Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Broadening the picture of housing need

by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

I have written previously about NHC’s years of research at the intersection of affordable housing and education, health, transportation and economic opportunity. As part of that economic opportunity lens, NHC for many years has produced our annual report, “Paycheck to Paycheck,” contrasting the median wages of over 80 occupations with average rental and homeownership costs in the largest 210 metro areas. Each year this report also features a set of occupations from one sector to highlight the different housing challenges of that sector. Past reports have included healthcare and tourism, while this year’s report focuses on education. You can print the report from our website that details the education occupations featured as well as see how those salaries meet rental and ownership costs in the top 50 metro areas.

The Paycheck to Paycheck data tool allows you to produce custom charts of the housing costs and occupations most relevant for your metro area and use them as educational resources on the affordability challenges of your region’s workforce. This feature allows you to highlight your metro area’s full range of wages and further enforce the message that many occupations do not earn a wage that meets the cost of housing in your community. While past housing advocacy efforts have often referred to households in the 80-120 percent AMI range as in need of “workforce housing,” we know that many people at much lower incomes still work, and still need help with housing. By broadening the picture of housing need using tools like Paycheck, we can increase understanding of affordable housing need without unhelpfully categorizing lower-income working people as outside the workforce.

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the 15th anniversary celebration of Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH). Headquartered in Boston, POAH has an impressive track record of impact in their region as well as more recent expansion to other parts of the country like Chicago and Washington, D.C. Opened with an interesting keynote from Urban Institute CEO Sarah Wartell, it was a great evening of celebration and discussion about what was next for the field as well as the opportunities in front of us to change our current narrative and strategies in order to build more public and political will. Congratulations to CEO Aaron Gornstein as well as the POAH staff and board on a great event and a tremendous first 15 years of work!

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