Bethel looks to housing project to retain workers

BETHEL — Bethel officials hope new housing for public safety, education and health professionals will help the city recruit and retain more personnel.

The Bethel Community Services Foundation led the project to build apartments for city workers, KYUK-AM reported. Four of the six units, which opened Nov. 30, are now occupied.

The apartment building previously served as a day care center and was partly funded by The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

The corporation has funded housing projects for teachers, health professionals and public safety workers across rural Alaska for over a decade to help decrease job turnover rates.

Derrick Chan, a planner with the AHFC, said the key to keeping workers for the long term is getting them to stay past their first year.

“If a person works in an area beyond that one year period,” Chan said, “they’re less likely to transition out. We’re really trying to provide an environment where they can call home, and at the end of the day, they have a place to kick their feet up. They feel welcome.”

Michelle DeWitt, the foundation’s executive director, said housing plays a major factor in an employee’s decision on whether to stay in the area.

“When people leave positions here,” DeWitt said, “housing is often at the root of one of their challenges or one of their areas of dissatisfaction. We have a lack of new, appropriate, nice housing.”

Dewitt agreed with Chan on the one-year mark, and said she will consider the new housing a success if people stay past that point.

“I’d be really excited if we had people who were in the units for 18 months to two years,” DeWitt said, “and I’d be even more excited if they left the units to purchase a home in our community. Retention is a really positive thing. When you have quality people in important positions, the outcomes are better for everyone.”

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