University program to help employees live in community where they workBy Peter Schuler
Owning a home and walking to work will become easier to achieve for many staff and faculty members thanks to the University’s new employer-assisted housing program, EAHP, launched earlier this month.
The EAHP offers a $7,500 forgivable loan for qualified employees to use toward down payment or closing costs on homes purchased in the neighborhoods of Hyde Park-South Kenwood, North Kenwood-Oakland, Washington Park and Woodlawn, which surround the campus. The zero-interest loan will be forgiven over five years at 20 percent per year, provided the employee remains in the home and continues working at the University or the University Hospitals. Employees also will receive homeownership education and assistance during the home-buying process.
The EAHP provides an opportunity for moderate and middle-income employees to purchase a home in nearby neighborhoods, where 30 percent of staff members currently reside. An estimated 8,400 of the 12,000 people employed by the University and its Hospitals could be eligible to apply on a first-come, first-served basis for the 90 loans that will be initially offered over the next two years.
“We are pleased to show our commitment to our employees and our local communities by investing in a program that will help our faculty and staff purchase a home close to work,” said President Randel. Added Michael Riordan, President and CEO of the University Hospitals, “We are thrilled to help turn the dream of homeownership into a reality for our employees and want to encourage them to consider a new home in these quickly redeveloping areas of the city.”
The program was developed in partnership with the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and the City of Chicago.
“We commend the University of Chicago and its Hospitals for their leadership in helping employees attain the dream of homeownership. We’re happy to be their partner on this outstanding initiative,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. “Our own programs offered through the Department of Housing will make more homes affordable for working families.” The City of Chicago will help employees access its homebuyer assistance programs.
The Metropolitan Planning Council and Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago helped the University design the employer-assisted housing program. The Metropolitan Planning Council has worked with a growing number of major public and private employers around the region to craft similar programs that pair an employer with a not-for-profit housing counseling organization such as the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, which will help with program administration and educate participants on homeownership.
“More employers are recognizing the benefits to their own bottom line by boosting retention and saving on turnover costs,” said University Trustee and Metropolitan Planning Council Vice Chairman King Harris. “It also improves the quality of life for everyone in our region.”
In the University’s case, the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago will provide homeownership education and links to other homebuyer programs offered through financial institutions, the Illinois Housing Development Authority and the Chicago Department of Housing.
“The program that the University of Chicago and its Hospitals are now offering its faculty, staff and employees will make a real difference in achieving homeownership,” said Bruce Gottschall, Executive Director of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. “The homebuyer assistance plus homeownership education provided by experienced NHS counselors puts employees on the right track to owning their own home.”
The two-year pilot program will target University families with household incomes up to $105,560 who want to purchase homes that range in price up to $307,172 in North Kenwood-Oakland, Washington Park, Woodlawn and Hyde Park-South Kenwood. It will be funded by general revenue from the University and the Hospitals.
“We are committed to our employees and to our communities,” said Hank Webber, Vice President for Community and Government Affairs. “This initiative will help cut lengthy commutes and increase our employees’ access to nearby housing opportunities. Our employees’ investment in the neighborhoods is an essential element of our goal to help improve urban life for all community residents, including our world-class students and faculty.”
Sonya Malunda, Assistant Vice President and Director of Community Affairs, helped create the EAHP program. “EAHP will enable employees to take advantage of the many benefits of our surrounding communities, which are walkable and redeveloping neighborhoods that offer easy access to the lake and downtown, ” she said.
Further information on EAHP is available on the Web sites of University Human Resources Management, http://uhrm.uchicago.edu/index.html, and the University of Chicago Hospitals, http://www.uchospitals.edu/, and at the offices of Real Estate Operations, 5100 S. Dorchester Ave., which will administer the EAHP program for the University.