(Bloomberg) — Facebook wants to keep its workers close to the office, and it’s willing to pay for it.
The social networking giant is offering workers $10,000 or more to move within 10 miles of the company’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, according to a report from Reuters on Thursday. It’s a move that has the potential to entice employees to work longer hours while easing the stresses caused by long commutes and the San Francisco Bay area’s staggering housing prices. Facebook did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.
Sounds great. Why don’t more companies do it?
The simple answer has to do with taxes. Unlike with retirement funds, say, where the government provides an explicit tax benefit for companies to pay for employee benefits, housing stipends can be taxable for both the employer and employee, according to report this summer from Bloomberg BNA (subscription required). So employers operating in expensive housing markets have become accustomed to paying higher salaries, and letting workers decide how to spend the money.
The result is that while many employers have shouldered the costs of relocating employees from one city to another, they’ve less frequently helped employees pay for housing in cities where they already live. Just 3 percent of companies offer to help their employees with down payments on a home, according to a survey this year from the Society for Human Resource Management. By comparison, 32 percent offered lump sums for relocation.
Employers that do help with housing have typically fallen into a couple of categories. Local governments have sometimes created incentives to help municipal workers live in the neighborhoods they serve, like the city of San Francisco, which announced plans earlier this year to spend up to $44 million over the next five years to help teachers buy homes. Academic institutions, like Washington University in St. Louis, and hospital centers have also dabbled in housing.