Providing Housing to Your Workers

Challenge:

Like many communities, Presbyterian Homes & Services in Minnesota is always seeking new ways to recruit and retain front-line staff. Many of its communities have already been exploring various options, e.g., providing discounted rental property to employees that also is available to the local community.

Solution:

In approximately 2004, Presbyterian Homes identified providing housing to staff as an area to explore due to the geographical location of one of their campuses – not rural, but not easily accessible to all employees. As a result, the arm of their organization that handles new project development and growth purchased 3 apartment buildings next to their Lake Minnetonka Shores campus in Spring Park, MN. They hired someone to manage the property, offered discounted rent in 1- and 2-bedroom units as a benefit, and, also made apartments available to members in the community.

In 2019, a small group of leaders within Presbyterian Homes dove more seriously into the housing option, recommending Presbyterian Homes develop a strategic plan around the housing model. They researched various alternatives (e.g., intergenerational living), developed pros and cons, and whether the ongoing investment aligned with their mission.

After surveying their front-line staff that year, Presbyterian Homes learned that nearly 2/3 would be interested in renting housing from the organization due to their current high housing costs. In fact, nearly 50% responded that they would need lower housing costs just to remain at Presbyterian Homes. Consequently, Presbyterian Homes decided that providing discounted housing for staff was a firm commitment of the organization.

Implementation Details:

  • Presbyterian Homes did its homework – modeling different scenarios, along with the financial and legal implications.
  • They determined that a 10% rent reduction and offering rates below market was a significant incentive compared to other rent costs in the area – and allowed their employees to save money.

Factors for Success:

  • Be flexible: some potential rental properties may need only slight improvements, which is a far cheaper option than building your own.
  • Start small: some of their campuses have housed employees temporarily in a vacant resident apartment in their community or apartments nearby. Other communities could consider a smaller investment, such as using a house nearby.
  • Consider a range of possibilities: A percentage of apartments may be reserved for public apartments if needed.
  • Set boundaries: while you are providing housing to some of your staff, ensure they can maintain privacy when they are not working.
  • Learn from your employees: What are their expectations, what is affordable to them, and what type of transportation do they use, etc.
  • Understand that while money is needed upfront – the rate of return on your investment is immediate.

Outcomes:

  • The number of open shifts has gone down because employees live close to the community.
  • The tenure of employees has increased.
  • Providing affordable housing has helped recruit international staff, and about 19% have participated in the rental housing program.

Need more information?

Jon Fletcher jfletcher@preshomes.org