Three public-private partnerships in the Chicago region are amplifying the advantages of employer-assisted housing (EAH), by offering local workers downpayment assistance to purchase foreclosed homes that have been fully rehabbed through city redevelopment initiatives. Read these three stories to learn how to flex the benefits of EAH, not only to support employee homeownership and workforce stability, but also to strengthen local communities in the wake of foreclosures.
Thirty-five miles northwest of Chicago, family-owned OTTO Engineering has been manufacturing switch and radio accessories out of its Carpentersville location for 43 years. OTTO, which employs 160 people, is launching an EAH program this fall that will complement the company’s partnership with Kane County and the City of Carpentersville to purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed and abandoned buildings in the community. Since 2005, OTTO has acquired 80 foreclosed homes and renovated 50 of them so far – replacing electrical and plumbing systems, installing new windows, and making other improvements to make these homes energy-efficient and consequently more affordable for families. The company already has sold 20 homes to local workers and other stakeholders.
Through OTTO’s EAH program, eligible employees now can receive $3,000 in downpayment assistance toward the purchase of these homes, as well as free credit counseling and homebuyer education provided by NHS of the Fox Valley. Remarkably, the company is extending this assistance not only to its own employees, but to any employee of any company in Carpentersville.
“Carpentersville is our home, and we want to contribute to a strong, vibrant community,” said OTTO President Tom Roeser. “We are delighted to help our employees live in town and attain the dream of homeownership.” Some of the homebuyers also may be eligible for an additional $20,000 in assistance from Kane County through the Kane County Homebuyer Deferred Loan Program.
Evanston-based Northwestern University has recently announced a pilot EAH program to help employees buy foreclosed homes being redeveloped and put back on the market through the City of Evanston’s LiveEvanston program. In 2010, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development awarded $18 million to Evanston through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, to redevelop vacant and abandoned properties resulting from the foreclosure crisis. The funding allowed Evanston to purchase and, in partnership with Brinshore Development, rehabilitate some 100 homes – both homeownership and rental opportunities – over the next three years. The first two homes became available in September, and the city expects to have one to four more homes available per month for the next year.
Through this pilot program, up to 10 eligible Northwestern employees can receive $3,000 in downpayment/closing cost assistance toward the purchase of LiveEvanston homes, as well as free homebuyer education provided through city funding by the nonprofit Housing Opportunity Development Corporation. Some employees also may be eligible to tap LiveEvanston grants worth $7,000 to $50,000.
"We're very pleased to offer our employees the opportunity to live in Evanston and take advantage of the many benefits our hometown of Evanston provides," said Pamela S. Beemer, Northwestern's associate vice president of human resources. "This pilot of the employer-assisted housing program will benefit our faculty and staff and help support the City of Evanston's redevelopment efforts."
Like Kane County and Evanston, the City of Chicago received federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding to respond to the foreclosures crisis. In partnership with Mercy Portfolio Services, the city welcomes local employees to take advantage of the regular supply of new apartments and for-sale homes being rehabbed and put back on the market. Local employers can support the city’s neighborhood redevelopment strategy – all the while boosting employee loyalty and morale – by linking their EAH programs to these new homes.
“The business community is central to the housing and economic development strategy for the city,” stresses City of Chicago Dept. of Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andy Mooney. “We are investing in redevelopment that supports Mayor Emanuel’s goals for a competitive workforce, so people can commute easily and safely from home to work. We know employers have a bottom-line interest in these same goals and have benefitted greatly from their partnership and investment in priority housing initiatives.”
MPC is working with OTTO Engineering, Northwestern University, and the City of Chicago to design and implement these EAH programs, which illustrate how employers can help their employees live near work while supporting local community redevelopment or foreclosure response efforts. Contact us for information or assistance starting your own program. An added bonus: In the Chicago region, new energy efficiency retrofit dollars also are available for employers who want to help existing homeowners lower their monthly energy costs.
The Bottom Line
Employers can partner with local government to support targeted revitalization strategies that improve neighborhoods, strengthen businesses, and create new affordable home opportunities for local workers.
The EAH Advantage is MPC's quarterly e-newsletter about Employer-Assisted Housing.
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