Economy, Labor Shortage

Affordable housing can help crush the US labor shortage

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10/23/2021 1:20:00 PM

The housing crisis and the labor shortage are linked: People can't take jobs if there aren't affordable homes nearby

Insider tells the global tech, finance, markets, media, healthcare, and strategy stories you want to know.

It's a fairly simple concept: Though the Bay Area boasts abundant jobs, housing for the people to fill those jobs isn't affordable. In Columbus, however, affordable housing can be found within a reasonable distance from the city's largest job hubs.

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San Francisco's problem reveals the link between the housing crisis and the labor shortage. Columbus's planning hints at a solution for both. Across the US, businesses are struggling to fill job openings. The trend, now known as the"labor shortage," has changed the game for employers and employees. Americans are flexing unprecedented bargaining power and demanding higher pay to return to work. Those with jobs are quitting at record pace for new opportunities, hoping to capitalize on the overwhelming demand for workers.

It's working. Average wages have risenat the fastest pace in decadesas firms scramble to rehire. Yet the shortage shows no signs of calming. More than 10 million job openings remained unfilled at the end of August, signaling the return to full employment will take some time. headtopics.com

At the same time, the US housing market is still white-hot. A shortage of available homes has led to frenetic bidding wars andthe fastest price growth in 45 years. More houses are on the market than during pandemic lows, but it's still well below what experts estimate is needed to meet demand.

The shortages are two sides of the same coin. Cities with the most job openings don't have the affordable housing needed by many workers. And areas with cheaper housing don't have the promising labor markets to make them attractive.Fixing the housing market could be the best bet for fighting the labor shortage.

Housing and employment are fundamental to the American DreamThe gap between affordable housing and job access already has a name: spatial mismatch. The trend has been studied for years, but the pandemic's effects on the labor market brought the term back into the limelight.

It also describes where San Francisco can learn from Columbus. A 2019studyby the Urban Institute found that, while the San Francisco Bay Area had an overabundance of job openings, there weren't enough job seekers within a reasonable distance to fill them. It wasn't until one looked far into the Bay Area's surrounding neighborhoods that openings matched available workers. But that had more to do with fewer postings than more applicants. headtopics.com

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The landscape is different in Columbus. While the city had more open job than people seeking work, those jobless people tended to at least live within a reasonable distance to work hubs. By creating affordable housing and placing it near transit, Columbus was able to connect low-income residents with employment opportunities.

Similar effects can help close spacial mismatches throughout the US, Christina Stacy, a principal research associate at the Urban Institute, told Insider."People need safe, stable, affordable housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods in order to have any upward economic mobility. Certainly having affordable housing near jobs will help us get there," she said.

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