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MMHF Launches Workforce Housing Innovation Competition

MMHF calls housing innovators, statewide, to bring forward innovations that reduce costs and time to build workforce housing

GOAL: Double Oregon’s annual housing production over the next ten years, for half the cost and half the time. My grandmother worked for HUD building rural housing for seniors until she was in her 80’s. She intrinsically understood that people, places, and economies are stronger when everyone has a place to call home, right where they need to be. I think she would be inspired by the creativity born of these challenging times and incredible need. We will need all hands on deck to deliver the foundation for Oregon’s economic recovery – better homes for all of us. Affordable quality workforce housing enables people, places, and economies to reach their full potential; but when middle-income homes are missing from our towns and cities, everyone’s quality of life suffers. Nurses are bussed to the Coast for shifts, and housed in hotels, since there are few homes there they can afford. Factory workers in rural Oregon turn down jobs when the closest affordable units are a 45-minute commute away. Growing companies in Southern Oregon are growing desperate for employees, since fire has claimed thousands of the units, squeezing the market even tighter. The price to own a modest home everywhere has skyrocketed. We are not developing enough housing to keep up with Oregon’s economic growth, and what is built is increasingly expensive. Despite its massive impact on our national macroeconomic vitality—7.4% of GDP including multiplier effects—our residential housing ecosystem lacks the capacity to innovate at scale and meet our needs at lower costs and higher speed. Both housing unavailability and high cost are a drag on our economy. Jobs in every sector go unfilled if our workforce cannot afford to live near job creators. Middle-income housing, in particular, is in short supply and rarely built, though its owners and renters power our economy. Middle-income earners make too much money to qualify for subsidized affordable housing, but not enough to afford new housing being built near economic opportunity. Traditionally underserved populations—particularly minorities, new Americans, and rural populations—experience this crisis most acutely. Though residential construction is so foundational to people’s lives and our economy, the industry has evolved at a glacial pace. Since housing creation is generally hyper-local and bespoke, new ideas spread slowly, if at all. No broad-based network exists to share, commercialize, and scale cost-saving innovation. Research and development are rarely capitalized on in a broad way. Innovation funding to scale workforce housing to serve our vast need does not exist. As a result, we must rethink the entire housing innovation infrastructure necessary to power our nation’s economy and impact people’s lives. Today the Missing Middle Housing Fund (MMHF,) a new Oregon-based nonprofit, launches its Workforce Housing Innovation Competition, a scalable model to source, test, pilot, and connect innovators across the industry sector to build real housing projects. By providing a framework for connection and modest capital to encourage participation, the Competition will surface innovation throughout the housing development ecosystem: finance, land assembly, regulatory/zoning, design, materials/supply chain, construction/assembly, labor force, and operations. Innovation isn’t just for developers – it’s everywhere you look in the complex world of creating homes for real people. We need to reduce costs and development times to deliver the scale of homes necessary to support our workforce, our families, friends and neighbors.

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