, a division of Norfolk, Va.-based Dominion Enterprises.
In the tiny town of Falmouth, Mass., on the Cape Cod peninsula, local officials are engaged in a debate over whether to develop more workforce housing through inclusionary zoning policies or bow down to the NIMBY forces opposing the development, according to blog posts from Troy B.G. Clarkson, a former town selectman.
Meanwhile, the city of Plymouth, Minn., offered a soft loan to help aid the renovation of Willow Woods, a 41-unit workforce housing property in Plymouth. The state and county also pitched in to help the development get built, according to Jeff Huggett, a principal partner with Minneapolis-based Dominium Development and Acquisition, the firm that handled the rehab.
In larger cities with sky-high housing prices, the solutions to the workforce housing problem tend to include both rental and for-sale housing.
In San Francisco, momentum is building for the construction of as many as 1,000 units of a combination of apartments and for-sale homes for local teachers.
“We need to keep our experienced teachers and attract new talent—especially now, when the country is in the midst of an economic crisis precipitated by a housing meltdown,” said San Francisco Board of Education President Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez, who is leading a small group incubating the effort in San Francisco, said one firm—Emeryville, Calif.-based Bay Area Economics—has been chosen from a number of respondents to a request for proposals to work toward putting together a deal using school district-owned land.
Using land held in public trust to provide workforce housing was the approach used by Bethesda, Md.-based UniDev, LLC, in several California projects, and appears to be on the agenda for a project now in the works as a partnership with Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss.
Said Ehud Mouchly, vice president and general manager at UniDev, “We produce market-quality, middle-income workforce housing at below-market prices and rents.”