Three years ago this month, WRAG helped to start the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington (HLG), a collection of more than a dozen public and private sector leaders concerned about housing affordability in the Greater Washington region. Because of the enormity of the issue, everyone around the table knew we needed to do things differently, and we needed to work together.
Recently, the group kicked-off cross-sector regional impact dialogues involving elected officials, as well as leaders of business, philanthropy, advocacy, development, and financial institutions, who all agreed that we must address housing affordability as a regional challenge. One of the most powerful things to come out of that first discussion was how our regional housing affordability challenge has touched everyone – even elected officials and powerful business leaders – in some way.
Throughout the past three years, Diana Meyer, Washington Metro Marketplace Manager of Citi Community Development and WRAG Board Member, has spearheaded much of the work of the HLG. In addition, she has been supportive of and involved in WRAG’s overall housing work for many years. As she prepares to retire later this summer, she put pen to paper regarding the Greater Washington region’s urgent housing need, the work of the HLG, and how all of us need to work together on this issue to make a difference for our region.
– Gretchen Greiner-Lott, Vice President of WRAG
By Diana Meyer
Washington Metro Marketplace Manager
Citi Community Development
Alarmed by new data on the shortage of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income residents of our region, over a dozen nonprofit and private sector leaders came together to form the Housing Leaders Group of Greater Washington (HLG). The group is working on how to address the shortage and its negative impact on the regional economy and quality of life of its residents. Over the past three years, the HLG has held several convenings of public and private sector leaders and practitioners to address housing affordability, including co-hosting the plenary sessions of HAND’s annual meetings, and created two reports.
Our region’s housing costs, among the most expensive in the nation, are affecting all income levels except the highest. Low, moderate and middle income wage earners – people working in jobs vital to our economy – are either paying extraordinary portions of their incomes for housing or seeking to live further away from their jobs, further exacerbating transportation challenges and their respective total housing costs.
Cross-sector collaboration is critical to the success of regional efforts to address housing affordability. The Greater Washington region and its public and private sectors are inextricably interdependent. And the housing market is complicated – we live in one jurisdiction and work or study in another. The private sector or government alone cannot overcome the housing affordability crisis we are facing. Our aim should be for all sectors to think and cooperate regionally and act locally within our respective jurisdictions and sectors.
Already, jurisdictions around the region are employing many creative and impactful initiatives, and they can do more with planning and zoning powers and underutilized public land – but other sectors need to engage at a higher level on housing affordability. Employers, financial institutions, developers and business organizations must look at how they can collaborate across sectors and what they can do themselves in reducing costs, improving design and supporting regional and local strategies.
All residents of the Greater Washington region should look at how they and their sector can pursue solutions to the housing affordability crisis. Together, we can make a difference.