In the article, “Workforce Housing and Middle-Income Subsidies: A Primer,” Tiffany Ford and Jenny Schuetz give the rundown of the difference between “workforce/middle-income housing” and “affordable housing.”
“The term “workforce housing” is most often used to indicate a program targeted at households that earn too much to qualify for traditional affordable housing subsidies.”https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/10/29/workforce-housing-and-middle-income-housing-subsidies-a-primer/
What’s confusing about this terminology is that many people who are on low-income subsidies are employed, yet many refer to workforce housing as housing for middle-incomers. So that’s why Ford and Schuetz came to the conclusion that the term “middle-income housing” seems to be a more precise way of referring to this issue.
When the question is presented of what the positives are of attracting more middle-income households, Ford and Schuetz explain how having more middle-income households clearly benefit cities financially. Cities with a large income gap have a situation where the higher-income families tend to spend a smaller share of their income on locality. At the same time, lower-income families don’t have the money to add significant value to the city through taxes. Middle-income households fill that gap beautifully by spending the higher disposable income they have on local goods (groceries, restaurants, theaters, etc.). This, with the added value from taxes, gives cities more resources and “pressure on local officials.
“On the plus side, middle-class residents can generate more pressure on local officials to invest in transportation, parks, libraries, and shared community assets. If middle-income families send their children to public schools, they bring to those schools greater financial resources, as well as social and human capital.”ps://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2019/10/29/workforce-housing-and-middle-income-housing-subsidies-a-primer/
In New York, examples of workforce/middle-income housing initiatives that are still up and running today are the Mitchell-Lama program and Stuyvesant Town. The Mitchell-Lama program came up with ways to incentivize developers building housing with subsidized/affordable rents for moderate and middle-income households.
Today, there are several different ways we are seeing workforce/middle-income housing being provided and pushed. Companies sometimes will provide housing for their employees. Teacher housing is an issue that is being pushed in some cities where rents and living costs are pushing educators to live outside of the communities they’re teaching in. Cities like DC have proposed things like “workforce housing funds” to aid in subsidizing housing for middle-income earners in the community like police officers, janitors, social workers, teachers, etc.
Whether you refer to it as workforce housing or middle-income housing, the issue of making communities more sustainable is dependent on making sure that those households who are vital to those communities are self-sustainable.