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Examining Employer-Assisted Housing

Published Friday May 13, 2022

Author Judi Currie

Examining Employer-Assisted Housing

 An initiative is underway in the North Country to tackle the housing shortage by exploring how employers can help their employees with the cost of owning or renting a home. The Conservation Fund, which operates in all 50 states and has a dual mission to support environmental preservation and economic development, is working in partnership with the Neil and Louise Tillotson Funds at NH Charitable Foundation to explore employer-assisted housing.

The Conservation Fund entered into a grant agreement with the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund under the Human Powered Recreation Value Chain Initiative, which connects people with natural resources to strengthen recreation economies.

The initiative is focused on the Route 16 corridor from Pinkham Notch north. In that small region is a diverse pool of employers—including NH State Parks, White Mountain National Forest, Great Glen trails, Appalachian Mountain Club—that for decades have been providing some form of housing to workers or helping them find housing, says Sally Manikian, the NH/VT representative for the Conservation Fund.

The initiative looks to provide preferred access to affordable rental housing opportunities for employees of a proposed North Country Employer Assisted Housing Consortium as well as home ownership opportunities for qualified employees and their families, along with home ownership counseling and financial capabilities training for participating employees and employers.

“There has never been more attention paid to housing in the state,” say Anthony S. Poore, principal of AP Consulting Group, who is serving as principal investigator and lead consultant to design and conduct an Employer-Assisted Housing Feasibility Analysis and Partnership Framework. “I think the chickens have come home to roost. People outside the housing sector recognize the interdependency of their work and accessibility to affordable, safe, clean housing.”

Poore and Manikian have prepared a case statement that brings together research and analysis, and looks at housing in a broader perspective as it relates to overall economic opportunity. He says he and Manikian had two questions: How to allow people the opportunity to create wealth, potentially through homeownership, and at the same time address the region’s immediate needs around housing.

“[The initiative] is a good tool to look at a really old problem: How do you take the outdoor recreation sector and make it an equitable, wealth generating, career-building opportunity for this region?” says Manikian. “It’s a very inequitable economic system now that relies on their service industry wages that are very low.”

She says the greatest challenge to wealth creation in the North Country is housing, driven by the seasonality, low wages and lack of available rental units. Poore says the Conservation Fund will be engaging North Country employers in finding local solutions.

“This is where we stepped back to enter due diligence to look at the problem and to really center on the people that are most affected by the issue in helping decide what the solutions are,” says Poore.

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