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Affordable Housing and the Workforce Shortage: Addressing Critical Needs

Community Development
Affordable Housing and the Workforce Shortage: Addressing Critical Needs

The Vicious Cycle: Housing Crisis and Workforce Challenges

As I stare out the window of my cozy (albeit cramped) apartment, I can’t help but feel a pang of frustration. It’s been a tough few years – the pandemic, the economic uncertainty, and now this housing crisis that seems to be strangling the life out of our communities. But you know what really gets me? The impact it’s having on our workforce.

It’s a vicious cycle, isn’t it? Lack of affordable housing drives workers away, leaving businesses struggling to find the talent they need. And when companies can’t find the right people, it stifles economic growth and makes it even harder for folks to find good jobs and stable housing. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

I remember talking to my friend Marsha, who runs the Business Council of Westchester. She put it bluntly – “Employers can’t compete to attract and retain talent for their workforce without attractive housing opportunities available to its prospective employees. This housing crisis threatens our economic future.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

A Statewide Crisis Demands Statewide Action

But this isn’t just a local problem – it’s happening all across New York. That’s why I was so encouraged to see Governor Kathy Hochul stepping up with her New York Housing Compact, a comprehensive strategy to build 800,000 new homes in the next decade.

As Marsha from the Business Council put it, “The New York Housing Compact directly confronts this crisis unlike any of the past plans of her predecessors.” Finally, someone in Albany who recognizes that bold, statewide action is needed to tackle this crisis head-on.

And it’s not just Marsha singing Hochul’s praises. Michael Romita from the Westchester County Association said the Governor’s plan is “a bold step” that has the support of businesses, nonprofits, and housing advocates across the state. Even local mayors, like Tom Roach in White Plains and Noam Bramson in New Rochelle, are applauding Hochul’s leadership and calling for collaborative efforts to meet this “urgent challenge.”

Empowering Communities to Solve the Housing Shortage

Now, I know what you might be thinking – “Great, another government program that’s going to get bogged down in red tape and special interests.” But that’s the beauty of Hochul’s approach. Instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, she’s empowering local communities to be part of the process.

As Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, “Our task is to work closely with our local governments using the tools available to achieve these goals.” And Mayor Vivian McKenzie of Peekskill hit the nail on the head – “The City is prepared to do its part to bring additional housing. I applaud the Governor’s forward-thinking and gathering of resources for municipalities and developers to bring New York additional fair housing options.”

By providing funding and flexibility for infrastructure improvements, the Housing Compact is setting communities up for success. As Middletown Mayor Joe DeStefano put it, “The Governor’s multifaceted Housing proposal aims to spur the construction of 800,000 houses across the state and provides $250 million so local communities can improve infrastructure to support the additional homes.” Now that’s the kind of forward-thinking I can get behind.

Investing in the Workforce of the Future

But it’s not just about building more homes – it’s about building the right kind of homes. And that’s where the Housing Compact really shines.

Take a look at what Pace University President Marvin Krislov had to say: “As we prepare our students to be the next generation of New York’s workforce, we know adequate affordable housing will continue to be a priority.” Bingo. If we want to attract and retain the talented workers of tomorrow, we need to make sure they have access to decent, affordable places to live.

And it’s not just students and young professionals who are struggling. As Tim Foley from the Building and Realty Institute of Westchester pointed out, “In Westchester our housing shortage comes with real costs and those costs are borne by seniors, millennials, people of color, middle-class families and others who struggle with rising rents and dwindling affordable home ownership options.”

That’s why the Housing Compact’s focus on transit-oriented development and ensuring all communities do their part is so crucial. As Annemarie Gray from Open New York said, “A mandate-based statewide framework that ends exclusionary zoning practices [and] encourages dense housing in transit-rich areas…is essential for addressing the depth of the crisis and increasing leverage for renters.”

Tackling the Workforce Shortage Head-On

But the benefits of the Housing Compact extend beyond just building more homes. It’s also about supporting the workers who keep our communities running – the nurses, teachers, first responders, and essential workers who are the backbone of our economy.

As Lucria Ortiz from the Yonkers Family YMCA put it, “Stable housing is fundamental to their health and livelihood.” And Maria Trusa from Form√© Medical Center shared a heartbreaking story about one of her employees trapped in a toxic living situation because she couldn’t afford anything else.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Housing Compact’s incentives for creating homes affordable to these critical workers. As Karen Haycox from Habitat NYC and Westchester said, “The Housing Compact includes incentives for the creation of homes affordable to first responders and essential workers and for the location of affordable housing close to transit corridors. These are smart decisions for our economies and the environment.”

A Brighter Future for All

Look, I know this housing crisis hasn’t been easy on anyone. But with bold, visionary leadership like Governor Hochul’s, I truly believe we can turn things around. Not just for the businesses struggling to find talent, but for the hardworking families and individuals who deserve a safe, affordable place to call home.

As Jolie Milstein from the New York State Association for Affordable Housing said, “Governor Hochul’s Housing Compact will incentivize affordable housing development, prioritize transit-oriented development, and install a system of accountability for local governments to reach housing growth targets. It’s a transformative way to solve the housing and affordability crisis in the state – and every corner of New York must work together to get it passed this year.”

So let’s roll up our sleeves, work together, and make this happen. Because when we invest in affordable housing, we’re not just building homes – we’re building stronger, more vibrant communities. And that’s a future I’m excited to be a part of. Who’s with me?

HACC Housing is committed to being part of the solution to New York’s affordable housing crisis. Check out our website to learn more about our work and how you can get involved.

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