“Free housing” for travel therapists explained

Who here loves the word “free”? I know I do 🙋‍♀️ And as a travel therapist, I of course would be intrigued by hearing or seeing the words “free housing”! Travel therapy housing can be challenging in this travel healthcare industry – you can’t always find affordable housing options in the locations you want to go to or if you do find suitable housing it may not exactly be a prime location. If free short-term housing was really an option, I think all of us healthcare travelers would jump on that opportunity.

But I’m here to tell you the truth, friends – and the truth is “free housing” does not exist!

What do companies really mean when they say “free housing”?

It’s a marketing strategy – plain and simple. When agencies use that phrase, they know it will draw in travelers who need short-term housing for their next travel assignment. If you’re discussing travel therapy housing options, and your recruiter mentions that their agency provides free housing, it really means they’re using (what would have been) your tax-free housing stipend to pay for it. Which means… you guessed it… it’s still coming out of your pay!

If you qualify for a housing stipend, you can use it to pay for whatever housing options you are interested in! You are free to use it as you please for your 13-week contract. If your staffing agency is in charge of your housing, you aren’t able to be as picky and they might not have the same standards as you would finding your own.

I will say that letting your staffing agency find housing for you is more convenient. It would be their job to find you housing (near your assignment location), do the behind-the-scenes paperwork, furnish the space, and pay the move-in costs – whew that’s a lot of work! And they are using the money (that they would have paid you via the housing stipend) to accomplish this.

Should I take the tax-free money or let my staffing agency find my housing?

Let’s go back to the basics here. What is a housing stipend? It’s the money that travel companies provide to you (the travel healthcare worker) to cover housing costs that you’ll have while on assignment. As the traveler, you’ll usually have a choice between company housing or the housing stipend. Remember, you cannot get both. You’ll have to choose one or the other!

There are pros and cons to each choice. If you let your staffing agency find your housing, it’s convenient, it’ll be furnished, it can be more reliable, and if your assignment gets canceled they’ll take care of getting you out of there (aka they’ll cover those costs). If you take the housing stipend, you get to be as picky as you want to be, you can spend as little or as much as you want to, and you have full control over every little detail.

Whether you should take the tax-free housing stipend or let your agency do the hard work for you, is completely up to you. It may depend on factors like your personal life, your preferred locations, where your job opportunities are, if you already have housing arrangements, if the company you’re working with even offers agency-provided housing, or if you want to find cheaper housing yourself and pocket the extra money! You’ll know what’s best for you when the time comes, fellow travel therapist!

Here’s to making every assignment feel like home sweet home!

Laura Latimer

Laura Latimer

Travel OT and Founder of Nomadicare

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