Like the song says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays.” Now, thanks to a pair of forward-thinking business owners in County Kerry, Ireland, three families will be moving into company subsidized housing in plenty of time to see Santa come down the chimney—and that’s just for starters.
Patricia and Tony Walsh, owners of Walsh Colour Print and Educate.ie employ nearly 120 people. Patricia explains that the work they do requires a specialized skill set. Since they’d been unable to find enough local job candidates to fit the bill, a good part of their workforce hails from other European countries.
Unfortunately, with housing options both limited and expensive in the area, many employees simply couldn’t afford to save for places of their own while paying steep rents.
Two such longtime workers were Anna and Marcin Wojs, who’ve been with the Walshes since emigrating to Ireland from Poland 16 years ago. Faced with the possibility of having to go home despite wanting to stay, they brought their dilemma to Patricia and Tony’s attention.
For the husband and wife team, the answer seemed obvious: Find a way to offer an affordable housing alternative as an incentive to keep their employees in the family fold.
So, in 2017, the couple sought planning permission to build tracts of not-for-profit homes on land already owned by Walsh Colour Print. The Clonaugh site can accommodate 70 units, 20 of which have been earmarked for company workers.
Built on a not-for-profit basis, the 1,000-square-foot attached homes are sold to employees at about €30,000 (roughly $36,500) below market value. To offset costs, the other 50 units are set to be sold at full value on the open market.
With the construction of three houses now complete, the Wojs family was the first to move into their new home and they’ve already begun decking the halls. The employees who purchased the two remaining homes are expected to ring in the new year in their new homes as well.
Tony Walsh notes that there will be an informal agreement with employees who purchase homes to stay with the company for the following 10 years. While he sees the measure as a way to ensure a steady workforce, he also believes homeownership will be a key factor in securing a stable future for his employees when they eventually retire.
“Mercin and Anna and their family are over the moon,” Tony Walsh told RTÉ News. “For the first time in their lives, they own something. We are going to roll this out now to the rest of our staff and, at the end of their time, when they are finished working with Walsh Colour Print and Educate.ie, they can close the door and say, ‘We own this.’”
Construction for the next tract of houses is scheduled to break ground next month. According to Patricia, providing affordable housing is already proving to be a job perk that’s a win/win for both employers and employees—and she heartily hopes other Irish firms will emulate their example.
In the meantime, Mercin, Anna, and their children are just thankful to be home for the holidays. “It’s the best Christmas present ever,” Anna said. “The feeling now is that we are happy, just happy.”
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