Bringing small businesses together to offer employer-assisted housing - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Bringing small businesses together to offer employer-assisted housing

Over 50 small businesses were represented at an August 25th breakfast to hear about a new employer-assisted housing consortium.

 Kicking off the new small business consortium for employer-assisted housing (EAH), on August 25, over 50 small business owners attended a forum co-sponsored by Fannie Mae, Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and MPC REACH partners -- Local Economic & Employment Development [LEED] Council and the Spanish Coalition for Housing.

Forum participants learned about a new EAH model that, thanks to a start-up grant from the Partnership for New Communities (PNC), enables small businesses to offer their employees EAH without the counseling and administrative costs involved in larger EAH programs. If the businesses invest in down payment assistance to help their income-eligible employees live near work, then LEED Council and Spanish Coalition for Housing will provide homeownership counseling in exchange for the company’s state tax credits. The first round of counseling is expected to begin this fall.

The forum was opened with welcoming remarks by Ald. Walter Burnett, Jr.(27th Ward) and Ald. Billy Occasio (26th Ward), both of whom stressed the importance of promoting homeownership opportunities as a wealth-building asset for Chicagoans and as a key element of mixed-income community development in their wards.

Ald. Burnett underscored supporting industrial businesses by enabling their workers to live close by.  “If businesses are surrounded by their workers, who understand why a businesses looks, sounds or smells a particular way, businesses will not be harassed by newcomers lacking a connection to the neighborhood, who complain about businesses that have operated successfully in a location for far longer than the condominium or other residential properties.”

MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), noted the many benefits for employers -- improved employee retention and reduced recruitment & training costs -- and employees -- shorter commute times, down payment assistance, and quality home purchase counseling.

Terry Young and David Fuentes, from Fannie Mae's Illinois Community Business Center, discussed their financing commitment to encourage affordable housing development through the Greater Humboldt Park Housing Initiative, which is geographically targeted to area bounded by Diversey Avenue on the north, Kinzie Street on the south, Cicero Avenue on the west, and Western Avenue on the east. MPC acknowledges Fannie Mae for its sponsorship of the breakfast forum.

Jack Markowski, commissioner of Chicago's Department of Housing, delivered greetings from Mayor Richard M. Daley, and expressed the mayor’s commitment to promoting affordable housing. Markowski highlighted the City of Chicago mortgage programs that are available to assist employees to purchase homes in the city with attractive financing, and additional down payment and closing cost assistance. (Click here to see the Department of Housing video on EAH.)

Ted Wysocki, president & CEO of LEED Council, emphasized that employer-assisted housing is essential to assure successful mixed-income community development.  LEED Council is involved in promoting EAH because it is environmentally sound as a Clean Air Counts strategy for employees to live closer to work and spend less time in traffic.  He also stressed that EAH is the latest human resource best practice, with a major bottom-line return on investment.

For more information on the consortium, contact Eve Pytel at LEED Council, 773-929-5552 ext. 236, or Jane Hornstein at MPC, at 312-863-6040. Click here for the Participation Agreement.

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