In Philadelphia on Nov. 19, 2009, and in Boise, Idaho, on Dec. 3, 2009, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and National Housing Conference hosted events focused on innovative employer-assisted housing (EAH) efforts, model partnerships, and new opportunities to link to the Sustainable Communities Initiative. At both events, Metropolitan Planning Council staff moderated panel presentations showcasing model workforce housing initiatives. Following are highlights from the two events.
NAR representatives pointed to the need for workforce housing to help the many families struggling with high housing costs or who have lost their homes to foreclosure.
Presenters described model EAH programs, which are offering help for homebuyers:
- Steve Wing, CVS' director of government programs, described the company's successful employer-assisted housing program and announced CVS' plan to offer the housing benefit to Chicago-area employees beginning in 2010.
- Mark Ellerbrook, with the City of Seattle, provided information about the city's partnership with Home Street Bank to offer housing assistance to Seattle employees.
- Other presentations highlighted the City of Philadelphia's EAH program, San Diego Realtors' assistance for police officers, and initiatives linking EAH to foreclosure response. The presentations are available on NAR’s web site.
Julie Spezia, executive director of Housing California, closed the day in Boise, highlighting key take-aways, including:
- EAH programs engage business leaders in supporting housing policy that meets the needs of working families, while helping individual families with their housing costs.
- Housing challenges must be addressed in coordination with land use policy, and in connection with jobs and transportation, so that families not only can afford their homes but also the costs associated with living in them, including energy and transportation expenses.
- Coordinated planning - linking housing, transportation, and job creation - is critical from a global perspective as well, to limit vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions.
The presentations showcased on-the-ground efforts that speak to the new Sustainable Communities Initiative, the effort by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and Environmental Protection Agency to coordinate their plans and investments to support livable communities. More information about the Sustainable Communities Initaitive is available. MPC urges stakeholders to support the Livable Communities Act, which would provide increased resources for projects that foster sustainable communities. MPC also supports the Transportation for America campaign, a broad-based effort to ensure the next surface transportation bill funds wise transportation investments, based on national objectives and accountable measures, supports sustainable development, including rewarding communities for providing affordable housing close to jobs and amenities, and invests in maintaining existing infrastructure.
Realtors can learn more about employer-assisted housing by enrolling in NAR's new EAH course, which was recently updated with input from MPC and will roll out in 2010. State Realtor associations also can apply to NAR for support for workforce housing initiatives. More information about NAR's Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grants is available online.