Connecting housing development in metropolitan Washington to the region's transit system has long been touted as a method to relieving traffic congestion and improving air quality. Now, the Commuter Connections program at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is showing local businesses how it can help them recruit and retain productive employees, too.
In partnership with the District Department of Transportation, Commuter Connections today launched an initiative to educate businesses on housing incentives and programs available to help make living near work more practical and affordable for employees.
"Commuter Connections has produced a Resource Guide to help employers navigate through a variety of workforce housing options available to Washington area employees," said Nicholas Ramfos, Director of Commuter Connections. “Area commuters are spending longer times in their vehicles and the trend has been towards moving further away from jobs. Luckily, the region has an excellent transit and HOV system to support those commuters, but for some, a shorter commute, by way of living near one’s work, may be a better option. By helping employers and commuters become aware of these programs, those who take advantage of this opportunity will improve their quality of life.”
Long and stressful commutes are a primary complaint for area employees, as rising housing costs and population growth affect an increasing pool of skilled employees who are drawn to the region for professional opportunities. A recent poll conducted by Homepages.com showed that homebuyers nationwide place commute times as a top priority -- second only to safe neighborhoods -- when choosing where to live. At the same time, an estimated one-third of employees consider changing jobs to save on gasoline expenses.
The “Live Near Your Work” initiative was launched at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., where top employers explored issues such as local home buying assistance programs and commuting options, as well as various low- to no-cost incentives employers can provide their staff who choose to live near their workplaces. One such program is Fannie Mae’s Smart Commute™ program, which recognizes that homeowners who spend less on commuting expenses have more disposable income for housing expenses. It rewards employees for choosing homes located near public transit. Participating lenders only require a 3 percent down payment of the home’s purchase price and -- for loan qualification purposes -- will add a portion of the potential transportation savings to the borrower’s qualifying income. This increases the home-buying power of a typical purchaser of a median-priced home.
The Live Near Your Work initiative comes as the region faces a record forecast of 1.2 million new jobs and 1.6 million more people by 2030.