Rethinking the Factory Town to Meet America's Affordable Housing Needs

Is the return of the factory town the solution to jump-start new housing construction? Myron Curzan and Janet Lowenthal propose a plan for developing housing that caters specifically to workers stuck in between affordable and median housing.

In an essay for Urban Land, Curzan and Lowenthal detail their plan for employer-sponsored housing projects, in partnership with local governments and Fannie Mae, that will house employees who fall above the local median income levels but are still unable to afford housing at the market-rate. Workers most likely to benefit from this type of housing projects would be firefighters, police officers, hospital workers, teachers and other non-profit workers.

Curzan and Lowenthal claim that the mismatch between employee earnings and housing market prices is resulting in increased turnover rates, a troublesome concern for local economies. They write, "there is no way for a nurse in San Jose making about $75,000 to afford the median-priced house costing $545,000, or for a university employee in New York City making $60,000 to afford a median-priced unit costing $375,000. Most foreclosed properties are also out of reach because they are too expensive, involve a long commute, require substantial repairs, or all of the above."

Cities in high demand of affordable for-sale units include Boston, D.C., and Seattle. The idea is compelling, but will these and other cities in need of this niche housing solution find it workable in their own communities?

Full Story: A Jump Start for Housing

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