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Hospital Eyes Housing as Prime Recruiting Tool

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 14, 2012

"When we are talking to nurses, say in the Midwest, we can say: 'Move to Orlando, work for Florida Hospital and while you are here you can live in an apartment complex that is right near the hospital.  You can walk to work, and there is a daycare next door. You can stay in the apartment as long as you want to, or you can move somewhere else once you're settled,'" Barry says.

Florida Hospital's request for proposal in the bidding process specified that 80% of the apartments would be affordable for families earning between $40,000 and $70,000. The remaining 20% of the units would target households with incomes above $70,000. While hospital employees will be given priority in leasing, they won't get cheaper rents and the hospital won't subsidize the cost. "That triggers IRS issues," Barry says.

The idea for an apartment building near the hospital germinated in 2005 in the midst of a housing boom when affordable housing in Orlando was difficult to find.

"When we first started discussing this, the housing market was on fire and the housing costs for Orlando were becoming outrageous," Barry says. "At a hospital you are paid a fair market value based on skill. So, employees had to live far out in the suburbs. This project was a solution to put affordable housing in proximity to alleviate this."

Since then, of course, the housing market in Florida and the rest of the country has cratered. While sky-high housing costs are no longer a concern, Florida is notorious for its boom-and-bust housing cycles. Barry says there is no telling what the city's housing market might look like in a couple of years. 

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