Local government continues to explore housing options for new employees

The Cook County local government is going to have to jump into owning or renting housing for new employees so they have a landing spot when they get to work, officials say.

“That’s what all the major employers in the county are already doing,” County Administrator James Joerke said at an April 12 county council meeting. have to have a place for them to land. And we don’t have that advantage right now, and it continues to be a barrier for us.

Joerke said he doesn’t currently have a plan in place for how the county will secure housing to deliver new employees. In an interview with Joe Friedrichs of the WTIP after the board meeting, Joerke said the county would consider various options to put the plan into action, including the possible use of tax-exempt properties that the county currently owns.

The idea of ​​acquiring or altering a property to provide potential new employees follows a thread of housing discussions taking place at the county level. In March, county officials discussed the concept of hiring remote workers to fill vacancies, observing at a March 22 commissioners’ meeting that this approach could become key to retaining or hiring workers in certain areas. , including local government.

Highway Engineer Robbie Hass explained to Commissioners that due to the lack of available housing in Cook County and the fact that job openings are not being filled in the highway department, it might be time to consider relocating. hire remote workers who don’t live in the community. To be specific, Hass suggested that some workers hired by the county might not live near the North Shore or the surrounding area.

The idea spurred conversation among county commissioners and staff about how to address the lack of workers available to fill various jobs where a desk, desk and computer would be the typical setting.

“We’ve had a lot of turnover over the last year in particular. And we had a number of positions that went vacant for months at a time,” Joerke said. “And that ties into the challenges that all of your listeners know related to our housing, where there just isn’t a lot of housing available right now, and what’s available isn’t necessarily affordable for most people. And so that makes it really difficult. So even if you can find people who are interested in working here and who are qualified for a position, it is extremely difficult to bring them here and get them to a place where they can live. And so, you know, this challenge got us thinking a bit about what our workforce might look like in the future.

Other topics discussed during the interview include a town hall-style town hall meeting on April 12 on redistricting and its impact on the 2022 election in Cook County and a possible increase in state funding by the to the county in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes. .

Listen to the audio below to hear the full interview.