On Jan. 16, 2003, the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
(NICWJ) announced its employer-assisted housing plan to employees. This
small 13 person, Chicago-based nonprofit organization will work with
the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Neighborhood Housing Services of
Chicago (NHS) to provide homebuyer education and down payment assistance to help
employees buying their first homes.
Kim Bobo, NICWJ executive director, emphasized the importance of
homeownership. “I’ve always thought buying a home was the best thing I
did. I encourage others to [buy a home]. In fact, I’ve done my own
housing counseling around the office.” After learning about the matching
funds available through the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Bobo
decided to take advantage of this resource for her employees.
NICWJ will provide $3,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance to help
employees buy homes. The assistance will be forgiven over two years
provided employees remain with NICWJ. Participants receive free credit
counseling and homebuyer education from NHS. Eligible employees can access
an additional $3,000 in state matching funds toward their down payment.
To participate in this program, employees need to have worked for NICWJ for
at least a year, be in good standing and meet income guidelines. The
employee should also be a first-time homebuyer or not have owned a home within
three years. Assistance is structured as an advance on future salary
increases. After two years, the employee’s salary will be readjusted to
resume the same salary base.
Employees responded with excitement. Some completed eligibility
applications before the information session had adjourned. One said: “I’m
looking for someplace I an call my own.” Another added, “I’d like to own
for the resale value…. My monthly rent payments are just a waste. I want to
invest in my community.”
The four employees who have enrolled in the program will begin homeownership
education with NHS immediately and then begin searching for a