By Steve Moran

There are at least two ways to increase staff compensation. The first is obvious, and that is to increase wages, but that is often difficult or impossible to do. The other thing an employer can do is reduce the cost of living. This is low-hanging fruit that does not get enough attention.

A couple of weeks ago I chatted with Richard Rubin, the founder of Repvblik, a real estate company that focuses on the adaptive reuse of obsolete buildings into workforce housing.  I am intrigued by what he is doing because if senior living were to work with Richard or, dare I say it … swipe the concept, it could be a way to substantially reduce housing costs for team members, which could make hiring and retaining much, much easier.

What It Looks Like

Richard is originally from South Africa and started doing this there in 2003–2004, initially focused on high-rise commercial buildings. The idea behind reuse for housing is that, particularly in large cities, there has always been this massive housing shortage, which results in high prices, which is unfairly punitive toward lower-income workers.


Right now there are three types of real estate that represent opportunity for Richard.

  1. High-rise office buildings — an opportunity that has grown exponentially since COVID and the resulting remote work movement
  2. Retail malls, which have been made obsolete by Amazon and other internet retail enterprises
  3. Hotels and motels, both of which have the advantage of having plumbing in every unit, making the conversions much easier and less expensive

Challenge or Rethinking 

The big challenge with old hotels and motels, from a senior living standpoint, is that while it is easy to create studio and one bedroom homes in them, they are small and would not be suitable for families with kids. And yet, even if you could work with someone like Richard to house a small percentage, it could be a game changer with respect to hiring and retaining.

The other opportunity might be older singles and couples who need to continue to work in their 50s and 60s. These could be great anti-ageist team members.

This seems to particularly make sense, because real estate and housing are already competencies that senior living operators have.

Your thoughts?