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Employer-Assisted Housing 2006 Year-End Report

This is the 2006 Year-End Report on Employer-Assisted Housing

REACH Illinois
2006 Year-End Accomplishments

Illinois employer-assisted housing initiatives continued expanding in 2006, with the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Housing Action Illinois, and REACH partners working with employers in the Chicago region and throughout the state. REACH Illinois not only supports bottom-line savings for employers investing in workforce housing, but it improves employees’ lives and helps open doors to housing solutions.

Following is a summary of successes during 2006:

  • Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law the Comprehensive Housing Planning Act (SB 2290) and the Business Location Efficiency Incentive Act (SB 2885), referred to as “Location Matters.” SB 2290 formalizes the state's first housing policy as legislation; this Act links state spending in such key areas as economic development, transportation, and human services to support affordable housing. SB 2885 authorizes the Ill. Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to offer incentives for employers investing in employer-assisted housing or transit-oriented development. EAH employers were among the stakeholders who provided letters of support and other testimony for these bills.
  • The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) continued to make available matching funds (up to $5,000 per eligible buyer), to support counseling and technical assistance, and to administer the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credits.
  • The Illinois EAH model was featured as part of a briefing for legislative staff in Washington DC, to cultivate support for the “Housing America’s Workforce Act.” Hank Webber of the University of Chicago and Robin Snyderman of the Metropolitan Planning Council participated in that briefing.
  • Also on the national front, Illinois’ EAH work was featured in the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Newsletter, Entrepreneur Magazine, Northwest Indiana Times, as well as trade publications for “Winning Workplaces” and the American Planning Association. Representatives accommodated requests for presentations on the REACH initiative for the National League of Cities, as well as for audiences in New York, New Mexico, Tennessee, Vermont, Florida, Indiana and Wisconsin.
  • Locally, over 60 Illinois employers have committed to offering their employees assistance with down payment for their home purchase, with well over 40 already up and running, and additional approaches to employer-assisted housing were also put in place.
    • Expanding its employer-assisted housing commitment, the University of Chicago announced a $1 million investment in the Community Investment Corporation to support preservation of affordable rental housing in Chicago’s south side neighborhoods.
    • The small business consortium provided opportunities for employees of very small businesses to take advantage of a housing benefit.
    • Three employers signed on to the REACH program’s first rental assistance model – to support the Pacesetter redevelopment in south suburban Riverdale.
  • By the end of 2006, more than $1,700,000 in employer dollars was provided to employees as down payment assistance through employer-assisted housing initiatives.
  • During 2006, more than 400 employees bought homes with assistance from their employers, bringing the total to over 1,000 employees since MPC launched the EAH model in 2000. Overall, more than 2,000 employees have benefited from EAH since 2000, including those receiving credit counseling, homeownership education, and down payment assistance. (See Table 1 and Table 2.)
  • The largest employer currently participating in the REACH model is Chicago Public Schools, which itself assisted 200 teachers in 2006. Chicago Community Colleges and Lake Forest College also launched EAH programs in 2006, and an increasing number of local school districts are currently exploring the program.
  • The median household income was $52,000, in 2006, and median home purchase price was $210,000 (based on available data). (See Table 3.)
  • Participating EAH employers increasingly engaged in advocacy in support of affordable workforce housing, in 2006, even beyond supporting the state housing legislation passed:
  • Employer advocacy was also helpful in McHenry County in February, when two of our existing EAH partners reached out to the McHenry County Housing Authority, successfully urging them to join MPC’s Regional Housing Initiative and tap available resources to support a new affordable rental housing proposal in Woodstock.
    • South Suburban EAH employer investment leveraged needed tax credit points for Pacesetter’s redevelopment in Riverdale
    • Lake Forest College’s focus on EAH, resulting in its launch in October, also bolstered a variety of initiatives pursued by local leaders – including the City of Lake Forest’s inclusionary housing ordinance and its housing trust fund
    • St. Charles’ housing strategy, also inspired by its EAH work, has resulted in a new housing commission focused on a variety of progressive housing policy changes. Most exciting of all, in 2006, IHDA approved the financing for city-backed affordable housing – Canterbury Place – which was created as an affordable set-aside within a new planned development. When approving rezoning, as part of an annexation agreement, from commercial to residential of a 55 acre parcel, St. Charles required 20 percent affordable on-site. Canterbury Place will provide the bulk of that, with 47 accessible and affordable apartments within the 250-unit development.
  • 15 nonprofit REACH partners across Illinois manage EAH programs for employer partners. These experienced nonprofit housing counseling organizations span the Chicago region and the rest of the state to provide services to employers wherever they are located.
  • Housing Action Illinois coordinated trainings to build capacity for these housing organizations, including expertise in homeownership counseling and EAH program administration. At least 26 community-based organizations across the state benefited from these trainings.

An all-new Web site launched at www.reachillinois.org to provide information about employer-assisted housing in Illinois.

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