The entire world got paralyzed as the COVID-19 global pandemic led to travel restrictions, social distancing, and home quarantine. COVID-19 adversely affected all sectors; however, the hospitality sector was the worst hit. Hotel stays perpetually plummeted, and millions of hotel rooms were left empty in 2020. According to Maxwell Drever, communities across the United States experienced an acute affordable housing crisis, with renting fast becoming exorbitant by the day. In 2019, in practically every state, people in the low-income bracket ended up spending 30 percent of their monthly earnings on rent.
Conversion of Hotels into Affordable Workforce Housing
As the United States was struggling under the impact of COVID-19, policymakers in Albany and New York City were discussing ways to support the concept of transforming hotels into affordable workforce housing. Affordable workforce housing meant tackling the ongoing affordable housing crisis in the cities.
- The fundamental intuition is quite compelling. The global pandemic has compelled the closing down of several commercial establishments, particularly in New York City.
- Conversion of old and broken hotels to market rental apartments to capitalize on the demand, like never before.
Experts realized that building new affordable workforce housing could encounter several challenges. Labor, land, and materials were expensive even before the global pandemic, and their prices skyrocketed post-COVID-19. As such, several innovative developers came up with converting hotels into affordable workforce housing.
Reasons Why Building Public Housing Will Not Resolve Affordability Issues
- Local zoning and availability of land are the chief hurdles that come in the way of subsidized housing. Constructing subsidized housing is supposed to be illegal in many parts of the United States. Moreover, local zoning regulations prohibit structures apart from the one-family detached houses on most land across major cities and suburban areas.
- Public agencies were not conceived as real estate developers. Public agencies do not have the relevant experience or recent exposure to new construction. Real estate development is tricky, long, and complicated, even in the best scenario. These agencies are known to function under stricter processes and rules compared to the private sector firms.
- High-quality, affordable workforce housing requires a long-term commitment which may be lacking. Just a brief flirtation is not the solution to such an ongoing issue.
Tips to Improve Global Affordable Workforce Housing
Lay Emphasis on Sustainable Communities and Livelihoods
Many people were encountering a crisis due to reduced ‘real’ incomes. It was chiefly because of the extremely challenging economic conditions that impacted globally. Incomes contracted even more as people were relocated to an entirely new part of the city to avail themselves of housing. However, often the distance to the workplace increased. Henceforth, affordable workforce housing must ensure easy access to social infrastructure and, of course, jobs for fostering sustainable communities.
Pay Attention to Improving Housing Developer Capacity
Affordable workforce housing developers should enhance both before and after-project engagement. They must implement systems for accurately evaluating the capability of clients to repay loans. They must ensure that qualified homeowners can save adequate capital for achieving their deposit target.
Address the Issue of Land Scarcity
The land price seems to be a major hurdle to housing affordability for the poor and underprivileged urban communities. It necessitates innovative solutions for reducing costs. Maxwell Drever demands regulatory and policy interventions for minimum housing plot sizes and vertical building development.
To address the affordable workforce housing issue, the focus should be on creating affordable housing trusts. Moreover, it pays to relax all existing zoning regulations, density, and height restrictions and even reconsider minimum parking specifications. Focus on neighborhood revitalization for motivating change and impacting socioeconomic physiognomies of communities.