The MMHF is a nonprofit workforce housing innovation fund and incubator.
Our mission is to lower workforce housing construction costs through innovation.
The United States is experiencing a housing availability and affordability crisis.
Housing, a fundamental human need, is a burden for millions. The costs to create new homes are high and rising, so not enough homes are built to keep pace with demand. The result is that people, places, and economies do not thrive as they should. In growing places, housing of any kind is rarely created at the scale and pace to maintain affordability and economic vitality - but the situation is particularly acute for what's known as workforce housing. Middle income earners - between roughly 80% and 120% of Area Median Income (AMI) - struggle to find homes they can afford, and don't qualify for traditionally subsidized low-income housing. The result is that housing to serve them is "missing."
The Solution: Solving the housing crisis demands that many innovators test, commercialize, and scale their ideas. The Missing Middle Housing Fund provides incentives for developers, general contractors, architects, manufacturers, financiers, and workforce educators to reduce the costs to create housing through innovation. The MMHF supports projects, research and development, and the ultimate incubation of innovative business ideas, products, and partnerships that reduce the cost to create homes, starting with workforce housing.
Millions of families are cost-burdened by their homes, a situation that is well documented. Nationwide, 36.5 million households spend more than 30% of their income on housing-related expenses, pushing them to the edge of economic security. 524,000 of these are Oregon households.
Oregon is woefully deficient in creating housing for its citizens. Oregon's historical under-production of housing has led to a current deficit of ~111,000 units versus market need, which means Oregon ranks second worst in the nation in terms of under-production. At a recent conference, economists ECONorwest stated that over the next 5 years, we need to produce a total of between 145,000 and 195,000 units, and up to 300,000 across the next decade. They also pointed out that despite this need, Oregon has only produced an annual average of about 20,000 housing units over the last five years, and even that represents a large increase over the previous decade. This means we need to almost double our current construction capacity.
This construction and inventory deficit has led to skyrocketing housing costs, and is now impacting Oregon’s economy. Businesses from the coast to central Oregon now cite housing’s unavailability and high costs as major impediments to growth and hiring. In growing locales like Lebanon, Boardman, and Medford, there's almost no where to find housing. The challenge affects both rural and urban dwellers alike; and as with most systemic challenges, minorities, new Americans, and those far from services and resources feel the squeeze the most. In the midst of a pandemic and after a particularly destructive wildfire season, Oregon needs to focus on both economic vitality and lower costs to build and secure more housing.
In recent years, governments, nonprofits, and the corporate sector have started to allocate more resources to the housing crisis, almost always focused on those making 60% or less of Area Median Income (AMI.) While this represents critical investment, it fails to address the sizable population making between 80% and 120% of AMI, the “Missing Middle,” also known as workforce housing. Workforce housing construction costs are similar to affordable or market rate housing costs - but have neither affordable housing subsidies nor market rate rents to make projects “pencil.” As a result, income-restricted workforce housing is almost never built, and these families routinely pay more than 30% of their income for market-rate housing. They end up severely housing cost burdened, and more vulnerable to economic disruption.
Housing ecosystems rarely reward cost efficiency and innovation, and so, labor, land, and materials shortages result in persistently high construction costs. We can’t keep up with demand for housing, and the housing we DO build gets ever more expensive. A foundational change is critical to addressing both the housing crisis and economic recession.
The Missing Middle Housing Fund (MMHF) serves as a gap fund and incubator for cost efficiency innovations in housing development. Construction innovation can lower costs, but progress is slow and impacts a miniscule percentage of units built each year. Innovation happens within selected firms; but since innovation commercialization isn’t usually a core skill set for developers and general contractors, cost-efficiency solutions are rarely scaled across various housing stakeholders.
The MMHF will support these innovations broadly, in many geographies, enabling local communities and development interests to capitalize on local expertise and preferences for certain types of housing. By accelerating and commercializing private and nonprofit sector innovations, the MMHF fuels economic growth while supporting those traditionally most impacted by the housing affordability crisis - working families, BIPOC communities, and communities far from resources and services. Through this work, more diverse styles of workforce housing will be created faster, lowering housing costs for all.