Summer 2011

With approximately 23,500 students, Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa., founded in 1891, is one of the largest private, nonprofit universities in the United States – and one of the city’s anchor institutions.  Drexel is also the first employer to participate in the City of Philadelphia’s newly retooled Employer-Assisted Housing program, Philadelphia Home Buy Now (HBN), a public-private partnership through which the city and local employers are investing together in homeownership to strengthen local neighborhoods. 

Celebrating the relaunch of Philadephia Home Buy Now are (left to right): Deborah Glenn, Vice President, Human Resources, Drexel University; Kevin Dow, COO & Deputy Commerce Director, City of Philadelphia; City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell; Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter; Dr. Kalatu Davies, an employee of Drexel University, and a homeowner in line to buy a home under HBN; Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO, Urban Affairs Coalition; and Michael Clancy, an employee of Michael Banks, and a homeowner in line to buy a home under HBN.

Drexel has offered its Home Purchase Assistance Program to employees since 2010, to: 

  • Attract and retain top talent. 
  • Strengthen the university by stabilizing the surrounding neighborhood. 
  • Benefit the local community by providing it with new homeowners who have a vested interest in the community where they work and live. 

Thanks to the city’s leadership, Drexel University employees and many other Philadelphia workers now have an even greater incentive to purchase a home. Through the revamped Home Buy Now program, the city is providing matching grants of up to $4,000 to employees who receive grants or forgivable loans from a participating employer. During its initial run from 2005 to 2009, Philadelphia HBN helped 211 employees purchase homes. Through its Employer-Assisted Housing technical assistance initiative, the Metropolitan Planning Council assisted with outreach to Philadelphia businesses in 2007, participated in an EAH forum in 2009, and provided other policy and programmatic recommendations to help strengthen the model.

The university has lined up its first eager homebuyer to tap HBN funds: Dr. Kalatu Davies will receive a combined grant of $19,000 – $4,000 from HBN and $15,000 from Drexel’s program – to buy a home within a designated portion of West Philadelphia near the university.“I’ve always wanted to be involved and give back to the local community that I live in,” says Davies. “I think that homeownership helps to motivate these goals.” 

Philadelphia redeployed HBN in July 2011, as a key strategy in a broader plan to improve neighborhoods and retain its workforce. The new program is similar to its predecessor in many ways, but has one significant distinction: HBN is working with local anchor institutions, such as Drexel, to target certain communities. Employees can receive up to $4,000 for purchasing a home in one of the designated neighborhoods, and up to $2,000 for purchasing a home in any other community.  

The city is collaborating with the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the quality of life in greater Philadelphia, to administer HBN. MPC has continued to offer assistance and resources as the revamped program rolls out. In the near future, UAC plans to provide a broader array of benefits beyond downpayment assistance, such as workshops, individual homebuyer counseling, home inspections, and mortgages. 

Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter has publicly recognized the Home Buy Now public-private partnership as a valuable benefit to workers, employers and the city as a whole. “Philadelphia has a world-class workforce. We want these talented individuals to buy homes, raise families and pursue careers within the city. Home Buy Now is an excellent tool for employers to recruit top talent and for the city to create more stable, flourishing neighborhoods,” he said.

The Bottom Line

Cities and local employers can forge smart public-private partnerships such as Philadelphia Home Buy Now, through which the city and its anchor institutions are investing together in new homeowners and stronger local neighborhoods. Contact MPC for assistance designing an Employer-Assisted Housing program, identifying existing resources that can leverage public-private investments, or engaging employers in supporting local policy priorities.

Read MPC's policy recommendations to support Employer-Assisted Housing initiatives.

Read about similar programs in other cities:

Long Island Housing Partnership

Live Baltimore

NeighborWorks (Columbus, Ga.)

Oklahoma Rural Enterprises Inc.

Greater Minnesota Housing Fund

Coastal Housing Partnership

Seattle Teacher Homebuyer Program

Las Vegas Housing Trust Fund


The EAH Advantage is MPC's quarterly e-newsletter about Employer-Assisted Housing.

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