Affordable Housing a Leading Concern in West; Finding Qualified Workers Remains Top Issue

Communities across the western half of the United States are struggling with the issue of affordable housing, according to the latest opinion poll of W.A.C.E. members.

More than 200 chamber executives participated in the survey that asked them to select the top three major issues facing their business community in 2019, with 57% selecting affordable housing and pushing it to the top.

Finding qualified workers ranked second at 51%, with homelessness coming in third at 34%, edging out transportation issues at 31%.


Homelessness did receive the largest boost from California chambers and was only two points behind finding qualified workers.

When comparing the data, 43% of California chambers put homelessness in their top three issues. When filtering out California chambers, transportation issues spiked up to third place at 40% with only 22% citing homelessness.

Among the five states that had more than 10 chambers participating in the survey, all but one state’s responses put affordable housing in the top spot. Those chambers include California (55%), Colorado (87%), Oregon (82%), and Washington (62%). Arizona chambers put finding qualified workers on top with 67%.

Finding Qualified Workers

Comparatively speaking, finding qualified workers was the only issue that remained in the top three since the last time this question was asked of W.A.C.E. members.

The results from the 2014 survey put the economy at the top spot with 39%. Finding qualified workers was close behind at 38% and water issues at 34%.

Transportation issues came in at 28% and affordable housing at 18%. Homelessness was not an answer option in the 2014 version of the survey.

Problem Solving

The chambers were then asked what they were doing to be a problem solver on these issues. Most chambers shared that their chamber had created task forces or groups to meet on the issues and were communicating these concerns to elected officials.

“One chamber responded how they have shifted their focus to a few key issues so they can better serve their members instead of diluting resources and trying to be everything to everyone,” said Russell Lahodny, vice president of W.A.C.E. “One chamber is creating a workforce housing position to work directly with the city to help solve the issue.”

Top Chamber Challenges

W.A.C.E. also asked members to share the top three issues facing their chamber. Far and above, chambers continue to wrestle with communicating value. Three quarters of the participating chambers cited communicating value in their top three, along with financing the organization at 47%, and competition for members and funds with other groups at 39%.

Results from 2014 included the same top three choices, but competition for members and funds with other groups came in second at 49%, and financing the organization was third at 38%.