Skip to main content

Employer-Assisted Housing
2002 Year-end Report

An MPC Housing Resource

The employer-assisted housing (EAH) initiative, undertaken by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) in collaboration with nonprofit Regional Employer-assisted Collaboration for Housing (REACH) partners and regional employers, picked up great momentum in 2002.  Started in 2000, a pilot program at one company began assisting employees with homeownership.  In 2001, five new employers signed on to develop EAH programs.  The initiative also received broader recognition, including new incentives from the state of Illinois and awards from outside institutions.[1]  In 2002, five new employers signed on, and three programs got off the ground and began producing successful homebuyers.

New Programs

In 2002, five new employers committed to launch EAH initiatives for their workers in collaboration with MPC and REACH partners.  REACH consists of eight nonprofit housing counseling organizations across the region:  Housing Opportunity Development Corporation (North Shore), Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County, Joseph Corporation (based in Aurora), Corporation for Affordable Homes of McHenry County, North West Housing Partnership in Palatine, the DuPage Homeownership Center, Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago and the Regional Redevelopment Corporation (South Suburbs).  In Chicago, Advocate Bethany Hospital in Garfield Park and the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice , a nonprofit organization with offices in Edgewater, initiated new programs in partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) of Chicago.  Three companies in McHenry County committed to develop EAH programs:  Chroma Corporation and Medela, Inc. in McHenry and Seaquist Perfect in Cary.  They will work with the Corporation for Affordable Homes of McHenry County (CAHMCO).


They join a growing list of employers offering EAH, including the following companies that announced EAH programs in 2001:  the City of St. Charles, Village of Riverdale, Bank One, Sinai Health Systems and Northwest Community Healthcare.  In addition, System Sensor in St. Charles will reinstate its EAH benefit in 2003 following a one-year hiatus after the company was acquired by Honeywell.  MPC and REACH partners work with employers to determine targeted employees, define eligibility criteria and roll out programs to employees. 

More and more employers are investing in housing.  These employers working with MPC and REACH partners supplement a longer list of businesses locally and nationally which offer housing programs, including the University of Chicago, Loyola University, Wheaton College, Lake Forest College, the City of Chicago (program for police officers), St. Bernard, Holy Cross, Lake Forest Hospitals, Bank of America and Fannie Mae.


2002 Launches

Advocate Bethany Hospital, the Village of Riverdale and Northwest Community Healthcare launched programs for their employees in 2002.  Bank One, after launching its program nationwide in 2001, finalized protocols enabling its employees to participate with REACH partners and take advantage of state matching funds from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) in 2002.


Advocate Bethany Hospital, on the West Side of Chicago, launched its EAH initiative in September 2002. Brenda Mitchell, from Bethany’s human resources department, said the hospital was interested in an EAH program to save money by reducing employee turnover.  “The bottom line is we are interested in housing issues overall because we firmly believe employer-assisted housing will reduce our own turnover.  Every time we lose an employee it costs us,” Mitchell explained.  Three employees were referred to NHS for homeownership education in 2002.  Additional employees will be enrolled in counseling in 2003.


Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH), located in Arlington Heights, a northwest suburban community with an expensive housing market, launched its EAH initiative for employees in March 2002. More than 25 people attended the meeting, and 28 applicants were referred to REACH partner North West Housing Partnership for homeownership education.  Four employees have bought homes. A second announcement was made to employees in November 2002, and another 30 employees were referred for counseling. 


The Village of Riverdale, a south suburban community, announced its EAH program to municipal employees in November 2002.  Three employees are working with REACH partner the Regional Redevelopment Corporation (RRC) to improve their credit, find homes and save for down payments.


Bank One, based in Chicago, has instituted an EAH initiative nationwide.  In the Chicago region, employees are linked with a REACH partner to obtain counseling and to access the IHDA state matching funds. “We want to help our employees realize the dream of homeownership,” said Jamie Dimon, Bank One’s chairman and CEO.   


The following chart describes the program requirements for new EAH initiatives that have finalized their eligibility criteria, as well as how they compare with the requirements for IHDA state matching funds.


