The Impact of Infrastructure and Workforce Challenges on Local Housing Supply

The Housing Supply Accelerator, a partnership between the American Planning Association (APA) and the National League of Cities (NLC), is dedicated to locally driven housing supply solutions. Its mission involes enhancing local capacity, identifying critical solutions, and refining processes that align the efforts of public and private stakeholders in the housing sector aimed at meeting housing needs at the local level.

Throughout the year, APA and NLC organized three convenings exploring the core drivers of the nation's local housing supply challenges: construction and development, finance, and land use and regulations. Amidst these discussions, two pivotal issues consistently emerged on bolstering housing supply — workforce and infrastructure challenges.

The Housing Supply Accelerator's steering committee met with core, regional, and national stakeholders in Atlanta to delve into the intricate linkages between infrastructure, workforce, and housing supply on November 14-15, 2023. The convening explored the importance of strategically aligning infrastructure investments with housing development and planning for current and future workforce needs to address local housing supply challenges. Furthermore, the convening highlighted that infrastructure and workforce needs must be addressed on local, regional, and state scales.

Infrastructure Challenges Related to Housing Supply

Infrastructure emerges as a critical concern for municipalities seeking to expand their housing supply. Limited financial resources for new infrastructure development and the maintenance of existing structures pose significant challenges for municipalities. The infrastructure concerns that municipalities face underscore the need to align infrastructure investments with current and future housing needs. Strategic investments in infrastructure, aligned with housing development, hold the potential to shape the housing supply needed to fulfill community needs.

Key Considerations:

Prioritize housing investments in areas with existing infrastructure when feasible.

To optimize the allocation of limited resources for infrastructure development, prioritize housing investments in areas with existing infrastructure whenever feasible. Additionally, repurposing underutilized infrastructure, such as vacant parking lots and shopping malls, can sustain development within existing infrastructure.

Incentivize transit-oriented development.

Municipalities can utilize existing federal and state transportation or regional dollars supporting housing development in conjunction with transportation. For example, the Atlanta Regional Commission's Livable Centers Initiative incentivizes local jurisdictions to create vibrant and walkable neighborhoods accessible to people of all ages, abilities, and income levels.

Engage and leverage regional stakeholders.

Regional commissions play a pivotal role in assisting local governments by sharing best practices, providing resources, and establishing connections with private, non-profit organizations, and financial partners.

Workforce Challenges Related to Housing Supply

The convening highlighted challenges associated with a shortage of workers in the construction industry, creating obstacles in meeting housing development demands. An evident training gap and an aging workforce emphasize the urgent need for strategic initiatives aimed at attracting more people to the construction sector, especially women and individuals from Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities.

In addition to the scarcity of skilled workers, another critical facet of the workforce challenge lies in municipalities grappling to retain and house their local talent, emphasizing the intricate relationship between housing and workforce. Individuals seeking housing often rely on securing employment, and, conversely, gaining employment is contingent on accessible and adequate housing options. This circular relationship reinforces the necessity for integrated solutions that address both the housing and workforce needs holistically.

Key Considerations:

Partnerships with educational institutions and organizations.

Consider partnerships with school systems to spark student interest in construction careers, with early engagement before high school levels. There are several programs with the goal of educating students on the importance of the skilled trade workforce. Be Pro Be Proud is a mobile workshop inspiring and training the next generation of skilled workers in various trades, including construction services.

Support existing workforce training programs.

Bolster existing workforce training programs within the construction industry, leveraging private sector-led initiatives like the Home Builders Institute (HBI) that provides trade skills training and education for the building industry nationwide.

Adapting local upskilling and reskilling strategies and programs.

Consider collaboration with the private sector, educational institutions, and other industry players to implement upskilling and reskilling programs, particularly for the construction workforce. Workers can be upskilled and reskilled from adjacent industries to meet the demands of the construction sector.

Prioritize local jobs and skill retention in the construction industry.

Consider strategies that focus on retaining local talent in the construction industry with a commitment to equitable entry into the labor force and equitable outcomes. Examples include implementing local hiring laws and earn-and-learn models.

The convening shed light on the challenges faced by some localities, whether dealing with existing infrastructure at capacity or the complete absence of critical infrastructure.

Another challenge that emerged during the convening is the misalignment between job sites, housing, and existing infrastructure. In response, cities and regions must proactively plan housing, workforce, transportation, economic development, and other community efforts. Collaborating with regional, state, and private stakeholders becomes crucial to incentivize the co-location of incoming jobs and industries with housing developments and existing infrastructure.

In addition to addressing these challenges on a local level, there is an urgent need for both infrastructure and workforce planning at the regional level. Leveraging shared resources and knowledge fosters collaborative solutions to infrastructure and workforce challenges. This empowers municipalities to respond proactively to regional forces impacting local needs, ensuring that the current and future needs of communities are met comprehensively, from housing, to workforce, to economic development, to infrastructure.

While this marks the conclusion of the convenings addressing the drivers of the nation's local housing supply challenges, the work of the Housing Supply Accelerator is just beginning. For further information, direct inquiries to housing@planning.org.

Special thanks to our program partners for joining the convening including the Mortgage Banker Association and National Association of Homebuilders; and representatives from national and regional organizations including Atlanta Regional Commission, the Burning Glass Institute, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, Home Builders Institute, National Housing Trust, and Pallet Shelter.

A partnership between the American Planning Association (APA) and the National League of Cities (NLC), the Housing Supply Accelerator is a national campaign to improve local capacity, identify critical solutions, and refine processes that enable communities and developers to work together to produce, preserve and provide a diverse range of quality housing by aligning the efforts of public and private stakeholders in the housing sector to meet housing needs at the local level.

Top Image: iStock/Getty Images Plus - Luckie8


December 20, 2023