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Testimony to the Illinois House Urban Revitalization Committee by Brian Finch, Bank One Corporation

On behalf of Bank One, I want to thank you for your attention to housing issues in Illinois, and for the opportunity to testify today.

As you know, Bank One is a national financial services company, with our headquarters based in Chicago.  In the metropolitan area, we serve more than one million customers and are a leader in community development.  The company has 190 banking center locations and offers 24-hour service via 1,000 ATMs, as well as telephone and online banking.  In addition, we are one of the largest private employers in the state with over 16,000 Illinois employees.  Bank One is the nation's sixth-largest bank holding company, with assets of more than $260 billion.
 
In October 2001, we launched a pilot Employer Assisted Housing program to help our employees throughout the nation realize the dream of home ownership.  The Bank One Homebuyer Assistance Program provides $2,500 grants to regular full- and part-time employees who are purchasing their first homes, or who have not owned real estate for that last three years.  The applicant's income must be less than 80 percent of the Housing and Urban Development median income.  The grants may be used toward a down payment and closing costs, and are "grossed up" to cover the employee's tax liability on the gift.  Bank One has committed $500,000 toward this program, which is part of the company's overall benefits package. 

In Illinois, thanks to our partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council and eight community-based housing experts around the region, our eligible employees are able to leverage the matching dollars set aside by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. 

We estimate that Bank One will invest $62,500 in the Chicago area alone, creating 25 new homebuyers, during the first year of the program.  Since our local launch in June with MPC and partners, in the Chicago area we've qualified over a dozen people for the program and have already helped seven families buy new homes.  These results suggest that the investment could easily be expanded in future years.

Bank One is proud of the mortgage products we've developed, and want to make sure that our own employees are able to utilize them.  Furthermore, this program supports Bank One's commitment to homebuyer counseling by requiring each employee to work with qualified experts to develop the needed credit history and educate themselves about the home purchase process.

We believe this program benefits not just employees and communities but also the employer.  This program helps foster in employees a greater sense of loyalty and commitment to the company, in turn creating a desire to better serve our customers.  As Gerardo Gallo, a Bank One assistant manager at our Sauganash banking center in Chicago said in a recent article in our employee newsletter, "[The program] makes you feel like someone's looking out for you. ....And it makes you want to do your job better."  Given the competitive market place for banking associates, our investment in Employer Assisted Housing helps make Bank One an attractive place to work for years to come.

In addition to our interest in the new state matching funds to promote homeownership among our own employees, Bank One was very involved in some of the early discussions about the new State Donations Tax Credit, which we hope will be a production vehicle for rental housing as well.  As a community lender, we understand that the demands of the housing market are beyond the public sector's ability to meet alone.  Private sector partners are essential.  We must develop more strategies to attract employers to invest in housing solutions for their workforce.  Bank One supports continued and expanded state support of employer assisted housing programs, both in terms of housing dollars and in terms of outreach and education to other private sector leaders.  We believe these programs create win-win situations that benefit employers, employees and our communities in Illinois.

Thank you for your consideration.

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