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Employer-Assisted Housing


Housing Program

An MPC Housing Program case study

Program background

Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) is a term used to describe a variety of housing benefits employers can offer to help their workforce afford homeownership. EAH benefits are a cost-effective vehicle to improve employee recruitment, retention, community relationships and community revitalization, thereby improving the employer’s bottom line.

EAH was originally conceived as a tool for recruiting senior executives, but is now widely offered across a range of employee levels. This trend is driven by factors affecting employees such as the persistent disparity between home costs and wages, long and costly commutes and the desire to achieve an improved work-life balance. For employers, ongoing and anticipated challenges in hiring and retaining workers, and the desire to increase employee productivity and morale, make EAH benefits attractive. EAH benefits employers by helping them in the following areas: employee retention, employee recruitment, community revitalization and community relations.

Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) began to advocate for EAH in 2000 with System Sensor (now a division of Honeywell), a local manufacturer of smoke detectors and related alarm products. System Sensor offered $5,000 in downpayment costs in an effort to reduce employee turnover and subsequent recruitment and training costs. Since then, System Sensor has assisted over 70 employees, and the firm has more than recouped its EAH investment through better employee retention, increased productivity, and administrative cost savings.

Over the last decade, MPC’s role has evolved to be more targeted. MPC is now an advocate for EAH benefits in the City of Chicago, as well as south and west Cook County communities, promoting policy development and building relationships to increase its impact. MPC pairs employers with nonprofit housing counseling partners to provide employees with credit counseling, home purchase assistance and access to myriad other supportive financing products. In Illinois, more than 65 businesses, hospitals, universities, school districts and municipalities have used EAH effectively.

How it works

Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) benefits offer downpayment or rental assistance to employees who purchase a home in specific areas, maintain satisfactory employment for a certain amount of years and complete homebuyer counseling and education. Though EAH benefits have proven to be successful in the past, every EAH program should be tailored to meet the employer’s unique circumstances and needs.

The University of Chicago launched an EAH benefit in 2003 to promote homeownership investment in targeted redeveloping neighborhoods in Hyde Park and neighboring South Side communities while addressing home affordability concerns in the more established communities near campus. The University of Chicago’s EAH benefit offers $7,500 in interest-free forgivable loans, along with credit and homebuyer counseling. To date, 228 employees have attended housing and credit counseling and have received interest-free loans. Furthermore, 203 first time home buyers purchased homes using EAH benefits. As a result of their EAH success, the University is currently exploring ways to expand its program, both to increase its impact on the surrounding community as well as for its organizational goals.

Lessons learned

Employer-assisted housing is a cost-effective program with tangible results. EAH is an incentive for recruiting and retaining workers that helps low- and moderate-income households live near work and strengthens all types of communities, from those seeking reinvestment to those where affordable homes are few and far between. Local governments can offer EAH to their own workers, as well as encourage employers to implement EAH programs.

A sampling of participating employers in the Chicago region:

  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Labelmaster
  • Loyal University Chicago
  • Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine
  • Mercy Hospital
  • Robinson Engineering
  • St. Anthony Hospital
  • Thornton Township
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Chicago Medical Center
  • BMO Harris Bank


Metropolitan Planning Council

  • Goal

    Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) expands affordability for home buyers and enables employees to rent or purchase homes close to their employment.

  • Target

    Employees earning up to 120 percent of the area median income and who are interested in living near their place of employment.

  • Financing

    The Illinois Housing Development Authority contributes financial support with a 3:1 match to employer-funded down payment assistance amounts up to $7,500. Matching funds are provided as five-year forgivable loans to households earning up to 80 percent of the area median income. The Ill. Housing Development Authority and the City of Chicago also administer the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit program, which offers a 50 percent tax credit for every qualifying dollar an employer invests in an EAH program. Housing counseling partners also leverage EAH benefits to offer employee homebuyers to various other funding resources, such as the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program.