Realtor forum looks at workforce housing



September 28, 2012 2:18PM

Updated: September 28, 2012 4:28PM

OAK PARK — The National Association of Realtors is tackling the issue of workforce housing, and how not having enough of it affects a community.

The subject will be front and center at the organization’s 2012 National Forum on Workforce Housing: Bring Workers Home, held Oct. 10 and 11 at the Congress Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, 520 S. Michigan Ave., in Chicago.

The meeting spans two days, with the first dedicated to the forum and the second featuring NAR’s Employer-Assisted Housing class. Realtors, business folks, nonprofits, lenders, local government people and others from across the nation will descend on the annual event, held in Chicago at its inaugural launch in 2008 and now returning for the second time since its inception.

“We’re trying to bring the Realtor community together with all these people. With the changes in the housing market, we wanted to take another look and talk about it on a national level,” said Lora McCray, manager of housing opportunity with NAR. “We want to spread the word as much as possible.”

Communities in western Cook County would all benefit from additional workforce housing strategies, said Rob Breymaier, executive director of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. This includes making homeownership more affordable for workers needed in the community, such as nurses, those in retail, and public servants (teachers, police officers, etc.), Breymaier said.

“In these cases, the smart location of workforce housing opportunities in higher-opportunity areas would go a long way to improving the community,” Breymaier said. “State, regional and local governments could all play a role in encouraging, incentivizing and supporting smart housing development. Another great way to improve workforce housing options is for employers to get involved.”

Workforce housing is a nationwide issue and entails providing a range of affordability for everybody. Chicago does it the “smart way,” McCray said. “It’s one of the areas other people are looking to,” she said.

When people live close to where they work and can commute easily to and from work, it benefits the family, the employer and the community, said Lillie Sellers, project manager for the Metropolitan Planning Council, an event co-sponsor.

“Workforce housing provides this opportunity and encourages families to consider living near their job or along transit lines for easy access to their job,” Sellers said. “Employers are better able to maintain a stable and talented staff when employees have these options.”

As an added bonus for attending the forum, Illinois Realtors attending the second day class receive continuing education credits.