Fixing the Affordable Housing Crisis: Building Material Companies’ Role

There is an affordable housing crisis in the United States. Forty-six million people live in poverty, which is the highest rate in almost 60 years and a 38% increase over the past 13 years.

Every state faces a shortage of affordable and available rental housing for low-income households. Millions of Americans are spending 70% or more of their income on housing. At the same time, rents continue to increase while construction of affordable housing has lagged behind the need. City, state and federal subsidies for low-income housing are also falling.

how it happens

Eleven or twelve years ago, Nevada was ground zero for the housing crisis. Today, it is an epicenter for the affordable housing crisis and example of how it happens. Working class refugees fleeing California’s affordable housing crisis are displacing low-income residents in many parts of Nevada. Displacement leads to sprawl, long commutes and workers spending more time away from their families, which also leads to other consequences.

In the most affected markets, the affordable housing crisis has a ripple effect that touches everybody. Seattle, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Orlando, San Jose, Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Francisco, San Diego, New York City, Boston and Denver have all been affected.

Microsoft leading by example

The affordable housing crisis is an enormously complex issue without many simple or quick fixes. But Microsoft, in a sign that the situation is reaching a breaking point in Seattle, recently committed $500 million to building affordable housing in the Seattle market. Microsoft is showing us that affordable housing is everyone’s problem to face. In their case, Microsoft recognizes that it has a responsibility to those people left behind in communities that have been transformed by the tech boom. Microsoft sees the need in Seattle for affordable housing for non-tech workers, teachers, shuttle drivers, firefighters and other middle- and lower-income residents.

Sure, Microsoft makes about $9 billion per quarter and has another $140 billion in cash and short-term investments, so you may say they can afford to put some money towards their community. However, they also have shareholders who could have a less altruistic view of the affordable housing crisis and the company’s role in addressing it. To be sure, Microsoft is setting an example and hoping other corporations will follow suit and commit financial resources to chip away at a huge national problem.

role of building materials industry

As the affordable housing crisis gains awareness and becomes a bigger part of the national dialogue, we believe there are critical roles for building materials companies to play. We expect to see more building products companies develop innovative new product solutions expressly focused on affordable housing development, because it’s a problem worth addressing and ultimately worth solving.

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