Ireland has experienced a rapid increase in housing costs over the past few years, making it increasingly difficult for both Irish citizens and those coming to the country for work to find affordable housing. The most recent data available from the residential tenancies board showed that in Q2 2022, average rents for new tenancies in Dublin were €2,011 per month, and outside Dublin (non-Dublin), averaged €1,130 per month, and new rents nationally increased by 8.2% in Q2 2022 over Q2 2021 (1). The high housing costs have impacted employee morale, retention, and overall financial well-being. This article explores potential strategies that employers can adopt to help address high housing costs in Ireland and discusses the benefits and risks associated with these initiatives.
Employee housing assistance programs
One potential solution for employers is offering their employees housing assistance programs. These programs can come in various forms, such as rental subsidies, low-interest loans for home purchases, or even the provision of company-owned housing
The benefits of offering housing assistance programs can lead to increased employee retention, as employees are more likely to stay with a company that helps ease their financial burden. Additionally, these programs can improve employee morale, as workers feel more secure and supported in their housing situation. Research has shown that comprehensive employee benefits packages can be a key driver in employee retention and a differentiator for attracting top talent. It suggests that organisations that provide a robust benefits package tailored to the needs of their employees are more successful in retaining employees (2).
It is also seen that employees who feel cared for by their employer are ten times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work. It was also shown that when employees feel valued and supported through benefits and other initiatives, they are more likely to be engaged and stay with the company longer. Research also reiterates benefits and assistance programs’ positive impact on employee retention (3). For example, Facebook has offered housing subsidies to some employees living near its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to help alleviate housing affordability issues (4).
Employers should be aware of the potential risks associated with offering housing assistance programs, such as becoming overly reliant on the company’s support or creating a sense of obligation from employees. To mitigate these risks, employers can work with third-party organisations or financial institutions to provide housing assistance without directly owning employee homes.
Advocacy for government support
Employers can also advocate for government support and policies that address housing affordability. This can include lobbying for increased investment in affordable housing, rent control measures, and tax incentives for businesses that provide housing assistance to employees. In the United States, some companies have formed the Employers Housing Council to address housing affordability issues and work with local governments to develop solutions (5).
By advocating for government support, employers can help create a more sustainable solution to high housing costs, benefiting their employees and the wider community. This collaborative approach can also improve the company’s public image and strengthen relationships with local government and community stakeholders.
The success of advocacy efforts depends on the willingness of governments to implement the proposed policies or provide the necessary support. Employers should be prepared for potential setbacks and be patient with the process, as policy changes can take time to materialise.
Flexible working options
Offering flexible working options, such as remote work or compressed workweeks, can help employees cope with high housing costs by enabling them to live in more affordable areas outside of city centres. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the feasibility of remote work for many industries, with several major companies, including Twitter and Shopify, announcing permanent remote work options for their employees (6).
Flexible working options can increase employee satisfaction, reduce commuting costs and time, and allow employees to find more affordable housing. This flexibility can also help companies attract talent from a wider geographical area.
Employers should consider the potential impact of remote work on team cohesion, communication, and company culture. To minimise these risks, companies can implement regular team meetings, clear communication channels, and occasional in-person gatherings to maintain a sense of connection.
Employers in Ireland have a role to play in addressing high housing costs and supporting their employees’ housing needs. By offering housing assistance programs, advocating for government support, and providing flexible working options, companies can help ease the burden of housing costs on their employees, ultimately benefiting both the company and its workforce.
(1) Residential Tenancies Board. (2022). Rent Index Q2 2022. Retrieved from https://www.rtb.ie/news/rtb-publishes-q2-2022-rent-index
(2) Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). (2019, October 28). Employee Benefits: The Evolution of Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/the-evolution-of-employee-benefits.aspx
(3) O.C. Tanner. (2018). The 2018 Global Culture Report. Retrieved from https://www.octanner.com/content/dam/oc_tanner/documents/pdfs/2018-Global-Culture-Report.pdf
(4) Dwoskin, E. (2016, August 19). Facebook Offers Employees $10,000 to Live Near the Office. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-offers-employees-10-000-to-live-near-the-office-1471611000
(5) Employers Housing Council. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from https://www.employershousingcouncil.org/about-us
(6) Kelly, J. (2020, May 12). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Tells Employees They Can Work From Home Permanently. Forbes. Retrieved from