I found today’s Residential Economics Issues & Trends Forum to be very interesting! NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, was paired with Lisa Sturtevant, President & Founder of Lisa Sturtevant & Associates, to discuss a topic which is generating a significant buzz: housing affordability.
Here in Boston, the amount of income required to live in an average home is approximately $54,000. The average middle class wage earner (professions such as individuals in the service industry and teachers) is earning $25,000 to the mid-low $40,000s! Low inventory levels across the country are driving prices up dramatically in even traditionally moderately priced markets such as Grand Rapids, MI.
To combat this trend, community leaders will need to re-think a lot of assumptions around housing stock, zoning, taxation and resource allocation. One pertinent example is Amazon’s recent bid to locate a community for its second headquarters. One of the top priorities for the company in determining a selection was the availability of housing for their workforce. Communities which could not demonstrate that they have a plan to address this issue were knocked out of consideration. Communities are having to grapple with the fact that world class companies may choose to locate elsewhere if housing affordability threatens their ability to attract and retain good workers.
Additionally, Lisa Sturtevant noted that there is a significant body of research which supports the reality that families and individuals thrive in communities when people feel secure in their ability to afford reasonable shelter. The mental health and stability of an area is strongly correlated to well-planned communities that allow for a mix of different types of residential options to provide living spaces to a diverse spectrum of society.
A big take-away from this meeting is that housing affordability is key to tackling a lot of social issues including the impact of discrimination and the mental and emotional health. The harsh truth is that in too many communities across the nation, zoning laws and regulations were used as a tool to promote discriminatory practices. We are living with the legacy of those practices today. REALTORS® have a significant part to play in this dialog. Our voices and expertise must be a part of the solution to help our communities create vibrant spaces to support healthy lifestyles in an affordable way.