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National Association of REALTORS® and NHC join to address workforce housing issues in the D.C. region and Mid-Atlantic

Housing for workers proves critical as rents in Washington remain among nation’s ten most expensive

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rents and home prices in the Washington area have fallen slightly since 2010, following a national trend but still remain among the nation’s highest, meaning many metro residents cannot afford to live in the communities they serve. Solving this issue tops the agenda at a regional forum on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The Bring Workers Home forum, sponsored by the National Housing Conference and National Association of REALTORS® brings together national, state, and local leaders to explore the issues and identify effective housing strategies. The forum is part of a series of regional forums hosted by NAR and NHC to address workforce housing taking place throughout 2011 in Boston; Washington, D.C.; and Portland, Ore. Visit NHC.org or www.realtor.org/housingforums for more information.

During the forum, scheduled from noon to 5:00 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt Washington, REALTORS®, local and state business leaders and elected officials will work together to create workable solutions. The forum directly follows Solutions for Sustainable Communities, a three-day conference held by NHC and its research affiliate, the Center for Housing Policy, addressing affordability and other sustainability issues including energy efficiency and access to transit and jobs.

“As energy costs rise and population trends shift residents toward job centers and transit corridors, many Mid-Atlantic workers are priced out of housing options within a short commute of work,” said Lynn Ross, chief operating officer of the National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy, an organizer of Bring Workers Home. “Ironically, low- and moderate-income working families are often faced with unstable employment situations and are least able to absorb rising transportation costs or transportation emergencies. A car breaking down or a spike in oil prices might ultimately mean unemployment for families without access to affordable, safe, decent housing near transit.

“Home prices may have fallen somewhat nationwide and in the region, but that fact does little to help the most vulnerable families,” Ross added.

Ross referenced data released in June by the Center that highlights the difficulty working families in the Mid-Atlantic region have in finding affordable housing. Only three of the 72 jobs featured in the new study can afford a mortgage at Washington's median prices.  Workers in only seven of the 72 occupations studied cannot even afford typical rents despite working full-time. The interactive database, Paycheck to Paycheck 2011, is an online resource with data comparing income and housing costs throughout the U.S.  According to this year’s data, the median home price in the Washington area has fallen by almost $25,000 since last year, falling more than 9 percent from $270,000 to $245,000, but fell in the rankings from 25th most expensive homeownership market to 26th among 209 cities studied. Rent on a typical two-bedroom apartment in Washington also fell from $33 per month from $1,494 to $1,461, though the city still remained among the ten most expensive rental markets.

"Many individuals and families are experiencing a shortage of affordable workforce housing in their communities," said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, RI. "This is a nationwide crisis that needs to be addressed. The Bring Workers Home forum will not only highlight this issue, but will bring organizations and people together in the Mid-Atlantic region to offer solutions and guidance."

Employers, HR professionals, REALTORS®, urban and regional planners, housing and community development leaders, local elected and appointed officials and state HFA representatives from around the country are set to speak and attend. An outstanding lineup up speakers will explore the major issues, such as why housing is a critical factor in improving the economy in the Washington region and throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and highlight strategies to address the housing needs of the region’s working families. The keynote speech from Dr. Hassan Minor, Jr., of Howard University will address what employers stand to gain from creating and supporting workforce housing programs in their communities. Panels will highlight case studies about successful workforce housing programs including why local and regional partnerships help.