Graphic by Katherine Bucar
As home sales in Chicago begin to pick up, a range of city employers are offering employer-assisted housing (EAH) programs that support their workers’ homeownership goals, boost the housing market, and benefit the companies in the long run.
Through EAH, employers provide assistance to their employees to purchase a home, often in the form of a forgivable loan and free homeownership counseling. MPC has worked with close to 70 employers across the region, including over 35 in the city of Chicago, to set up EAH programs. These employers have invested more than $8 million to help more than 2,000 homebuyers purchase homes valued at approximately $400 million.
Download this map showing how EAH has shortened UofC employee's commutes >>
Map by Jeff Bean
A city EAH program, spearheaded by Mayor Richard Daley, assists a wide range of public employees, including public safety officers and Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers. Recently, CPS, which has one of the nation’s most successful EAH programs, celebrated its 1,000th homebuyer since 2005 – a notable number, particularly given the state of the housing market in recent years.
EAH programs also are saving people time and money on their commutes: An MPC analysis of University of Chicago’s EAH program shows the average driving distance for participating employees has dropped, from 5.98 miles to 1.30 miles. In some cases, employees who were driving 30 miles each way to work now live less than three miles from campus. The employees also are saving on transportation costs and reducing emissions by living closer to work. The savings (based on Environmental Protection Agency estimates) amounts to $391 per auto per year and 2,377 pounds of CO2 per automobile per year.
These and other benefits are encouraging more city employers to get on board. Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) recently launched an EAH program to assist its employees in purchasing homes within mixed-income communities in Chicago created by the Plan for Transformation. “Our employees are excited to become a part of the communities they are helping to create,” said Lewis Jordon, CEO of CHA.
Meanwhile, in Springfield, lawmakers have the opportunity to reaffirm their support for EAH by renewing the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit program available to employers who offer the program to their workers. Through the State of Illinois’ tax credit program, participating employers have earned more than $1.4 million in tax credits (not including tax deductions).
“The tax credit program is icing on the cake to the other benefits we’ve received through our employer-assisted housing program,” said Michelle Olson, director of external and government affairs, University of Chicago. “EAH strengthens the entire community, benefitting local residents and creating a more vibrant community life for students and faculty.”
The tax credit – 50 cents on the dollar – is available for investments in households earning less than 120 percent of the area median income (or about $90,000 for a family of four in Chicago). To qualify for tax credits, employers also must require employees to purchase homes near their place of business.
Illinois’ tax credit program for employers with EAH programs is up for renewal this year. MPC is urging lawmakers to fund another round of tax credits – and we encourage participating employers to do the same. Learn more about the tax credit program and find out how you can bring EAH to your place of employment by going to REACHIllinois.org.
For more information contact:
(312) 863-6005 or LSellers@metroplanning.org
Regarding employers located outside of Illinois, please contact:
(312) 863-6021 or SDeKoven@metroplanning.org