There was a time when the “company town” was common–workers were required to rent their houses and buy their goods from their employers. The Non-Profit Quarterly had an interesting article about the re-emergence of “company towns” as a way to help staff nursing homes. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are always hindered by high turnover and vacancy rates because of the low pay, burn-out, and difficult work of caring for vulnerable adults make these jobs less attractive. The staffing problem is compounded by the lack of affordable housing. There might be a solution.
Bill Bogdanovich runs Broad Reach Healthcare, a health system that includes both a skilled nursing facility and assisted living. Bogdanovich has invested in a new strategy: buying residential housing and renting it at below-market rates to his certified nursing assistants and other frontline workers.
Bogdanovich is offering below-market rents to attract employees to work in the wealthy community of Chatham, where housing is out-of-reach for his low-wage staff. One of the major barriers has been housing: unable to afford local housing, workers had to drive long distances to work, increasing their costs and reducing their own quality of life. In other words, unlike the company town of old, here housing is an employee benefit, not a profit center.
About a dozen of the certified nursing assistants and housekeepers employed by Broad Reach now live in housing units purchased by Bogdanovich. The units include a six-bedroom shared home in Brewster, as well as two apartment buildings in the Chatham area. More units will become available for Broad Reach employees as existing tenants move out.
Broad Reach has reduced its vacancy rate to eight percent, while the average vacancy rate at Cape Cod nursing homes is nearly 20 percent.
“Having this housing available nearby makes working here that much more doable for many of our people,” Bogdanovich told Boston Globe reporter Robert Weisman.
The Broad Reach solution may not be scalable, but for an independent senior care company, it’s working. By keeping rents low—he’s not looking to profit, just to pay off his mortgages—Bogdanovich has been able to offer his staff a life-changing opportunity: cheaper housing, lower commuting costs, and more time to enjoy Cape Cod, instead of sitting in their cars trying to get to and from work.