When business leaders ask why an employer might invest in employer-assisted housing, I often point to Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care’s model. Aurora Health Care provides $3,000 in downpayment assistance to help employees buy homes, and refers them to Select Milwaukee for credit counseling and homebuyer education. Created in 1994 to encourage more employees to live within walking distance of work, the initiative has helped more than 360 employees buy homes and led to more than $40 million invested in Milwaukee neighborhoods. In addition to helping those working families achieve their dream of homeownership, the hospital has realized bottom line benefits, including increased employee performance and tenure.
When the Metropolitan Planning Council conducted research in the late 1990s to collect models of business-led housing initiatives, we learned from Select Milwaukee and their employer-assisted housing partnership with some of Milwaukee’s leading employers, including MGIC, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Northwestern Mutual Life, Harley Davidson, and Aurora Health Care.
MPC’s EAH initiative was largely modeled on theirs – built to address the two primary obstacles to homeownership: savings for downpayment and credit history. Our research also found that the most successful EAH programs utilized a capable nonprofit housing expert to relieve participating businesses of administrative headaches and employees’ confidential homeownership and financial questions.
The Chicago and Milwaukee regions have continued to share best practices around EAH and partner on housing policy solutions, including strategies to strengthen credit counseling and homeownership education, neighborhood stabilization, and foreclosure response.
Recognizing that EAH can, similarly, be a valuable tool in northwest Indiana, municipal and business leaders have identified EAH as a strategy to encourage employees to invest in local communities. Employees of BMO Harris Bank, Ameristar, and the City of East Chicago already have used employer assistance to buy or rent homes in redeveloping neighborhoods of East Chicago. By encouraging employees to live in particular communities, employers can help spur reinvestment and support local community priorities, while leveraging benefits for employees and supporting the capacity of local housing nonprofits.
Sign up for MPC’s quarterly EAH newsletter, the EAH Advantage, to hear more best practices. Join us as an EAH partner – to help support local housing recovery and introduce employees to new home opportunities and foreclosure prevention resources. Contact us for more information.
On Wednesday, July 25, MPC hosted our 2012 Annual Luncheon: The Cities That Work, featuring an insightful dialogue between the mayors of Gary and Milwaukee, about opportunities to strengthen the tri-state region. Leading up to the event, we featured a series of posts from guest authors and members of our staff on issues that unite the tri-state region. Read the whole series at www.metroplanning.org/citiesthatworkseries.