THE NAHB HAS FOCUSED MUCH OF ITS ATTENTION this year on workforce housing. Despite favorable market conditions, millions of working families are unable to purchase or rent a decent home in or close to the communities where they work. Many are working two or three jobs to meet their housing expenses or living 50 miles or more from their place of employment. In some markets, the gap between those who can afford a home and those who can't is widening at an alarming rate, and affordable rental housing is in very short supply.

I'm proud to report that we've made great strides this year in addressing this serious problem and in bringing it to the attention of elected officials and other policy makers nationwide.

One of our most important tasks was mobilizing members nationwide to join in the effort. We provided every builder association in the NAHB federation with a public relations “tool box” that included press releases, backgrounders, op-ed articles, a PowerPoint presentation, policy briefs, print ads, and more so they could easily help with this effort. To date, more than 60 associations have signed on to the NAHB's Partnership for Housing America's Workforce and are participating in this important effort.

The NAHB also joined Fannie Mae in the Housing America's Workforce initiative to find creative ways to produce affordable housing for wage-earning families. The program was launched last summer in the Atlanta area, the first of 11 national demonstration sites for the initiative.

In each metro area, we will work to increase the availability of workforce housing, and we will seek to establish a coordinated effort among the local HBA, individual home builders, financial institutions, local governments, and other partners in the real estate arena. The successes in this effort will then be replicated in communities across the country.

We have also created the Innovation in Workforce Housing Awards to recognize outstanding examples of workforce housing communities and to encourage housing industry professionals to incorporate innovative solutions into their own projects.

With this program we hope to shine the spotlight on builders and developers who, through hard work, creativity, and determination, provided market-rate product that is affordable to working families. Equally important, information about these outstanding strategies for building workforce housing will be made available to builders across the country so they can apply them to their own markets. Winning entries will be announced in January at the 2005 International Builders' Show.

Capping off this year's activities will be a symposium on Dec. 8 to further examine how this complex issue affects families, businesses, and communities. We'll discuss ways that the building industry, the lending industry, and government can help improve the supply of housing that is affordable to families.

Freddie Mac, co-sponsor of the event, will present the results of a new survey about attitudes toward workforce housing at the conference. Richard F. Syron, Freddie's new CEO, will be the keynote speaker.

Shortly after the “Close to Home” symposium, the NAHB will publish a report summarizing its programs. This report will serve as a foundation for our ongoing efforts on this crucial issue. It will represent the culmination of an extremely productive year in our efforts to promote workforce housing.

Bobby Rayburn
President, NAHB Washington, D.C.