With the cost of housing rapidly outpacing wages, the housing crisis has become a pervasive and drastic issue throughout the country.

recent report from the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship at George Mason University, where I recently served as executive director, suggests that “anchor institutions” can help address the crisis on a local level. The report was made for the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Anchor institutions — which include universities, technology corporations and health systems — are vitally important to their communities. They are also economic hotspots. But when employees or clients of anchor institutions face housing insecurity, they’re more likely to move away toward more affordable areas. That can lead to understaffing.

However, anchor institutions, including universities, are beginning to step up in a serious way to help solve the housing crisis. Their interventions are not only effective for their communities, but also fiscally responsible investments with steady returns.

The report details several examples.

The University of Virginia, for instance, has dedicated two underutilized plots of land its foundation owns to affordable housing, leasing the land to developers to build housing units. Durham Technical Community College, in North Carolina, is contributing a 10-acre location to a partnership with the Bank of America, Mosaic Development Group, and the Partnership for Southern Equity to build housing with a preference for their students.

Many colleges throughout the country, most notably in suburban and rural areas, already own underutilized land that can be contributed toward affordable housing initiatives. But owning land is not a prerequisite for investing in housing interventions.

In urban areas — where underutilized land is difficult, if not impossible, to find — colleges can help students and employees afford already-developed housing near their campuses.

American University, a private nonprofit in Washington, D.C., partnered with the district’s Office of Planning to offer grants of up to $12,000 to full-time university staff to afford city housing.

And California State University Long Beach and Cal Poly Humboldt are working with the Center for Equitable Higher Education on a rehousing program that connects students experiencing homelessness to an agency that helps them find subsidized housing.

Read the full article about how colleges can support more affordable housing by Eric Maribojoc at Higher Education Dive.