One way to attract and retain nursing home staff is to house them in nearby, affordable apartments, an idea used with success by at least several healthcare companies on the East Coast.
The latest to create this employee benefit is Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, which is raising a building with 76 below-market-rate bedrooms, 30 of which are designated for the skilled nursing staff of a 70-bed facility run by Navigator Homes of Martha’s Vineyard.
Navigator Homes of Martha’s Vineyard is seeking a formal Green House Project trademark for the skilled nursing facility, said Navigator Homes of Martha’s Vineyard president and CEO David McDonough. The Department of Agriculture is loaning Navigator $44 million for the project, which had its most recent hearing Thursday before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.
If approved by the commission, the skilled nursing facility and employee housing are slated to open in 2024 and will replace the island’s only nursing home.
How win-win models are done
The Navigator project follows the model of two other area healthcare companies, a nursing home operator on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. In 2018, the CEO of Broad Reach Healthcare in Chatham, MA, bought properties and rented them at below market rates for employees and reported great worker retention rates, according to the Boston Globe.
In 2019, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital opened a 12-room residence purchased by the Island Housing Trust for year-round rentals.
“We are definitely looking at retention across all projects and will be interested to see how housing impacts this metric in rural or other challenging-to-staff areas,” Rebecca Priest, the Green House Project point person on the Martha’s Vineyard project in development, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News in an email. “We expect it will have great transferability for success.”
Market analysis is a key part of any project development or operation, said Priest – knowing the local housing resources, affordability of such housing related to wages proposed in projects, and desirability of housing driven by key economic factors like strong schools, and healthy communities. These are factors that may make workforce housing contribute to project staffing success or improving recruitment and retention in workforce-stressed communities.
The socioeconomic conditions around a senior care community can play a critical role in staffing, and housing for it, experts agree.
“When considering the percentage of income to support housing on the island, Navigator homes of Martha’s Vineyard and the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital knew housing solutions were imperative, so they collaborated to ensure housing availability for both the hospital and long-term care project,” Priest explained.
Green House Project communications director Alex Spanko told McKnight’s his organization hopes the affordable employee housing concept takes off elsewhere.
“Navigator’s commitment to workforce housing is a perfect example of how organizations can think creatively to meet the challenges facing the eldercare sector — particularly around staffing,” he said in an email. “What’s good for elders is good for the entire community, and the same is true for the dedicated people who care for elders.”