Skilled Workers Help Keep Housing Affordable

According to population estimates and projections from the University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, the Greater Richmond region (Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, Goochland and the City of Richmond) is expected to add nearly 13,000 people to its population by 2020. 

As new residents move to the area and the region’s millennials become financially ready to purchase homes, we need to ask ourselves: What can be done to keep housing affordable? 

Virginia’s Housing Policy Advisory Council estimates that to accommodate the region’s projected housing demand for a growing workforce, the industry will need to produce approximately 4,000 units (think houses, townhomes, condos, etc.) per year between now and 2024. Last year, which was a strong year for home building, we fell short of that goal by 300 units.

If we know there’s a need for additional local housing, why can’t we build new homes more quickly?

Lack of labor is the number one threat to new housing in our region

The shortage of skilled construction labor has a domino effect on the entire homebuilding industry. Fewer workers mean those that are working are in high demand. The shortage can lead to delays in the homebuilding process, elevating production and staffing costs and driving up the prices of new homes.

Homebuilders need more skilled construction workers such as HVAC technicians, framers, carpenters and drywall installers to keep up with demand and keep costs in check.

Virginia is working to address the shortage

We can look to other areas in Virginia for inspiration on how to address the shortage of skilled construction workers in the Richmond area. Goodwill has partnered with Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton to develop a program that prepares students for jobs in the construction industry. At Thomas Nelson, students participate in trainings that replicate what they will be doing in the workforce after graduation. The hands-on approach gives students the tools and experiences they need to succeed in the workplace on day one. As an added bonus, many students in the program attain industry-recognized certifications that show potential employers they have the skills to get the job done. 

Throughout the program, Goodwill provides supplemental supports for students related to career counseling, GED applied instruction, adult career coaching, workplace soft skills, on-the-job-training grants, and services for mental health, family counseling, alcohol, and drug rehabilitation. Goodwill’s services helps improve participants’ soft skills and confidence. 

The program is a win-win: Students have access to good paying, high-demand jobs, while employers in the homebuilding industry are connected to a pipeline of skilled candidates. Partnerships like Goodwill and Thomas Nelson are an important component for solving the region’s affordable housing crisis. 

Dana Markland Chief Executive Officer, Home Building Association of Richmond
Dana Markland Chief Executive Officer, Home Building Association of Richmond

Danna Markland is the Chief Executive Officer for the Home Building Association of Richmond (HBAR), representing more than 500 residential construction member businesses. Her career has been centered around working for business owners and studying their passions and constraints. Before HBAR, Danna served in roles at the Chesterfield County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce.