WGN-TV Show Notes â€“ August 5, 2004
Wouldn’t it be great to walk to work? Or at least not have a huge commute? You might be able to buy a place near your job if you had some help.
The cost of buying a home has risen so dramatically over the past decade that homeownership is really out of reach for average working families throughout the region. But some employers looking to lend a helping hand are now offering free money to their employees to help them buy a home that’s close to work.
“The Dan Ryan was one of my favorite parking lots,” says Keith McKee, a professor at IIT.
Keith McKee spends an average of an hour each day and sometimes longer commuting to and from his job at IIT. Out of the blue, he was offered $5,000 to move to a new community being built on campus. He jumped at the chance to cut his commute and reclaim those wasted hours.
“What I do is do a lot more reading and a lot more work. I have a little office in my house so I’m able to work and then come home and work. What a nice thing,” McKee says.
As housing prices in the Chicago area have soared, the number of companies giving free down payment cash as an employee benefit has surged. The state of Illinois is lending a helping hand as well. Last year, new tax incentives for businesses that offer employee assisted housing programs kicked in, including matching fund and tax credit program. The matching fund doubles what an employer puts in for income-eligible households.
“If you’re a lower income employee, you might be able to get $10,000, $5,000 from the employer and $5,000 from the state. Although in some communities like Lake County, the counseling agencies have been able to package more than that,” says Robin Snyderman, Metropolitan Housing Council.
The state tax credit allows employers to write off half of the grants they give their employees, most of which are structured as forgivable loans. For IIT, whose near Southwest Side neighborhood has been a bit rough over the past 50 years or so, the assisted housing tax benefits have been a boon.
“Having been here for over 100 years, this is really the first time that we’ve seen the opportunity to buy into the community by having faculty and staff live next to the campus as part of the new mixed income community being built right around our campus,” says David Baker, IIT vice president of external affairs.
When the next local development, called Park Boulevard, opens for sale, IIT employees will get a forgivable loan of $7,500 toward the purchase of their home With the matching funds, that could mean as much as $15,000 for the down payment.
“When we started the program, we were looking at it as a great tool to help employees afford housing in high job growth areas where the market is out of reach,” Snyderman says.
With 20 employers now offering an employee assisted housing programs, and another 20 getting their paperwork in order, thousands of employees may soon be able to make their homeownership dreams come true.
“Overall, I think it’s been just about everything I hoped it might be, so it’s worked out well for me,” McKee says.
The employers offering employee assisted housing programs include companies like Allstate Insurance, the University of Chicago and Draper and Kraper Real Estate Company.
Employers offering employee assisted housing programs:
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO AND UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO HOSPITALS
ILLINOIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
CITY OF EVANSTON
FIRST MIDWEST BANK
ALLSTATE INSURANCE CORPORATION
CITY OF NORTH CHICAGO
ROSENTHAL BROTHERS, DEERFIELD, IL
ROBINSON ENGINEERING, SOUTH HOLLAND, IL
ST. JAMES HOSPITAL, CHICAGO HEIGHTS AND OLYMPIA FIELDS
DRAPER AND KRAMER
WHEATON FRANCISCANS, DUPAGE COUNTY
NORTHWEST COMMUNITY HEALTHCARE
ADVOCATE BETHANY HOSPITAL
VILLAGE OF RIVERDALE
CITY OF ST. CHARLES
NATIONAL INTERFAITH COMMITTEE FOR WORKER JUSTICE
FIRST MIDWEST BANK
There are a handful of additional employers that are in the process of setting up employee assisted housing programs. For more information, contact Robin Snyderman at the Metropolitan Planning Council at (312) 863-6007 or www.metroplanning.org.