See media coverage for this event in the Evanston Roundtable and the Trib Local.
In early December, 2010, a crowd of 35 gathered at the City of Evanston Ecology Center to learn about new homes coming to Evanston in the next three years. 18 Evanston employers participated in the conversation, as they heard about the City’s plans and discussed ways to reach out to their employees with the information about new homes for rent and sale through Evanston’s NSP2 development process. Evanston’s NSP2 plans (the second round of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program) include purchasing and rehabbing 100 homes—some multi-unit buildings and some single family homes—for rent and sale. The City was awarded more than $18 million in NSP2 funds and is partnering with Brinshore Development for the three-year project. Under requirements set by HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development), most households qualified to rent or buy an NSP home will be low and moderate income. Families purchasing a home will likely fall in the income range of $40,000-$90,000.
The opportunity for these homes aligns with a complementary program employers learned about—EAH—or, employer-assisted housing. EAH is an employee benefit which can be administered in any number of ways, with the goal of helping employees access housing. Because of special incentives through the state of Illinois, employers who offer an EAH benefit are eligible for a state tax credit (which can be sold if the employer is a non-profit) and employees who are purchasing a home through an EAH program are eligible for matching funds.
Employers who offer home-buying assistance to their employees have found it pays off in terms of reduced worker turnover and higher productivity, as workers who live near their jobs tend to remain with a company, focus better on work and spend less time and fuel commuting. The range of EAH includes anything from letting employees know about affordable housing in the area, by offering down-payment assistance or even by donating land on which housing can be built. Since both NSP and EAH require prepurchase counseling and education for all homebuyers, the programs safeguard against participants taking a loan they cannot afford and struggling later with mortgage payments.
Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes both encouraged local employers to become involved by launching an EAH program in support of the City’s development plans. Mayor Tisdahl voiced her goal to join forces with employers to make Evanston more livable and affordable for employees and reduce the costs of employee turnover and absenteeism, which lessens the commute and stabilizes the community.
Kudos to the City of Evanston for receiving this competitive funding to improve the community through new workforce housing opportunities, for selecting a strong development partner, and for enlisting the support of your local employers!