Shedding light on
Jefferson City’s housing
and workforce shortages.

As Jefferson City looks to the future as a community, it’s imperative that residents recognize the importance of housing. The availability and quality of housing is about much more than providing shelter; it’s fundamental to creating a vibrant and resilient community. Taking it a step further, it could be stated that housing isn’t just a basic human need, it can be a driver of economic prosperity. 

Stable and affordable housing contributes to a robust labor market by attracting a skilled workforce. That workforce also brings wealth to the city, through salaries, which generates a ripple effect that is felt far and wide. When people have access to secure housing, they are more likely to invest in their communities, fostering a sense of belonging and civic pride. Additionally, vibrant neighborhoods with well-maintained housing stock often attract businesses seeking a stable environment for their employees. 

Over the past several months, Jefferson City Regional Economic Partnership (JCREP), along with public and private partners, have been engaging in the housing discussion. Those engagements have been focused on identifying the current barriers to new housing developments and how the city can overcome those barriers. The housing situation that Jefferson City faces didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight. However, with the right partners at the table, city officials can begin to move the needle. A 2022 Jefferson City housing study performed by RKG Associates highlighted the slow population growth of Jefferson City since 1970, with nearly zero growth within the last decade. That trend, along with a very tight housing market, lead the consultants to conclude that the population growth in Jefferson City is being constrained by a shortage of available housing. 

After recognizing the economic benefits that housing affords, what can the city do to stimulate and support more development? First, policymakers must recognize the interconnectedness of housing and prosperity. Implementing targeted incentives can catalyze positive changes in housing markets.

Total Population Change 1970-2020, Jefferson City

Incentivizing developers and investors who contribute to addressing the housing shortages can be a powerful motivator. These incentives reduce financial barriers and encourage the construction of housing units that cater to a range of income levels. The city’s recently commissioned housing study points out the housing shortages, which span across all housing sectors and income brackets. Jefferson City was also listed as the 12th tightest housing market in the country, regardless of community size, by the National Association of Realtors. 

During JCREP’s engagements with the housing development community, another recommendation that was shared was the need to review current development procedures and zoning regulations. In many cases, regulations are put into place to address known issues or avoid potential problems, but sometimes the enforcement of those regulations end up creating additional costs or unnecessary delays. As a result, the city will need to find ways to streamline and modernize rules and regulations to promote development while still protecting public welfare. 

Another way the city can promote and catalyze housing developments is through expanded and improved infrastructure. Looking at growth in undeveloped or underdeveloped portions of the community, many times the limiting factor ends up being access to public infrastructure: roads, sewer, water, etc. Collaboration between the investors and developers, both public and private sectors, allows the city to leverage housing resources more effectively. 

At the end of the day, the result of increased housing will be growing a more prosperous community. The impacts of a growing community will be realized across the board, both from the public and private sectors. To make substantial strides forward in addressing the housing shortages, the community must come together to address this issue. Jefferson City has an opportunity to acknowledge its shortcomings, develop strategies to overcome the obstacles, and utilize the talents of its residents to move forward. What the community can’t do is sit back, do nothing, and expect this problem to solve itself. Looking toward the future, it’s imperative that policymakers, businesses, and residents come together to prioritize and invest in housing, ensuring that it remains the sturdy foundation that can support economic growth.