Georgia has had a thriving home building and construction market over the past 20 years before COVID-19. However, since the pandemic outbreak, the state’s homebuilding market has suffered tremendously due to escalating material costs and labor shortages.
As a result, Georgia is in the midst of an unprecedented workforce housing crisis.
Not one to stand on the sidelines, The Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) has joined forces with the state’s Chamber of Commerce on a workforce homeownership initiative that includes support from the Habitat for Humanity of Georgia. The goal of this coalition is to explore possible solutions to the housing crisis through partnership with communities, government agencies and other key stakeholders vested in Georgia’s future.
“This is a crisis of ‘housing affordability’ (versus subsidized ‘affordable housing’ for lower-income families) which means that first responders, working families and first-time homebuyers are getting priced out of the market,” said Alex Fernandez, VSI’s Director of Advocacy.
According to Alex Fernandez, VSI’s Director of Advocacy, the real winners in these respective states are home buyers, home builders, distributors and specifiers.
But make no doubt it’s also a big win for VSI.
“Over the last three years, we have come to be considered by NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) and local Home Builders Association (HBA) chapters as the experts on this topic,” Fernandez explained.
We feel that we can leverage our experiences in other states to provide meaningful support here. And we can reach out to our members and contractors in Georgia to help gain traction.
To demonstrate the housing predicament in the state, the Habitat for Humanity in Georgia reported that the average new home sales price there is $365,000. This does not bode well in a state where residents spend over half their income on housing, and 20% of its population live at or below federal poverty levels (“The Housing Situation in Georgia,” Habitat for Humanity of Georgia, Inc.).
“This housing crisis does not just affect lower-income families,” explained Ryan Willoughby, Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity of Georgia. “When the average annual income per family in Georgia is $58,000, you’re talking about middle-income families that can’t afford to buy a home either.”
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is spearheading this coalition because they believe strongly that – in order to navigate this post-COVID economy – the state needs to reexamine its “business as usual” approach in its stewardship of the homebuilding industry. This includes the state’s lack of public investment in homebuilding and local bans on materials that are compliant with building codes.
“We have to pivot towards an attitude of ‘necessity being the mother of invention’ when it comes to addressing our homebuilding crisis,” said Chris Clark, President & CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. “The industry can’t survive when the average price of a home in cities like Athens is more than $400,000.
If we can collaborate with industry groups, the state legislature and other relevant government agencies, we can find new ways to put people back to work, ease the burden of material costs and create smart incentives and investment packages that galvanize home builders and put working families on the path to ownership.
The key factors for advocacy that the coalition will be focused on include:
- Tax credits and related incentives for homebuilders
- Incentives for first-time home buyers
- Revisiting restrictive zoning ordinances and regulatory impediments to homebuilding that drive up material costs
- Encouraging government partnerships that transcend partisan politics
As they do the work of developing the coalition and engaging in policy discussions, the Chamber and its partners are working on “the right message” that’s focused on workforce housing accessibility and reversing economic misfortunes in the state.
“It’s going to be a message of inclusion because everyone is affected by this housing crisis,” Clark stated. “Making homeownership affordable and accessible for our workforce also means new job creation and retention, and enormous potential for new business development throughout the supply chain.”
As for VSI, they view their support in Georgia as being essential to the future of homebuilding nationwide. “We hope that our presence there will attract other national and regional industry groups to participate,” said Fernandez.
Don Browne is a writer, entrepreneur and local legislator who believes that the power of words can change the world. He provides unique writing services for clients in the construction, health care, IT and hospitality sectors. He has a passion for small business and start-ups, as well as writing about Irish history, family and corporate biographies. As a homeowner and father of four who is passionate about community development, Don looks forward to writing more about the exciting possibilities of creating traditional neighborhoods and more sustainable communities using modern materials.