Workforce Housing still seems like a term that is catching up on the buzz that it deserves. It seems that the initial impression it raps is that it is just another word for affordable housing. While this is partly true, Workforce Housing is actually a far more particular issue to be considered rather than thoughtlessly sweeping it into the broad definition of “Affordable Housing.” Think of it just as we learned our shapes in kindergarten. A square is always a rectangle, but a rectangle is NOT always a square. In the same way, Workforce Housing is always Affordable Housing, but Affordable Housing is NOT always Workforce Housing.
So if this is the case, what is Workforce Housing specifically? And why does it need more buzz than its getting? I thought you’d never ask!
Although not officially defined by HUD or any “housing language rule-makers” (if there was such a thing), the emerging [or at least my] understanding of the term is flowering into “Housing that provides for the Middle-Class workers who earn an honest, reasonable wage yet are finding it difficult to find affordable housing options near their work.” This instance, therefore, forces these workers to either choose a heavily cost-burdened housing option or find housing farther away from their work, therefore increasing their transportation costs and putting more burden on the honest but unlucrative income they are working so hard for.
Now we all know that higher stress levels lead to less productivity. (I know I’m digressing but keep following.) A study from 2014 featured in Forbes Magazine supports this.
Employees suffering from high-stress levels have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absenteeism levels than those not working under excessive pressure, according to research from professional services firm Towers Watson. The Global Benefits Attitudes survey found that levels of workplace disengagement significantly increase when employees experience high levels of stress. (Higginbottom, Forbes Magazine, September 2014).
The study also mentions that workers who have high-stress levels are likely to be absent more frequently for work than workers with lower stress levels. (Higginbottom, Forbes Magazine, September 2014). My digression leads to this point, Wouldn’t solving the problem of cost-burdening middle-income workers lower their stress-levels and therefore increase productivity on a macro-scale?
I know what you’re thinking, “Enough talking about generalities and theoreticals. All this makes sense, but where are we actually seeing this happen? Who are the people in this situation?”
Again, I’m glad you asked! A lot of people that fit into this category are the honest hard-working contributors to our communities. Among these workers are the people teaching our children. There is a growing number of teachers across the country being forced to move outside of the city they’re teaching in. Just this one trend (in one job category) should call for us to look at this as a real issue that affects more than just those teachers, but rather [it affects] whole communities. In other words, not only is this a pressing issue for those directly
Here are a couple of articles reported on this trend just in the past month:
With teachers moving away for cheaper housing in what the Mountain View Whisman School District superintendent is calling an “epidemic,” officials here are trying to stem the exodus by giving them the opportunity to live in the same city where they work. (Angst, Mercury News, March 2019)
The lack of available housing options hinders efforts to recruit employees. Our largest private sector employer is our growing hospital. Entry-level healthcare workers face the same housing affordability dilemma as teachers and first responders. Hospitality, service, and retail workers, at the heart of our county’s economy, are even more challenged. Housing stock is one of the criteria evaluated by companies contemplating a move to our location. (Tobin, Flagler Live, March 2019).
Whether you’re on the right or left, urgent toward improving society or have a more hands-off approach, no matter where you are on the social spectrum, I think most everyone agrees that we want the best education for our children. So how can we as a society stand by or even oppose this demand for more Workforce Housing as it is so clearly apparent that it has the real potential for negatively affecting the education of our children?
I’m not writing this because I had a eureka moment or breakthrough idea or solution to this issue. I decided to speak up on this issue to help further the conversation so that we as communities can start thinking forward on this issue. The more collaboration and brainstorming among our communities will ultimately lead to sustainable solutions for this issue of Workforce Housing.
Higginbottom, Karen. “Workplace Stress Leads To Less Productive Employees.” Forbes. September 11, 2014. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/karenhigginbottom/2014/09/11/workplace-stress-leads-to-less-productive-employees/#4b15f3a331d1.
Angst, Maggie, and Maggie Angst. “This Bay Area School District Wants to Fight an ‘epidemic’ by Building Teacher Housing.” The Mercury News. March 28, 2019. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/03/27/this-bay-area-school-district-wants-to-fight-an-epidemic-by-building-teacher-housing/.