Although the issue of insufficient affordable home options is on the radar of many community planners and officials, the problem is worsening. Apart from the economics of the residential real estate market, fear of declining home values often causes communities to impede affordable development. In turn, first-response emergency workers, teachers, and health care staff are forced to live outside the communities in which they perform essential functions.

Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide Corp. and chairman of a new non-profit group called Homes for Working Families, says, “It is time to bring new light into the issue of how we're forcing the families, especially of firefighters and police and rescue workers, farther and farther from where they're needed in a moment of crisis.”

The group, which is headquartered in Washington, D.C., aims to incite policy changes, with the goal of increasing subsidization of developers and working families and creating incentives for business to locate in better proximity to their workforces. “Maybe by this time next year, we'll be talking about another success story in how public and private sectors can partner to change a community by adding affordable options for these essential working families,” says Mozilo.