Employers becoming landlords to attract, retain workers

A number of U.S. industries are grappling with a worker shortage, and some employers are hoping to lure in talent by offering them one big perk: affordable housing.

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The Boston Globe recently profiled an employer who, faced with the challenge of finding workers for his assisted living center, decided to snap up properties and offer below-market rent to employees. The publication noted that the method has helped him hire and retain more workers.

Meanwhile, further south in Buncombe County, N.C., the county and city school systems have collaborated to provide an affordable housing complex for teachers, who can be underpaid in some areas. There are similar setups in other parts of the state, as well.

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The setup can benefit the employer because he or she incurs little costs while creating a more productive workforce and discouraging employee turnover.

As noted by the National Association of Realtors, the companies most likely to offer employer-assisted housing are either those with a business need (like workers) or a “strong sense of civic responsibility.”

Social media giant Facebook, headquartered in a state with a widespread housing crisis, is working on a complex called Willow Village, which is expected to have 1,500 housing units – 225 of which would be designated for below-market rent rates for members of the public. Facebook employees are expected to be tenants in the full-price apartments. The community will contain retail, grocery and drug stores, too. The project was announced in 2017.

Search giant Google’s parent company, Alphabet, also had plans to buy hundreds of modular homes to provide short-term housing to its employees.

The median sales price of homes sold in the U.S. as of October 2019 was $310,900, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. In some areas of the country – including parts of California – an influx of high-paying jobs has driven costs up even higher (like in Silicon Valley), pricing out much of the population. As a result, companies like Facebook and Google have been credited with exacerbating the housing crisis in the state.

Tech giant Apple recently announced it would invest $2.5 billion to help combat homelessness in the Golden State, but Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders accused the company of trying to distract from a problem that it helped create. Other companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google, have made financial commitments to help build affordable housing along the West Coast.

Meanwhile, employers aren’t the only ones getting in on the real estate game. As previously reported by FOX Business, colleges and universities have also been developing partnerships to provide sponsored housing to retirees on or near their campuses.

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