Who will build the extra 10,000+ homes we need every year?
Help us create a Workforce Housing Consortium
The Oregon Workforce and Talent Development Board hosted the 2022 Oregon Talent Summit on April 12. A few hundred Oregonians dedicated to improving access to employment opportunities met in person at the Oregon Convention Center. Meeting in person was jarring enough after a multi-year hiatus from in-person large gather – but some of the statistics shared were eye opening in an entirely different way. (Find materials and videos from the Summit here.)
John Topogna of ECONW shared data from a survey of 268 companies in 11 industries in Oregon. It showed 85% of respondents had trouble finding additional employees and that one of the main barriers to attaining and keeping a family-sustaining job was access to convenient, affordable housing. Despite being in a room full of people who dedicate their lives workforce development, we heard almost no other commentary on this key statistic. Housing and employment are intrinsically linked, but the dedicated public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve each challenge are often working in silos. We must do better.
One of the key barriers to building more housing in Oregon is a shortage of skilled construction labor at all levels, from novice carpenters to site superintendents. We’ve heard from multiple contractors and subcontractors that they routinely turn down jobs due to a lack of labor – and this is in an low-vacancy environment desperate for housing. Alternatively, they simply raise their bids in an effort to turn down the flood of development opportunities coming their way – but this only makes development across the board more expensive. As we highlighted in our recent competition, construction labor accounts for up to 35% of the cost of new construction – so addressing the labor shortage is meaningful part of addressing the high costs of building more housing.
So, what to do? The Governor and Ben Cannon of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission announced at the Summit the State’s largest one-time investment in workforce development ever. Called Future Ready Oregon, the program directs $200 Million to diverse programs to better position Oregonians to attain and maintain good jobs.
The Missing Middle Housing Fund proposes creating a Housing Consortium to put the employers in the driver’s seat to access Future Ready Oregon capital, creating a virtuous cycle that will address the key barriers to employment. By directly addressing the real-time needs of the housing construction industry and increasing the pipeline of skilled labor, we can start to build more housing, faster and less expensively. Meaningfully increasing supply will drive down the cost of housing where it is needed most, decreasing the key barrier to family sustaining jobs. It’s a virtuous cycle. By increasing the pipeline of job seekers into the construction industry, teaching them new skills, and increasing productivity, we enable ALL industry sectors to increase their ability to hire, and put Oregon on the path to economic recovery.
Please get in touch if you’d like to learn more about our Consortium building efforts, and stay tuned as we learn more about the Future Ready Oregon opportunity.
CEO – MMHF
May 3, 2022