As cities grow and attract new jobs, city leaders and employers are struggling with how to ensure there is housing that is affordable to workers at low- and moderate-income levels. This type of housing, referred to as “workforce housing,” is becoming harder to find.
Housing industry professionals define “workforce housing” differently, but the general consensus is that it is defined as housing that is: 1) affordable to working individuals and families making between 60 to 120 percent of Median Family Income and 2) located near where they work. Workforce housing can take a variety of different forms and is for a range of professionals, from service-industry employees and retail workers to teachers and first responders.
It's important for many of these professionals—like teachers and police officers—to live close to work, because they want to reside in or near the community they serve. A close proximity between work and home also reduces commute times which means less traffic congestion and more time at home with family.
But the challenge is that “there’s a real mismatch between [this] workforce and the housing available for them,” according to Craig Estes, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, as he explained in a recent Multifamily Executive article. Working households often earn too much money to qualify for subsidized housing, but their wages aren't keeping up with soaring rents or home prices.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition reports that a minimum wage worker in Texas must work 101 hours a week to afford a fair market rate two-bedroom apartment. And a separate report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas states that Texas’ nominal median existing-home sales price rose 34 percent from 2010 to 2015 while median income only increased 14 percent.
The Multifamily Executive article goes on to cite a few mechanisms for creating more workforce housing. These include providing more gap financing for the construction or renovation of moderate-income housing, making it easier for developers to build a wider variety of housing types, and expanding the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
TSAHC and Workforce Housing
TSAHC’s Homes for Texas Heroes Home Loan program helps our community-oriented workers like teachers and first responders purchase a home in their community. The program offers down payment assistance grants and Mortgage Credit Certificates that give our community heroes more purchasing power when searching for a home.
Moreover, our Texas Housing Impact Fund offers gap financing for the construction or rehabilitation of single-family and multifamily developments. This provides developers greater latitude in the housing types they can build and income ranges their housing can serve. For example, TSAHC provided a construction loan to Guadalupe Economic Services Corporation to construct The Vista Rita Blanca Apartments, a 28-unit development targeted to agricultural workers in Dalhart, Texas.
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