MPC supports new federal incentives to leverage business investment in workforce housing - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC supports new federal incentives to leverage business investment in workforce housing

Valerie27

The Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospital, Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Art, and other local arts and cultural institutions have joined together to create a $4 million EAH program.

As the economy and housing market begin to show signs of recovery, strategies proven to encourage homeownership and community stability are smart investments worthy of additional public and private support. Among these is employer-assisted housing, an innovative employer benefit through which employees receive credit counseling, homebuyer education, and financial resources to help them purchase homes.

Despite the struggling economy, EAH programs in Illinois and across the nation have been going strong. Since 2000, Illinois employers of all types and sizes have helped nearly 1,900 employees buy homes. Perhaps even more remarkable is that closings have remained steady in 2008 and 2009.

EAH has also shown its value by playing a role in affordable housing and redevelopment efforts. MPC has partnered with the City of Chicago and local EAH employers to market homes in Chicago’s new mixed-income communities, created by the redevelopment of Chicago’s public housing high rises. Close to 30 percent of all successful buyers have learned about the new home opportunities through their employers, and 20 percent of all buyers have received financial assistance from their employer, contributing to ongoing community revitalization in an otherwise tough economic time.

EAH employers are putting their weight behind a new affordable housing proposal in affluent Lake Forest, Ill. In Lake Forest and neighboring communities, even the 24 percent decline in median home sale prices does not make homeownership affordable for the area’s 60,000 workers who earn less than $50,000 per year.

In south and west suburban communities hit hard by foreclosures, business support has assisted local leaders in building cross-jurisdictional partnerships to make the most of foreclosure recovery funding, provided by the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Local leaders will partner with local employers to target this funding, as well as EAH assistance, toward redevelopment opportunities near job and transit corridors.

EAH is working in cities across the country. The Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, University Hospital, Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland Museum of Art, and other local arts and cultural institutions have joined together to create a $4 million EAH program, administered by the local community-based nonprofit Fairfax Renaissance Corp. Through the program, 50,000 employees of the participating institutions are eligible to receive $10,000 to buy homes in the adjacent Greater University Circle neighborhood, a four-and-a-half square mile area with 43,000 residents with a median income of $18,500. Employees already living in the district can receive up to $4,000 in matching funds for exterior renovations to improve their homes and revitalize the community.

These institutions have embraced their role in helping strengthen the community. In addition to the EAH program and local hiring goals, the institutions have seeded new cooperative businesses. These initial businesses – a laundry and solar panel installer – have pledged to hire locally and offer products the institutions need, helping reduce the institutions’ carbon footprint.

The Greater University Circle institutions also have strengthened their connection to downtown Cleveland by “adopting” the city’s new bus rapid transit line, by providing sponsorship and naming it “The Health Line.” Employers are participating in planning efforts to relocate an existing transit station. The Cleveland Foundation and anchor institutions have played a key role in partnering with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority in assembling land, funding the planning process to ensure the optimal station location and design, and promoting and planning for adjacent retail and residential development as part of the station overhaul and relocation.

Back in Illinois, where the state provides tax credits and matching funds to support EAH programs, about $2.5 million in public investment has leveraged more than $8 million in private investment since 2000. These numbers make a strong case for why the federal government should invest in incentives to encourage EAH nationwide.

One opportunity is the Livable Communities Act of 2009, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). This bill would foster equitable and sustainable development by providing resources to local and regional communities to coordinate land use, housing, transportation, and infrastructure planning. The legislation also would establish the Office of Sustainable Housing & Communities at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and an Interagency Council on Sustainable Communities. 

Read this recent MPC blog post by Housing Consultant Samantha DeKoven to learn more about the Livable Communities Act. Contact MPC staff to learn more about how MPC can help you design and implement an EAH program that suits your needs.

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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