Can we get on-site childcare in housing?

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I sat down with Natasha Harper-Madison yesterday to talk about her plans as a City Council member next year. In addition to a lot of talk about transportation and housing –– two issues where her engagement will contrast sharply with her predecessor, Ora Houston –– Harper-Madison talked about ways to get people more involved in City Hall processes.

This was definitely an idea I’ve never heard of:

Harper-Madison believes that City Hall should provide on-site child care for citizens, city staff and even Council members who need a few hours of child supervision while they engage in city politics.

“We can find money in the budget,” she said.

As for addressing the broader crisis with child care (it is absolutely a crisis):

Harper-Madison also wants the city to become a more aggressive advocate for child care in general, including by incentivizing developers to provide day care in apartment complexes. She is confident that whatever it costs to provide that care, whether it’s paid for by developers or city taxpayers, will be a bargain compared to the high price society is paying in terms of lost economic productivity and the negative effects on children who miss out on early childhood education.

I’ve heard a lot of talk in recent years about large employers providing on-site daycare, but now that I think of it, I haven’t heard much about childcare in apartment buildings. Even affordable housing projects aimed at providing residents a range of on-site services don’t tend to include daycare, particularly for infants. Foundation Communities, for instance, which is lauded as a model for its services, provides free after-school programming and early childhood education for 3 and 4-year-olds, but their website doesn’t say anything about all-day childcare.

Obviously, getting apartment buildings to include daycare is easier said than done. But it’s interesting to consider how the inclusion of on-site daycare might make multi-family living attractive to more families, including middle-class families who can afford childcare but find it challenging, financially and logistically. If you’re busting your budget with two car payments and spending hours each day transporting your kid to daycare, an apartment building with on-site daycare starts to sound pretty sweet, particularly if it’s close enough to other key stuff (work, grocery, transit) that you can get rid of at least one car.

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