Is housing part of social responsibility?

Several British Victorian employers famously built housing for their workers – such as the Cadbury village of Bournville established in 1900 for employees at the company’s confectionery plant and  Port Sunlight built in 1888 for workers of Lever Brothers soap factory.   At the same time in the US, Milton Hershey provided housing and schools creating his own village. 

Was this enlightened social responsibility, an attempt to “better” the workforce according to Quaker or other religious principles, or a way of keeping salaries low? 

We are not so familiar with companies providing housing for workers today, but news of  allocating flats to workers in London who have been forced out of the housing market, raises many similar issues.

Are we really back to Victorian times where employers need to provide housing for employees?  Or is this a smart property investment move on the part of Tesco – the company’s portfolio is in excess of £12bn, which under new rules from the Chancellor effective 1 January this year can be placed in a and receive special tax considerations.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “Is housing part of social responsibility?”

  1. It might be a smart property move, but Tesco’s employees will benefit too.

    Tesco would gain more credibility if they actually helped these people get on the first rung of the housing ladder by setting up mortgages. But I guess losing property to employees who might up-sticks and leave wouldn’t be beneficial. They could however get some kind of commitment out of them to stay in employment for a certain period of time. Win-win.

    Interest rates are rising and we are always hearing about people who can’t afford to buy a property.

  2. One of the arguments against is that housing shouldn’t be outside the reach of ordinary people and that if people like Tesco offers cheap mortgages or fund housing, they are hiding the situation. Maybe with all their profits, Tesco could pay better salaries rather than offering a few staff access to flats. And maybe the government could do something about the mega city bonuses which fuel the housing prices.

  3. OK, I understand the arguements against cheap mortgages but if Tesco are openly offering this then isn’t that adding more oomph and debate to an ongoing problem that could eventually get the powers that be to take action?

  4. This is a good story and an excellent example of Tesco being a caring employer, as well as investing in property for themselves. Unfortunately for them, it was totally eclipsed by M & S’s eco-policy. What bad timing.

    Jill makes a good point about Tesco giving staff cheap mortgages. I don’t think they would be able to pay high enough salaries that would go anywhere near the amount needed for a mortgage. When I bought my house, the maximum you could borrow was 3 times your salary, now I believe it is 5.

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