THE NAHB HAS FORMED AN AMBITIOUS PARTNERSHIP with mortgage finance company Fannie Mae to deliver workforce housing to some 1,000 communities nationwide.

Tops on the list is a $10 billion investment by Fannie Mae through the end of this decade to finance workforce housing in underserved low- and moderate-income areas. Fannie Mae estimates the investment will help develop more than 325,000 single-family and multifamily units.

Fannie Mae also pledged to expand its multifamily housing financing to $200 billion by 2009 and said it would fund three initial programs to develop housing for the chronically homeless: $25 million for low-cost predevelopment financing, and $5 million each to the Corporation for Supportive Housing and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

In addition, the plan calls for Fannie Mae and the NAHB to name a metropolitan area that will serve as a laboratory for addressing workforce housing issues. At a press conference in Washington last March, NAHB president Bobby Rayburn said the lab community will be named by June 30.

Here are some of the reasons workforce housing has become a hot-button issue:

  • Between 1997 and 2001, the number of lower-middle and middle-income households spending more than half their income on housing surged by more than 700,000, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.
  • The National Housing Conference reports that average salaries for elementary school teachers ($41,080), police officers ($40,970), and licensed practical nurses ($30,670) are too low for them to qualify for a mortgage on a $156,000 home.
  • Retail salespersons could not qualify to purchase a median-priced home in any of the 60 metropolitan markets studied by the National Housing Conference. Elementary school teachers could not qualify in 32 markets; police officers, in 28 markets; and licensed practical nurses, in 57 markets.
  • Based on HUD's fair market rents, households with one full-time, minimum-wage earner cannot afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.