Employer-Assisted Housing - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Employer-Assisted Housing

A pragmatic solution for communities and employers

Case study: University of Chicago

Our guidebook makes it easy for employers to offer EAH—and enjoy its benefits.

One of the world's leading academic and research institutions, The University of Chicago is highly invested in the communities that neighbor its Hyde Park campus. As the second-largest private employer in Chicago with more than 23,000 employees, the University relies on its large team of faculty, physicians, and staff to build partnerships with its South Side neighbors for innovative initiatives that yield local benefits and replicable outcomes for urban universities everywhere. The University of Chicago launched an Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) benefit in 2003 to promote homeownership and investment in targeted redeveloping neighborhoods while addressing home affordability concerns in the more established communities near campus.

Derek Douglas

"Over the past decade, the Employer-Assisted Housing program has proven to be a distinct opportunity for the University of Chicago and University of Chicago Medicine to partner with our surrounding neighborhoods to increase opportunities for investments," says the University's vice president for civic engagement, Derek Douglas. "When considering our institutional goals to attract and retain the best talent and contribute to the vitality of the nine communities near our main campus, Employer-Assisted Housing just made sense. We look forward to the continued evolution of the program and its impact to both the University and the Mid-South Side."

Structure

The University’s EAH benefit was designed to improve communities surrounding the campus. It encourages employees to purchase homes in certain neighborhoods by providing greater incentives for home purchases made in those areas. In general, the University’s EAH benefit provides eligible homebuyers with an interest-free forgivable loan of $7,500 and complimentary credit and homebuyer counseling services.

To be fully eligible, University employees must purchase in one of nine selected neighborhoods, meet maximum income limits, and contribute at least 3.5 percent of the home purchase price. 

Outcomes

228 employees received a total of $1.7 million in downpayment assistance, leading to $45 million in home purchases in targeted neighborhoods

Since the program's inception 2003, over 228 employees have attended housing and credit counseling and received interest-free loans of $7,500 each. Of those, 203 were first-time home buyers. This $1.7 million investment by the University has leveraged $45 million in home purchases in neighborhoods surrounding the campus.

EAH participant homes

Before EAH

After EAH

These before-and-after maps illustrate the effectiveness of the University's EAH benefit in reducing commute distances and strengthening neighborhoods. The map on the left shows where future EAH participants lived before the University offered benefits. Compare it to the map on the right, in which these same employees now live closer to work, allowing them to use transit, and in some cases walk, for their daily commutes.

Employee profile

EAH homeowner Natasha Rodwell and her family.

Photo: Emily Cikanek

At age 28, University of Chicago Medical Center nurse Natasha Rodwell was determined to own a home. A University employee since 2004, Natasha worked to become a radiology licensed practical nurse. “I just got tired of renting,” Natasha said.

With the help of EAH benefits, Natasha purchased a condo in 2011. She now lives a ten minute walk from her job, in a neighborhood that she and her children really enjoy. Homeownership has been a great source of pride for Natasha. “I enjoy being a homeowner because it’s mine," she says. "You take pride in what you own… [EAH] helped provide a roof for me and my children, a safe place for us to live.” Natasha described the University's housing specialist that helped her find a home as "very courteous, respectful, available, knowledgeable."

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