Housing crisis

Can businesses help solve the housing crisis?

Working with the public sector

Working directly with municipalities is another viable option, adds Hunt.

As organizations grapple with their role as corporate citizens in the affordable housing crisis, Hunt says they need to understand their motivation behind any initiative.

Companies, he says, have long had a strong case for tackling housing inequality for the service sector and professions such as teachers and first responders that underpin society, he says.

A major problem limiting the supply and production of housing is the lack of available and affordable land. However, local jurisdictions are already seeking to overcome this problem by identifying public assets that can be reallocated to residential use and handed over to developers who commit to creating and maintaining affordability.

Hunt mentions a deal he worked on in Seattle, where the city owned an unused 2.9-acre lot in the very valuable downtown that they had acquired during a road project. Valued at $89 million, the development deal brought in $143.5 million, of which $73 million was allocated to the city’s affordable housing and livability fund.

At the time, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan described it as a “generational opportunity” to take underutilized property and make bold investments to create jobs, more affordable, mixed-income housing, as well as safe transport links. Other highlights include a requirement to offer local businesses rental discounts to create community space, a partner share with the YMCA and a co-working space.

Seattle isn’t alone in striving to make affordable housing a priority when selling or leasing land. Los Angeles, California, Washington DC and Montgomery County, MD, to name a few, have all championed such initiatives.

From working with municipalities to creating funds to fight affordable housing, Hunt says companies, especially those focused on ESG, have the opportunity to effect real change.

“The private sector can play an important role in solving the housing crisis,” he says.