Harris to help employees purchase homes through new employer-assisted housing program - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Harris to help employees purchase homes through new employer-assisted housing program

Harris will provide $2,500 in downpayment assistance and free homeownership counseling to qualifying employees in Illinois and Indiana

(Chicago)….. As one of the Chicago area’s largest financial institutions, Harris knows firsthand that homeownership is a valuable investment. Homeowners build equity, achieve stability, and invest time and money in their local communities. Yet in the greater metropolitan region, the market is pricing out many would-be buyers, especially working families.

To help its employees overcome the barriers that prevent millions of Americans from ever owning their own homes, the bank has launched an employer-assisted housing (EAH) program that will provide qualifying Harris employees in Illinois and Indiana with $2,500 for downpayment or closing cost assistance and free homeownership counseling.

“Every day at Harris, we help make homeownership a reality for our customers,” said Ellen Costello, chief executive officer, Harris Bankcorp Inc. “Today, we are proud to launch a new program designed to help our colleagues achieve that same dream of homeownership.”

A sense of accomplishment and security are among the many intangibles Harris hopes to provide its employees through its EAH program. Helping employees live near work, improving stability and morale among workers, and providing an innovative benefit to attract and retain employees are key reasons why more than 60 Chicago-area employers are offering EAH. Since 2000, when the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) launched its EAH model with its first employer, System Sensor in St. Charles, Ill. , more than 1,000 workers have been helped.

“Nationwide, homeownership rates continue to climb, but for working families, those numbers actually are falling,” said Robin Snyderman, MPC housing director. “The American dream of homeownership is far beyond the reach of millions of working families, many of whom cannot even afford the rising cost of rent, particularly in communities with access to good jobs. Through EAH programs, private sector leaders like Harris become part of the solution, investing in housing assistance for employees while reaping bottom-line benefits.”

Qualifying Harris employees will receive $2,500 toward downpayment assistance and/or closing costs, but the financial award is only part of the package: Harris also is partnering with regional nonprofit housing counseling agencies to provide employees free homeownership counseling, which will help them avoid the pitfalls facing many first-time homebuyers.

The nonprofit housing counseling agencies – known as REACH (Regional Employer-Assisted Collaboration for Housing) partners – also will administer the EAH program for Harris , creating a layer of privacy for the bank’s employees. The REACH partners working with Harris, each covering a specific geographic region, include the following:

  • Affordable Housing of Lake County
  • DuPage Homeownership Center
  • Housing Opportunity Development Corporation ( Chicago ’s North Shore suburbs)
  • Joseph Corporation (City of Aurora and surrounding communities)
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago
  • Spanish Coalition for Housing (City of Chicago and southern suburbs)
  • Rogers Park Community Development Corporation

“The REACH partners will put Harris employees on the path to homeownership, by helping them establish good credit, determine how big a mortgage they can comfortably afford, and learn the basics of budgeting and other essential financial tools. For employees ready to take the plunge, the REACH partners will be their safety net through the closing,” said Snyderman. “REACH partners also have experience working with an array of local, regional and state homebuyer assistance programs, and often find that individuals can leverage their employer’s contribution to attract additional assistance.”

In Illinois, employees also may qualify for matching funds from the state, thanks to a government initiative to support EAH: the Illinois Housing Development Authority may match an employer’s downpayment assistance up to $5,000 for households earning less than 50 percent of the region’s Area Median Income (AMI), or up to $3,000 for households earning between 50 and 80 percent of AMI. (AMI in the Chicago region is $75,400 for a family of four.)

Meanwhile, Illinois employers can take advantage of t he Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit Program, which provides employers a 50 cent tax credit for every $1 invested in an EAH program. By tapping into these funds – and by realizing substantial cost savings due to reduced turnover – EAH employers often find that the program, unlike any other benefit, pays for itself.

Other Illinois employers offering EAH programs include Mercy Hospital , Chicago Public Schools , and The John Buck Company. Across the country and statewide, new employers launch EAH programs each month, indicating a growing understanding among the private sector that it pays to invest in workforce housing.

MPC helps employers design and evaluate customized EAH programs. To learn more about employer-assisted housing in Illinois , visit the REACH Illinois Web site at www.reachillinois.org.

About Harris
Harris is an integrated financial service organization that provides more than one million personal, business, corporate and institutional clients with banking, lending, investing, financial planning, trust administration, portfolio management, family office and wealth transfer services. For more information, please visit www.theharris.com.

About Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC)
Founded in 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders committed to serving the public interest through the promotion and implementation of sensible planning and development policies necessary for an economically competitive Chicago region. MPC researches and develops policy recommendations and conducts outreach and advocacy in partnership with public officials and community leaders to enhance equity of opportunity and quality of life throughout metropolitan Chicago .

For more information about employer-assisted housing initiatives, contact Mandy Burrell, MPC communications associate, at 312.863.6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org; or Robin Snyderman, MPC housing director, at 312.863.6007 or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org. For information about Harris’ EAH program, or for comment from Harris, contact Chris Nardella, at 312.461.6625 or chris.nardella@harrisbank.com .

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