Best Friend’s Animal Society breaks ground on new employee housing in Kanab
Kanab — Best Friends Animal Society has long history of groundbreaking innovation. The non-profit organization operates the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in America and in 2016, took the unprecedented step of setting a goal of ending the killing of pets in America’s shelters by 2025. To do so, Best Friends created the only comprehensive database of shelter locations, intakes, outcomes, and other information in the country, which garnered it recognition by Fast Company Magazine as one of the most innovative companies in America.
That groundbreaking approach continues today, quite literally, as Best Friends breaks ground on a staff housing project, becoming the first non-profit organization in America to do so.
Best Friends’ headquarters, their sanctuary, and more than half of their 850 employees are located in the rural town of Kanab, Utah (pop. 4,800). The small-town lifestyle, unprecedented beauty, and the proximity to National Parks and outdoor recreation have made Kanab an increasingly popular vacation and retirement community, as well as a prime “Zoomtown” location for remote workers.
As such, the cost of both existing and new homes has skyrocketed, and as owners convert their properties to vacation rentals, the market of long-term rental housing has disappeared. A recent internet search showed only two available.
Notwithstanding being the largest employer in Kane County, offering above-industry pay and benefits, and having an award-winning culture, as a result of the housing shortage, Best Friends is having trouble filling the 42 jobs currently available in Kanab. So, on September 22, 2022, Best Friends commenced construction of 24 units – 12 duplexes – of staff housing.
“We need people. Period. That’s why we made the commitment to building housing for our staff,” says Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends. “And not just any housing, but beautiful, pet-friendly homes, with private yards, garages, and all appliances. There will be one- two- and three-bedroom units that are able to accommodate singles and families in comfort and style.”
The first duplex is scheduled to be completed in early 2023, with one more duplex being completed every two weeks until all 24 units are available. Best Friends will charge rent within the range of fair market value for the area, with a goal of making the price as cost-effective as possible for their staff.
The $6M project will employ a local contractor and will add to Best Friends’ already significant local economic impact. As of a 2019 study, Best Friends paid over $22.5M in local wages, and its activities supported an additional 186 jobs supplying goods and services to Best Friends-related activities for a total economic output of over $42M and $8.6M in tax revenues. “This project is a huge win for Best Friends and the community,” Castle says.
Castle added, “While this won’t fix everything and we’ll continue to look for additional avenues to tackle the housing issues in Kanab, these 24 units will help us continue to recruit the best people and will allow us to help some of our existing staff that are badly underhoused.”
“This is more than an investment in real estate, it’s an investment in our community, our staff, and in our mission,” she says.