Employer-assisted housing benefits, in the form of forgivable loans, grants, matched savings plans, financial counseling or home buyer education, have proven to be effective at helping working individuals purchase and keep their homes.
That was one of the messages delivered at the Bring Workers Home forum held today in Boise, Idaho. During the daylong event, sponsored by the National Association of Realtors® and the National Housing Conference, Realtors® joined local and state housing leaders to discuss employer-assisted housing strategies and how to help more working families find affordable, decent housing near their workplaces.
“Realtors® build communities and know that homeownership is still out of reach for many working individuals,” said NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz. “Bringing together housing experts to discuss solutions to this critical issue is a crucial first step to helping more working families purchase and keep their homes.”
At a morning panel discussion experts talked about the region’s growing need for affordable workforce housing and how employer-assisted housing benefits can help communities meet those needs. Finding affordable housing is especially difficult for many low- to moderate-income workers such as emergency personnel, teachers, retail clerks, hospitality staff and office employees, who live in high-cost areas and whose salaries have not kept pace with home prices.
During lunch, forum keynote speaker Craig Nolte of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, told attendees about the benefits of affordable workforce housing and its impact on communities. Research has shown that these benefits can help improve employer recruitment and retention and reduce training costs as well as improve employee morale and productivity and make communities stronger.
An afternoon panel shared case studies of successful employer-assisted housing programs in California, Idaho, Washington and Wyoming that are helping working families reach their goals of homeownership.
Other speakers at the forum were Mayor David Bieter, city of Boise; Linda Davis, Copper Basin Construction Inc.; Samantha DeKoven, Metropolitan Planning Council; Mark Ellerbrook, city of Seattle, Wendy Furth, National Association of Realtors® Liaison for Housing and Diversity; David Haney, Wyoming Community Development Authority; Jim Johnston, National Association of Realtors® Regional Vice President for Region 12 (Pacific Northwest); Craig Nolte, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco; Julie Spezia, Housing California; and Chris Venne, Community Frameworks.
Forum attendees included Realtor® associations and their Realtor® members, business leaders, housing and community development professionals, city council members and other elected and appointed officials, as well as human resource and employee benefit professionals.
A similar forum was held several weeks ago in Philadelphia, where attendees shared successful employer-assisted housing strategies in New York, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. For more than 75 years, the nonprofit National Housing Conference has been the nation’s premier public policy and housing advocacy organization. To learn more about the National Housing Conference and its nonprofit research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, please go to www.nhc.org.
By Sara Weis for National Association of Realtors, December 3, 2009