When the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council launched its new Workforce Housing Resource Center, which includes a project estimator, it was intended to help multifamily developers. But the ultimate audience may be bureaucrats.

The estimator allows users to enter a wide variety of incentives common in public/private partnerships, such as tax abatements, expedited permitting, or direct public investments, to determine what combination is necessary to make a workforce project financially viable. The tool also educates local officials on the tedious economics of successful financing.

"It's just like in single-family business, if you were to use an online mortgage servicing company—and could input incomes, housing values, and a zip code—and somebody could pop back what you could afford," says Doug Moritz, principal of JMB Preservation Advisors, a consulting firm in Rockville, Md., that helped NMHC develop the calculator.

Once a firm determines project viability, it can make a case to city hall. "The project estimator [can] show officials what additional densities, resources from housing trust funds, and federal subsidies might do for your development costs," Moritz says.

While the estimator may help to convince localities to chip in more for a project, it's not quite ready for executives to use it in determining the ultimate viability of a project. "It's a pre-underwriting tool," says David Cardwell, vice president of capital markets and technology at NMHC.

The Workforce Housing Resource Center (online at www.nmhc.org/goto/workforcehousing) also includes additional affordable housing resources and links.