Colleges and universities in high-cost, attractive housing markets are developing housing options to support faculty, staff, and student affordability amid rising rents and costs of living. There are a few reasons for this trend:

•Recruitment and retention: Providing affordable housing is seen as an important tool for attracting and keeping top talent in competitive markets. This benefits colleges’ abilities to fulfill key missions.

•Employee well-being: As colleges aim to support employee success and satisfaction, and see housing security as integral to that, they are seeking solutions to the burden of high housing costs. Limited options and financial strain threaten well-being and productivity.

•Student success: Some see an opportunity to support students’ ability to focus on their studies by providing affordable on- or off-campus housing. This could enhance inclusion, completion rates, and career readiness.

•Community good: A few frame this work as an opportunity to benefit the broader community by developing underserved affordable housing markets and limiting pressure on local infrastructure and services.

A variety of approaches are being explored, including public-private partnerships, land trusts, subsidized or below-market rental housing, homeownership programs, and mixed-use and mixed-income developments. Some convert existing buildings while others pursue new construction.

Challenges include high upfront costs, limited internal expertise, local opposition, legal/policy complexities, and ensuring long-term affordability. However, many see housing as integral to mission and key to progress on access, equity, and excellence—making investment worthwhile despite obstacles.

Colleges pioneering this work report lessons on navigating political, legal, and financial complexities; building internal support and external partnerships; determining the right solutions for unique institutional contexts; and balancing needs of current and future constituents. Those further along speak to impacts on affordability, retention, community vitality, and even institutional reputation and funding.

While still emerging, this trend is an important step forward for colleges addressing costs of living, well-being of employees and students, and holistic success—especially in markets with few affordable options. With more sharing of knowledge and best practices, the potential exists for even broader progress. By developing more sustainable, equitable, and mission-aligned housing solutions, colleges can serve as models not only for their own communities but for others grappling with similar issues. With innovation, commitment to mission, and strategic action, they can turn challenges into opportunities, build vibrant communities, and strengthen higher education as a whole. Though obstacles are real, the potential benefits make the effort worthwhile despite uncertainties. Housing is far too fundamental to affordability, inclusion, health, and achievement to leave to chance. With collective action, progress is possible.

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