Marcus Thomas: Investment in housing will fuel the city’s economic engine | Columnists
Among the most critical decisions facing Greensboro voters at the polls on July 26 is the fate of a proposed $30 million bond that would create desperately needed housing for the workforce of our city, increase home ownership and reinvest in the health and safety of our neighborhoods.
This investment could not have come at a better time. Denver-based Boom Supersonic plans to open a $500 million full-scale aircraft manufacturing facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport in 2024, the same year Toyota is expected to begin production at its new plant. $1.3 billion electric battery project at the Greensboro-Randolph megasite in Liberty. And Publix is on track to start hiring workers as early as October for its new $400 million distribution center in McLeansville.
In total, these top three employers plan to create at least 4,500 new jobs – and likely even more given ancillary providers who are expected to follow suit. New jobs generate new tax revenue: when workers choose Greensboro as their place of residence, they broaden our tax base and spend money in our city. They fuel our economic engine.
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But the new industries that come to our region depend on employees who can live and work nearby. And this is a serious problem. Greensboro’s current housing stock has hit an alarming low over the past year, according to the Triad Multiple Listing Service, with single-detached properties down nearly 23% and townhouses and condos down nearly 28%. condos. The state of existing housing is equally grim: A city-commissioned housing study found that the majority of multi-family dwellings are over 50 years old and in dire need of rehabilitation. (See graphic.)
Add to that the fact that entry-level home prices continue to skyrocket and new workers moving into our community for these jobs will struggle to find decent, affordable housing.
The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro (CFGG) is ready to work to find a solution. The housing bond is the first step toward mobilizing private and public capital to provide low-interest loans to developers who pledge to preserve existing multi-family housing in need of repair and build affordable new units.
As a next step, CFGG has already connected with other forward-thinking individuals, private foundations, financial institutions and investors who understand the connection between good jobs and good places to live. These new investment partnerships will help Greensboro address the critical shortage of quality affordable housing facing our workforce. It would be the same for the housing obligation proposal on the July 26 ballot.
Consider it a wise investment — in our city’s economy and collective quality of life — that will pay dividends for years to come.
Marcus Thomas is Senior Program Officer for Grants and Community Impact at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. Prior to joining CFGG, he worked in banking for 14 years.