What If More Jobs Came with Housing?

What if more jobs came with housing? This is a question I have often pondered over the years. And all the more so lately, as many people’s housing struggles and other economic struggles have grown.

Late at night, from way in the wee hours til just before dawn, I hear people talking as they walk by my high-foot-traffic corner. Some of them are obviously just tourists or young folks wandering around after a late night at the bars, but others are equally obviously homeless people who either walk around all night, or just stay in one place a couple hours at a time and then move, to avoid getting busted for sleeping.

The Biden administration has expressed interest in starting a Civilian Climate Corps. Analogous to the Civilian Conservation Corps that was part of FDR’s New Deal of the 1930s, the climate corps would employ young people doing things like planting trees, installing solar panels, maintaining trails. In addition to paying wages it would also provide basic shelter. I can imagine a lot of people I know — and not just young ones! — would find this an appealing gig. Maybe even some people who currently fall into homelessness rather than deal with the seemingly ever-increasing challenges of holding up a “normal” life (security deposits, first and last month’s rent, credit checks, background checks, yadda yadda yadda), would be happy to have this option.

Back in the early 1990s when I lived in Tokyo, a lot of the companies where I taught English provided their employees with dorm housing. It was very basic but more than adequate.

My last apartment in Tokyo, where I lived for the final year of my 5 years there, was in the heart of Harajuku, a supercrowded paradise of pop culture and street fashion. Sprinkled among the high-rise concrete-and-tile buildings were older structures, including small neighborhood Buddhist temples and a pre-WWII wooden house. Also there was some sort of shopfront which appeared to be a headquarters for newspaper delivery boys. (There may have been girls there too but I only saw what appeared to be teen boys.) What was this place where they drank tea and warmed their hands around a space-heater on bitter winter days? Was it communal housing or just the place they went to pick up their papers each morning? I never knew; never asked. I always felt drawn to it though.

Same with the mysterious camp I stumbled on in the middle of a multi-day hike around the island of Izu. On a rocky beach (most beaches I saw in Japan were rocky), people appeared to be sheltering in makeshift structures made of corrugated metal propped against or between rocky outcroppings. I recall having the impression that the people were divers; maybe I spotted some diving equipment or something. They did not look to me like recreational tourists or visitors. Were they diving for pearls? Fish? Was this their housing or just their day-camp? So many things you can only guess at when youre on the outside looking in. (I could have asked, but somehow I felt foolish, not knowing what to ask. “Who are you people? What are you up to? Your vibe is so interesting?” In retrospect, I’d have found a way. My language skills were fine and probably all I needed to do was show polite interest.

I’ve often thought city parks should have caretaker’s huts, where someone could live in return for keeping the trash picked up and trimming the shrubs and cleaning the restrooms and so on.

Lately I’ve been delving into ancestry research. One of our family ancestors, the one who fought in the Revolutionary War, lived to be 91! Quite remarkable for back then. He worked as a carpenter and cabinetmaker and he fathered 13 children — nine by his first wife and four by his second wife. Sounds like a full life. I wonder if he started his carpentry career as a young live-in apprentice somewhere? (His father died at 38.)

What would a writer’s apprentice house look like? Would they have writer’s roundtable chats and serve absinthe?

As a kid, I was obsessed with those giant concrete tubes you see lying around construction sites. A person could take shelter in there, and I often thought I could live in one of those if I had to. Looking back, I wonder if my thoughts were just a child’s fanciful musings, or if I somehow had glimpses of a future time, in my own lifetime, where people I knew personally would face much harder living conditions than what I’d been taught were normal.

I once spent three months on a friend’s farm in Austin, painting signs and helping out with cooking and other tasks. I was welcome to sleep in the house but I mostly slept under an oak tree or on the second floor of the barn, where garlic hung to dry from the rafters overhead and I could look out the open end of the barn and see the city lights twinkling in the distance. I wanted for nothing. It was a sweet carefree period of my life, sandwiched between two very stressful periods when I was feeling adrift and very financially and emotionally insecure.

More thoughts on this topic coming later, no doubt! What are your thoughts on how it would be if more jobs came with housing? Have you ever WWOOFed or done some other gig that came with housing?

Update 9/23/21: Just now I googled “jobs that come with housing,” and found many promising-looking links. If you explore any of them, let us know how it goes for you!

Further Exploration:

coolworks.com: “Unlike a typical employment situation in a city or town, where you go to work and then go ‘home,’ many of the employers posting jobs on CoolWorks.com are located in resort or remote areas. It would be nearly impossible to have an employee live in the surrounding areas and travel to work every day. Because of this, a large majority of employers you’ll encounter provide employee housing and meals. Housing can range from rustic to brand new, from bunkhouse to private rooms, from dormitories to cabins. Some may even include wall tents or camping out.”

wanderjobs.com: 20 types of jobs with paid room and board

According to this page on indeed.com, there are even jobs offering free housing in NYC! And my google search revealed a number of other similar NYC job links too. And if housing-provided jobs exist in NYC, you know they surely must exist in some other urban areas too!

• And then there are the fairly well-known old standbys, workamping and WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities On Organic Farms). I know a number of people who’ve done one or both of these.