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Town of Huntsville takes unique approach to house tourism and hospitality workers

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The Town of Huntsville is taking a unique approach to dealing with the housing crisis by subsidizing accommodation to attract and retain tourism and hospitality workers.

Town council agreed to a pilot project with Explorers' Edge that could serve as a blueprint for similar endeavours in other regions and industries.

"There's many frontline tourism jobs, low-paying tourism jobs, and for us for individuals to come into work - nobody is going to put their best foot forward if they're worrying about how to pay their mortgage or put food on the table," said Explorers' Edge CEO James Murphy.

Employers and potential employees cite attainable housing as a significant factor in the workforce shortage.

Deerhurst Resort General Manager Andrew Buwalda said the town currently has a zero vacancy rate.

The popular resort's staff housing facilities host roughly 100 beds and a full-time shuttle service for employees.

"If we didn't have those facilities, we would certainly not have the levels of employment that we need to operate the resort on a year-round basis," Buwalda said.

The proposed Catalyst Housing would also offer work-integrated career and life skills training in return for working in the regional tourism or hospitality industry for a short time.

"And it's not just in tourism, it's in financial literacy because when you're done, we want you to be much more able to purchase a home and lay some foundational groundwork in the area," noted Murphy.

"It's greater than housing. It's training. It's keeping people in your community and supporting people in your community," stated Mayor Nancy Alcock.

While funding for the initiative has not been finalized, Explorers' Edge is exploring various financing avenues, including community bonds, without leaning on the tax base.

The initial phase of the project is set to be supported by a combination of budgeted funds from the Town and a matching contribution from Explorers' Edge.

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