Why Your Workforce Can’t Find Housing & What You Can Do About It

Park Vista Construction

Article orginally published on page 14 of the October 2023 edition of the West Coast Way magazine.

Co-Authored by:
Katherine Block | Director of Development & Operations, Jubilee Minstries
Kaitlin Verkaik | Communications & Marketing Manger, Lakeshore Habitat for Humanities

The phrase “affordable housing crisis” Isn’t new to any of us, but how is this real problem impacting our local businesses and what can you do about it? If you’re wondering why your workforce can’t find housing, read on.

From 2020 to early 2023 the median sales price for existing homes rose from $283,000 just before the pandemic to $375,400 in March 2023. These higher home prices make it nearly Impossible for first time homebuyers to save enough to afford up front and down payment costs to secure a mortgage, and most likely become cost-burdened (spending 30% or more on their monthly housing costs) due to the ever-higher ongoing mortgage payments.

But let’s take a look closer to home. Here in Ottawa County 9,256 renters and 12,357 homeowners are cost-burdened. Rising costs for both mortgages and rental units well-exceed income increases, housing construction Isn’t keeping pace with need, and often what’s built prices out the asset-limited, Income-constrained, employed families in our community. All of this can often lead to stressed workers with greater absenteeism, lower productivity, and an unstable
workforce with an increased demand and costs for social services.

How Our Partnership Meets Local Housing Needs

Although the housing shortage highlights a mismatch between earnings and basic costs of living, Lakeshore Habitat and Jubilee acknowledge that employers can’t keep up with the Increase in cost of living, which is why we partner together to create quality, attainable housing opportunities for members of the community.

  1. Our partnership helps meet the greatest need for housing: We focus on building housing units between $150,000-$249,999. Over 5,000 units In this price range are needed in Ottawa County.
  2. Our partnership creates neighborhoods that are socioeconomically diverse: Lakeshore Habitat partners with future homeowners who make 30-80% of the area median income, while Jubilee partners with future homeowners who make 80-120% of the area median income.
  3. Our partnership increases capacity for both nonprofit organizations: Since 2019, we have built a 10-home neighborhood called Park Vista Place on the southside of Holland. Vista Green, currently under construction, is four times as large, offering 42 homes for affordable homeownership at 285 W 36th Street.

How Our Partnership Strengthens Our Local Economy & Community

When local families can access affordable homeownership, studies show there is higher incidence of completing education, fewer incidences of illnesses and sick days from school or work, greater participation in community activities, improvement in child behavior (children of homeowners are 116% more likely to graduate from college), improved financial status, child welfare and family life. Property taxes can improve infrastructure that impacts everyone. Our joint housing projects increase the funds available to the city, which contribute to the overall growth of our local economy. The upward movement of community members leads to overall community growth.

What You Can Do

If you’re a local business searching for your workforce, do you need to figure out the affordable housing crisis? No, but you can be (and we need you to be) an agent for change. By advocating for affordable housing and supporting local organizations doing what they can to create solutions, you are changing the housing scope of our future, and the future housing options of your own workforce.
“We need to stop assuming that millions of low- and moderate-income workers are not “ready” for homeownership. We need to stop seeing housing as a reward for financial success and instead see it as a critical tool that can facilitate financial success. Affordable homeownership is not the capstone of economic well-being; it is the cornerstone.” – Mike Loftin, Homeownership is Affordable Housing, Urban Institute, 2021.

Want to learn more? Sign up for Lunch & Learn Housing Events this Fall by contacting Lakeshore Habitat or Jubilee.

Katherine Blocker is the Director of Development & Operations at Jubilee Ministries. She began her nonprofit career at the Battle Creek Community Foundation as a Program Assistant in the Grants Department and within two years was a co-lead of the department as a Grants Program Officer. Accepted as 1 of 12 upcoming leaders in the Council of Michigan Foundations Leadership cohort in 2022, she completed the program right as she moved to Holland and began her role with Jubilee. She earned her B.A. in International Development Studies and Political Science at Calvin University in 2019.

Kaitlin Verkaik is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity. She stumbled into the nonprofit world unexpectedly almost ten years ago and never looked back. Prior to Lakeshore Habitat, Kaitlin served as Community Engagement Director at Love Your Neighbor. Changed by a training called Serving With Dignity, she became a certified trainer herself in order to work more closely with individuals, churches and nonprofits, and shift perspectives on service and outreach. She earned her B.A. in Education and Psychology at Calvin University in 2010.

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