Across the South, cities, counties, and regional government groups are waking up to the need for workforce housing.
In jurisdiction after jurisdiction, officials have formed workforce housing task forces, commissioned studies, and even taken action by working with local developers to facilitate the construction of new rental housing for moderateincome residents.
Richmond, Va., and Miami are among the cities putting their brainpower to the grindstone to come up with solutions that can help serve the growing ranks of low- and moderateincome workers for whom even decent rental housing is sometimes out of reach.
In South Carolina, the population is concerned enough about housing needs that one candidate for state office is using workforce housing as a key plank in his platform. Dwayne Green, a candidate for the state Senate, told the Charleston City Paper that if elected, he’d require developers to donate land or money for workforce housing.
“The approach to housing—which the city of Charleston gets right—is to have a focus on workforce housing, not just low-income housing for the poorest residents,” he told the paper.
The need is just as severe in the Southeast as in other parts of the country, research shows. In Richmond, a survey by the local Workforce Housing Task Force found that only 18 percent of respondents with incomes in the $50,000 to $99,999 range were satisfied with the availability of houses in their price range. The report also found that housing was the No. 2 concern for workers in the area, after the environment.
The situation is more dire in south Florida, where rental housing is out of reach for many.
A study released in May by Florida International University found that 85 percent of residents in Miami-Dade County can’t afford a median-priced home in the area, and that 54 percent of the county’s households are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing. Renters have it worse than homeowners: 61 percent are cost-burdened, the study found.
The news is particularly bad for minorities, who make up the majority of renters in nine out of the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas, the study found. Minorities—predominantly Hispanics in Miami—made up 37 percent of renter households in 1995, 43 percent in 2005, and are projected to constitute more than 50 percent by 2015.
“The growing need and shifts in demand for rental housing will require that an adequate supply of decent and affordable rental housing is preserved and expanded in Miami-Dade County,” said the report. “The location of existing and new rental production is particularly relevant as proximity to job center and public transportation is vital to a workforce that is principally comprised of low- and moderate-income households.”