NCSHA Washington Report

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The original report can be found here.

Whether you think Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Airbnb have gotten too much credit or not enough for recent commitments that exceed $2 billion combined for affordable housing and homelessness efforts, mainly in Seattle and San Francisco, their pledges are only the splashiest in what looks like a rising tide of business leadership on the housing affordability crisis.

In Charlotte a “wave of donations” from civic leaders has eclipsed a $50 million goal and “means that more than $250 million in public and private money has been committed since 2018,” the Charlotte Observer reported earlier this month. The Washington Housing Initiative has raised more than $90 million for a loan fund and related community services in the District of Columbia.

The Austin Housing Conservancy has secured commitments from about 25 investors to acquire and preserve the affordability of apartments that are home to more than 1,200 people. The Twin Cities Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing Impact Fund has raised $32.5 million so far, mostly from Minnesota companies and foundations (and Minnesota Housing).

It’s not just financial institutions. A sandwich shop donated land to the Charlotte effort.

Yesterday in Indianapolis — where local leaders recently launched a $15 million fund to preserve affordable housing along transit lines, following the success of similar vehicles in Denver and the Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay areas — Indiana HCDA announced plans to co-invest in workforce housing initiatives with an industrial machine supplier, a medical device manufacturer, a nonprofit health system, and a resort in four different communities in the state.

“By participating in this new program, these organizations further prove how important housing is in attracting and retaining talent,” said Indiana Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch (R).

Affordable housing is a tough business for anyone — it was reported this week that a once-promising Dallas initiative may have stalled — and nobody should expect that the private sector alone can solve a problem as massive as the affordability crisis. But business leaders appear ready to do more, if approached the right way.

Chicago executive and civic leader King Harris, chairman of Illinois HDA, offered this advice from experience in a Brookings Institution essay last year:

“[W]hen you are able to target leaders who are receptive to the conversation, and you present them with information that resonates with their experience and the needs of their workforce, you may find yourself with some new, strong allies … You never know which CEO is going to be your region’s next housing advocate!”

There’s evidence that business leaders are feeling greater pressure to take on what they see as society’s most pressing problems.

It’s up to us to make sure housing is on their list.

Stockton Williams | Executive Director