Mayor Daley honors Employer Assisted Housing ProgramBy Josh Schonwald
Mayor Richard Daley honored the University for the extraordinary success of its five-year old Employer Assisted Housing Program in a special ceremony held Thursday, May 15.
With 165 home closings and more than 450 counseling sessions, the University and the University Medical Center have the highest number of home closings of any employer in the state of Illinois.
The University’s program also was featured as a national model for EAH programs in the recent Homes for Working Families publication, Understanding Employer-Assisted Housing: A Guidebook for Employers.
Launched in May 2003 to promote home ownership and investment in targeted redeveloping neighborhoods surrounding the University, the EAH program provides homebuyer assistance in the form of interest-free forgivable loans, as well as credit and homebuyer counseling services.
“Employer Assisted Housing has allowed us to make a meaningful investment in our employees and in the communities where they live, work and play,” said Michelle Olson, Director of Community and Civic Affairs.
Through the investment of employees, the University’s EAH program has contributed to the revitalization of the Kenwood, Oakwood Shores, Hyde Park and Woodlawn communities.
What is perhaps most extraordinary, Olson noted, of the 165 families who have closed on their homes throughout the five years of the University’s EAH program, only one has faced foreclosure—a fact that speaks volumes about the stability of these loans and the strength of this program, particularly given the current mortgage crisis.
At the Thursday, May 15 ceremony hosted by Daley, business leaders from across the city convened to honor the accomplishments of the University and learn about methods of implementing similar programs at their respective institutions.
Eligible employees receive an interest-free $7,500 loan toward down payment and closing costs when they purchase a home within the program’s target areas.
The assistance is forgiven over five years, provided the employee resides in the house as a primary home, continues to be employed by the University or Medical Center and participates in home ownership counseling. In addition, an employee must contribute 3 percent of the purchase price of the home toward the down payment.
The program encourages employees to buy homes in neighborhoods in transition by allowing a higher income cap (up to $106,000 for a family of three) and purchase price limits, as well as allowing repeat buyers to receive the assistance. First-time homebuyers with lower incomes (capped at $87,000 for a three-person household) are eligible to purchase in either zone.
“Employer Assisted Housing is one more way that we can continue working together for a better Chicago. It helps give residents the stake of home ownership in our city, it helps promote mixed-income communities that enhance the lives of our residents and it helps the participating companies prosper,” Daley said.
The Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago designed the University’s program, assisted with its initial implementation and remains involved as a technical adviser. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago provides educational workshops as well as one-on-one home ownership counseling and helps package financial assistance for home purchases.
The success of the EAH program led the University in 2006 to invest $1 million in a nonprofit loan fund to preserve rental housing. These funds are available as low-interest loans for rental property owners to rehabilitate buildings in the EAH program’s target areas.
The EAH program process begins with a homebuyer and financial education course, as well as one-on-one counseling through Neighborhood Housing Services.
For more information on the EAH program, contact University Housing Services at (773) 702-3420.