KANAB, Utah (ABC4) – New housing will be popping up just north of the Utah-Arizona border in the small-town Kanab. 

The Best Friends Animal Society broke ground on Wednesday, Sept. 28, on a $6 million project to build 12 duplexes – 24 units – of staff housing. It’s a project Best Friends says is a possible first for non-profits. 

Best Friends operates the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States and is currently undertaking an unprecedented goal to end the killing of pets in America’s shelters by 2025. Kanab is the site of Best Friends’ headquarters and sanctuary, as well as more than half of their 850 employees.

“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,” Best Friends stated in a release. “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.”

According to Best Friends, they have had trouble filling 42 job positions in Kanab, despite offering “above-industry pay and benefits and having an award-winning culture.” In an attempt to hopefully bring employees to Kanab while making it easy to find affordable housing, Best Friends launches its housing project.

“We need people. Period. That’s why we made the commitment to building housing for our staff,” said chief executive officer of Best Friends Julie Castle. “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 housing project will employ a local contractor. The first duplex is scheduled to be completed in early 2023 with one more duplex being completed every two weeks until the project is completed.

Best Friends said they 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 staff.

“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,” said Castle. “This is more than an investment in real estate, it’s an investment in our community, our staff, and in our mission.”