Giving Compass’ Take:
• Unemployment in rural areas is widespread, but the housing crisis exacerbates unemployment challenges, making it more difficult for employers to recruit new people.
• How can public and private entities work with rural communities to provide affordable housing?
• A possible solution for housing in rural areas? Coordinated housing assistance.
In places where the unemployment rate is well below the national average — states like Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa — one would think it’d be easier for communities to recruit new residents to fill open jobs.
But the housing market works against rural towns and cities where jobs often stay open because there are too few affordable homes and apartments to buy or rent, or the ones that are affordable need lots of TLC. It’s a situation that threatens to turn low unemployment from an advantage into a liability.
“What we don’t want to see happen is employers in those rural communities say, ‘You know, I can’t find labor. I’m going to shut down and move on,'” said Richard Baier, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association and former head of the state Department of Economic Development. “The challenge now is to build enough units to catch up with that pent up demand, and do it economically.”
Housing shortages are a familiar story in tech hubs like Seattle, where rent is notoriously expensive, or Bakken oil-boom towns in the northern Plains, where the population spiked seemingly overnight.
“Sometimes we run into that barrier where we just can’t encourage folks to come here because housing can be a struggle,” Deakin said. “During the recession, we had folks from out of state who would get in their cars and just drive out here. We had a job for them. Now they had to find a place to live.”
Several states are trying to spur home construction. Nebraska recently created a $7 million fund to match housing investments, and Kansas and Iowa are using tax credits to lure investors to rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture even offers loan guarantees for some rural mortgages and apartment projects.
Read the full article about rural housing prices hurting employment by Grant Gerlock at Harvest Public Media.
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