It can not be over stated how good the real estate market has been for many home owners. Home appreciation over the years has made many home sellers feeling financially secure. But how about housing the workforce?
Housing appreciation and home prices are not the only housing indicators escalating. There is an ongoing trend of decreasing housing affordability for lower and middle income families. Every year there are more lower and middle income home buyers who were edged out of the market or for that matter did not even venture to purchase a home, because home prices escalated beyond their ability to afford a mortgage.
Housing the workforce is an issue for many home buyers. Workforce housing as defined on the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs web site (montgomerycountymd.gov) as affordable housing for families who fall between 80% and 120% of the median income for the Washington metropolitan area. In 2005, a family of four would fall into this category if the household income was between $71,400 and $107,000. Additionally, the county considers anyone who works in the county (e.g., police, firefighters, nurses, and teachers) and cannot afford housing to fall into this category as well.
It is clear that for many years there has been support for affordable housing and home ownership in general, as can be seen by the many state and county programs available, for qualifying home buyers. As a matter of fact, there has been an affordable housing conference in Montgomery County since 1991. The goal of the conference has always been to address issues related to affordable housing. The mission of the conference, as stated on their web site (affordablehousing.org), is to bring together elected officials, housing and community leaders, business professionals, activist, and others to work toward affordable housing solutions. The theme for the 2005 conference was “Work Here, Live Where?” and addressed the growing crisis of workforce housing.
The increasing number of families who earn more than the maximum to qualify for a Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) yet can not afford to purchase a home in the county are rising to crisis levels. The crisis has been identified by some governmental departments, yet others lag behind. Many commissioners who attended The Governor’s Commission on Housing Policy on January 2004 as given by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (see minutes from January 6, 2004) concluded that workforce housing issues should be addressed.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (mc-mncppc.org) has taken on the issue and generated a strategic plan as well as a web site to address the problem. Additionally, the MNCPPC created a program called “Housing Montgomery: Housing the People who make Montgomery County Work.” The program is to focus on initiatives that function to increase the supply and affordability of housing, improve data tracking, and expand community outreach.
The program development many initiatives, which include the development of a workforce information packet, discussion of employer assisted housing, discussion park workforce housing, discussion of Montgomery County Department of Parks and Planning employer assisted housing, and to expedite approvals for affordable housing.
Workforce housing will continue to be a concern for many years to come as housing costs continue to escalate. Hopefully, community leaders will continue to develop an agenda to assist Montgomery County’s workforce to live in the county
By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2006