Baker cooks up a plan to develop low cost housing

Are your staff struggling to get on the property ladder? And is this causing you recruitment and retention problems?

Why not build them a home yourself?

It may sound radical, but one employer in the village of Lazonby in Cumbria has helped to build affordable housing for locals in a bid to improve its employer brand and cement community relations.

Bakery firm Bells of Lazonby teamed up with the local housing association to provide five affordable homes for its own staff and other people in the local community who were struggling to get on the property ladder. The company employs 240 locals.

As in many other areas of the country, dramatic house price rises have made it impossible for villagers to purchase a home, which in turn hampers the recruitment efforts of local employers.

The bakery built the homes on land it already owned, with the proviso that they could only be bought by people who worked or were born in Lazonby, or had children at school in the village.

Bells of Lazonby’s operations director, Phil Callaghan, said the whole scheme was essentially an HR move designed to help the workforce come to terms with house prices 11 times the average salary of employees.

“As a rural business we felt that the scheme would give something back to the community by helping our employees or those at other local firms. The whole local economy needs staff with access to housing they can afford.

The project “builds our image as a caring employer committed to the local community and, hopefully, makes young people want to come and work for us in the future”, he added.

The firm is currently investigating the possibility of further social housing projects.

Callaghan believes the current project is a model that other organisations could adopt to help beat chronic recruitment problems in areas like the South East.

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