People who work in Marin should be able to live in Marin. This was the premise behind an educational campaign started by the San Rafael Leadership Institute Class of 2023, a program of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce and Marin Leadership Foundation. The project, Call Marin Home, focused on educating Marin residents about the need for workforce housing through the voices of local employers and workers. Class members created an informational brochure as well as a compelling video featuring employers and workers across Marin who speak to the challenges they face because of the lack of affordable workforce housing.
Workers across a wide range of business sectors are being priced out of the Marin housing market. Many businesses are finding it difficult to recruit and retain qualified workers: the challenges faced by local businesses often ripple out into the economy and have community impact. The project notes that the lack of workforce housing exacerbates workforce gaps, increases traffic congestion, adds to greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes to growing inequities as well as the corresponding costs to people, the local economy, and the social fabric of Marin. It concludes, “Our community is stronger, safer, more vibrant, and more equitable when our local workforce can Call Marin Home.”
Community Action Marin was pleased to be part of the 2023 Leadership Institute class and take part in the Call Marin Home project. Said Gina Guillemette, Chief Strategy Officer for Community Action Marin,
“Teachers, caregivers, health care and service workers are all vital to our local community and our local economy. The lack of affordable workforce housing impacts the quality of life for all in our community with reductions in local services, increased wait times for health care and other essentials such as childcare and in-home services for seniors.”
When workers cannot find housing in Marin and are forced to make long commutes, employers face difficulties with recruitment and retention. Explained Diana Kennedy, General Manager of Volvo Cars Marin,
“A lot of our businesses are suffering with filling entry level positions. We should be able to employ people who live in our county and that starts with making housing more affordable.”
The benefits of workforce housing extend into the social fabric of Marin. Torrey Kelly, Marin YMCA, says, “The sense of community that would be created by allowing the housing market to be affordable and to be able to allow our staff to live here, work here, and create here is something that’s not only invaluable to the employee but invaluable to this county.”
The project concluded with a Watch Party where local officials were invited to view the video and hear from additional speakers in support of workforce housing. Class participants represented a diverse array of sectors including non-profit, government, small business, health care, essential services and more.
Guillemette notes, “It was incredible to see how this topic resonated with and energized our class. The distinct sectors we represented really provided a microcosm of Marin and the collective insight and expertise was key to making the project a success.”