Employer-assisted housing (EAH) is a cost effective, easy to administer, hassle free way for employers to help their employees buy or rent homes close to work. When working families are not able to live close to work, their long commutes contribute to traffic congestion, dependence on foreign oil, and air pollution. Unstable and unaffordable housing markets, as well as neighborhoods and families devastated by foreclosures affect businesses with increased stress levels, reduced worker productivity, and unsafe neighborhoods. In Illinois, the Metropolitan Planning Council, Housing Action Illinois, and more than a dozen REACH partners make it easy and financially compelling for employers to offer EAH programs to their employees. These local housing experts administer the program, provide homeownership education and financial counseling, and manage the down payment or rental assistance provided by employers. Special state incentives, including tax credits and matching funds, make REACH Illinois even more compelling. Through REACH Illinois, more than 1,800 employees have bought homes since 2000.
In recent years, employers and employees have experienced tremendous advantages through EAH, including:
- Improved employee retention, loyalty and productivity.
- Reduced employee commutes, stress, absenteeism, recruitment and training costs.
- A benefits package with a competitive edge.
- Strengthened financial stability for workers, including foreclosure prevention, when employers provide housing counseling and financial assistance to buy or rent a home.
- Increased political, business, and community support for housing options.
- State and federal tax benefits.
- Leveraged state assistance for employees.
Employer-assisted housing has proven an effective strategy in cities, suburbs, and rural areas to help stabilize neighborhoods and overcome expensive housing markets. Participating employers represent nonprofit, for-profit, and government sectors.
How the EAH model works
Down payment assistance is usually structured as a five-year forgivable loan and secured by a lien on the new home. The State of Illinois has become a national leader of employer-assisted housing, providing a 50 percent tax credit for every dollar that an employer invests in the EAH program, and matching down payment assistance provided to eligible employees. These incentives have made employer-assisted housing a very attractive and cost-effective program.
Upcoming federal legislation, including energy, climate change, and transportation bills provide new opportunities to link housing and transportation investments; these bills can offer incentives for creating workforce housing near transit and jobs and for investing in infrastructure that supports workforce housing. This policy will provide a sound approach to climate change, reduce dependence on foreign oil, improve access to transit, and reduce the total housing-transportation costs borne by working families.