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Addressing the Housing Shortage

Friday morning, developers, municipal leaders and business leaders gathered for a Chamber Issue Forum to dive deeper into one of the region’s most pressing topics: housing.

Why it matters: With a 35,000-unit shortage projected by 2027 in Kent County alone, now is the time to act together on innovative solutions. There is often a tension between development and the regulatory environment and while that is true too in our region, significant collaborations, changes and strategies are moving forward.

The event focused on challenges and solutions regarding construction costs, regulatory barriers, and zoning reforms for workforce housing. Speakers emphasized collaboration, financial support, and smart zoning changes. The audience was encouraged to engage with planning commissions, stay informed on policy changes, and streamline processes to address housing affordability.

 

The Solution

There is no easy button. A multifaceted approach involving collaboration, financial support, policy reforms, and public engagement can help make consistent, incremental progress to improve regional supply and affordability.

  • Stabilization in Construction Costs: Despite initial pandemic-related increases, there’s now a stabilization and even softening in some areas, particularly in wood products. This stability boosts builder confidence.
  • Collaboration for Budget-friendly Designs: Emphasizing collaboration between builders, designers, and buyers can help align designs with budget constraints, potentially lowering costs.
  • Financial Support for Workforce Housing: Successful funding strategies involving local community foundations, government grants, and tax increment financing (TIF) were highlighted as crucial for workforce housing projects.
  • Regulatory Barriers Highlighted: Regulatory hurdles, including lengthy approval processes and infrastructure costs, were identified as significant barriers to affordable housing development.
  • Zoning Reforms for Increased Housing: Efforts to overhaul zoning regulations were discussed as a means to facilitate more housing options and address community needs effectively.
  • Importance of Public Engagement: Encouragement for community members to engage with planning commissions and advocate for supportive policies to streamline the development process.
  • Need for Support for Emerging Developers: Recognition of the importance of supporting smaller developers to ensure a diverse range of housing options and address affordability issues.
  • Emphasis on Supply and Demand Dynamics: Highlighting the importance of addressing housing supply shortages to alleviate pressure on housing costs across all income levels.
  • Recognition of Inspection Process Challenges: Acknowledgment of challenges in the inspection process and the need to align housing needs with regulatory requirements effectively.
  • Call for Consistency in Policies: Frustration expressed over inconsistencies in policies across different communities, emphasizing the need for standardized and supportive regulations.
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