How can state and local governments leverage employers' commitment to affordable homes for workers?
Employers have a vested interest in making sure their workers can afford safe, quality homes close to the workplace. This has numerous benefits, including a reduction in absenteeism and it makes it easier to attract and retain qualified employees. However, most employers won't invest in affordable housing strategies for their workers without some encouragement from the public or non-profit sectors. This is particularly evident in a metropolitan region where there is a larger labor market.
Communities can maximize employer involvement in housing by offering financial incentives to augment or offset private contributions. These incentives can also be augmented by encouraging non-profit organizations to help employers design and manage housing benefit programs. Over time communities will develop relationships with local employers. When these relationships are mature communities can look to employers to take on a leadership role in developing affordable workforce housing.
What problems do these policies solve?
When employers work with state and local governments to increase the supply of affordable homes, they are addressing more than just the housing shortage. By improving access to nearby housing, employers can substantially reduce workers' commute times. This is an excellent way to raise employee morale and improve both the recruitment and retention for employees. When workers are able to live closer to their jobs, local residents benefit from decreased traffic congestion and reduced air pollution. In addition, when residents are able to spend more time at home and become more active in their communities.
Employer involvement in housing initiatives can contribute to community development. Support of new housing for employees can help to stabilize neighborhoods that are in need of reinvestment. These efforts increase the desirability of the neighborhood and help to maintain a safer, more satisfying work environment.
Where are these policies most applicable?
Policies and programs that leverage employers' commitment to affordable homes are applicable in a wide range of communities. Without employer support, workers holding low-wage jobs may be unable to find decent housing within the community and in turn drive longer distances to work. In urban and suburban areas, employer investment in housing can help stabilize neighborhoods and schools, spur revitalization, and redevelopment. In rural communities, employers may need to be involved in housing production programs to ensure there is an adequate supply of housing to support economic development initiatives and to help attract employees.
Read the Employer Assisted Housing Resource Guide [PDF] to learn more about the benefits and strategies for implementing employer assisted housing in Minnesota.
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