Why Employers Are Turning to Employer-Assisted Housing Programs

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March 16, 2018
Justin Harlem

When it comes to jobs and economic opportunity, where a person lives can be critical. Studies have shown that as workers are forced to live further from their workplace, their productivity declines, creating many challenges for business owners. Employer-assisted housing programs help employees meet their housing needs, which in turn helps employers to achieve their business goals. Such programs provide tremendous resources and support to employees by leveraging state and local financial assistance programs, organizing homebuyer workshops, and providing discounts toward housing services such as realtors, home inspections, and energy efficiency optimization. Employer-assisted housing is a valuable tool for both economic development and community revitalization, and many employers are beginning to recognize the benefits of providing their employees with assistance to help purchase their homes.

The biggest priority, and concern, for business leaders in 2017 will be retaining employees in a competitive talent marketplace. A study by Future Workplace and Kronos, found that 87% of employers said that improving retention is a critical priority for their organization. Replacing an employee can cost as much as 150 percent of their annual salary in lost revenue from separation pay, replacement costs and reduced productivity. Employer-assisted housing programs help build employee loyalty and increase productivity through improved morale, an enhanced employee work/life balance, and decreased absenteeism. The unavailability of affordable housing can make it difficult for employers to attract quality employees. By offering housing benefits, employers are able to set themselves apart from their competitors, markedly improving their competitive position.

Many employers have recognized the linkages between certain employee benefits and key business objectives, such as increasing productivity. Targeting employer-assisted housing programs toward surrounding neighborhoods can help maintain or enhance the value of the employer’s real-estate portfolio as economic activity and investment increase, in turn providing collateral for further investment. In struggling neighborhoods, these programs can serve as a catalyst for their revitalization. As communities are revitalized, the base of the community can be stabilized, and the population and community tax base will increase. Employees will spend more of their money in the community, supporting local merchants and further adding to the economic vitality of the area. The University of Pennsylvania, of example, uses employer-assisted housing programs as a tool for increasing the number of employees who live in the area surrounding the workplace, in order to stimulate the housing market as a component of neighborhood revitalization.

Employer-assisted housing programs can also help employers improve their brand. This is especially true for location-based businesses such as restaurants, retail, and schools, where the surrounding community is an important part of their brand and market. By helping employees purchase homes in these local communities, employers can help stabilize and enhance their community, create a more attractive setting for their business, and grow a more prosperous clientele for their goods. By providing area-targeted benefits, employers can show their commitment to the community and benefit from an enhanced image and improved public relations. Employer-assisted housing often allows workers to live and work in the same community. People who live and work in the same location tend to be more invested in the community and become more active in civic and volunteer activities. A study of homeowners' civic participation found that 77 percent of homeowners voted in local elections, compared to 52 percent of renters. Additionally, employees living and working nearby equals less traffic congestion and less air pollution.

Research shows that those who own homes often work harder and longer for their employer. They are less willing to uproot themselves and their families for a different job and more willing to go the extra mile to help their company grow and succeed. Employees who own homes, lay down roots, start and support families, and become part of a community quickly realize that hard work gives them the means to make home payments, make home improvements and move toward financial security.

Employee-assisted housing programs can promote economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and smart growth as well as leverage new private funds to increase homeownership opportunities. Employers and businesses must understand the impact homeownership has on their employees, customers and local community. Local nonprofits, administrators and financial advisers should help to educate, encourage, and empower employees to take this important step, whilst staying close to the community. In most cases, encouraging employees to put down roots in the community is a matter of putting forth a little money and a lot of creative effort. In all cases, the benefits of increased employee loyalty, stability, and success far outweigh the costs.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326