Table 1: Program Parameters




Regional Employer Assisted Collaboration for Housing (REACH)

The key to a successful housing program is a good partner to administer and implement it, as well as provide guidance and education to prospective buyers. The eight area REACH partners work with employers, relieving them of the administrative responsibility of developing and administering a new benefit. “Employer-assisted housing is not a one-size fits all strategy,” explains DuPage Homeownership Center (DHOC) executive director Lisa Tapper. DHOC is one of eight REACH partners who work with MPC area employers to customize every employer-assisted housing initiative. MPC helps with program design and evaluation, publicity and leveraging outside resources.  REACH partners provide program administration, handle homebuyer education and help buyers through the process. 

 In Dec. 2001, REACH was awarded the BP Leader Award.  The REACH partners appreciated the recognition and financial support of the award and learned valuable lessons about growing a young initiative.  REACH partners find that the timing from initial employer interest to the first employee successfully buying a home varies from one employer to another.  In addition to financial assistance for REACH partners, BP provided valuable marketing assistance, helping produce a new marketing brochure and PowerPoint presentation.  These tools have proven tremendously valuable in ongoing outreach to interested employers.


Participating Homebuyers

The following table provides information about the employers that have successfully helped employees buy homes through their EAH initiatives.

Table 2

Employer-Assisted Housing Participants



Employees enrolled in 2002

Successful homeowners in 2002

Successful homeowners overall

Counseling provided by:

Northwest Community Healthcare





Bank One



87 (77 outside Chicago region)


System Sensor




Joseph Corporation

In 2002, 15 employees bought homes through EAH initiatives with MPC and REACH partners.  All were first-time homebuyers, with incomes ranging from $23,000 to $55,000.  The assistance they received from their employer ranged from $2,500 to $5,000 per household.  In addition, three Bank One employees received $2,500 in matching funds from the State of Illinois, doubling the assistance they received.

State Incentives for Employer-Assisted Housing

In 2001, the State of Illinois approved new incentives for employer-assisted housing programs – matching funds to assist EAH buyers and tax credits to encourage employer investments in expanding the housing supply.  The matching funds provide a dollar-for-dollar match to the assistance provided by an employer to an employee buying a home.  Through the tax credit, participating Illinois corporations and individuals receive a $.50 credit toward their state income tax for every $1 in cash, land or property donated to employer-assisted housing.  These new incentives have raised significant interest among businesses across the region. 

In June, 2002 IHDA awarded the first round of tax credits for employer-assisted housing.  Two REACH employers, Chroma Corporation in McHenry County and Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) in Arlington Heights, were among the recipients.  Their local REACH partners, CAHMCO and the North West Housing Partnership (respectively), submitted the tax credit applications and will administer the credits for the companies as the programs are implemented.  

Endorsement from Mayors

MPC has worked successfully with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Housing Task Force to develop and adopt Housing Endorsement Criteria[3] and a Housing Action Agenda.  The Housing Action Agenda includes an objective to “establish and maintain support from the private sector,” including promoting EAH to companies and municipalities.  Two active mayors, Zenovia Evans of Riverdale, co-chair of the housing task force, and Sue Klinkhamer of St. Charles, have moved forward with EAH initiatives in their communities, as described above.  The U.S. Conference of Mayors has also endorsed EAH as a tool to help working families access homeownership.  Mayors Evans and Klinkhamer described their EAH programs as part of a panel discussion at the Illinois Municipal League, which also included King Harris, who, as CEO of Pittway Corp., started an EAH program at System Sensor.  The panel was moderated by Mayors Caucus Housing Task Force co-chair Rita Mullins, mayor of Palatine.

Employers as Engaged Advocates for Broader Housing Options

REACH efforts to expand employer-assisted housing initiatives have yielded not only new homeowners living closer to work, but also new advocates for affordable housing among employers.  Representatives of participating employers testified before the Illinois House Urban Revitalization Committee about the need for housing programs.  Advocate Bethany Hospital, Northwest Community Healthcare and Bank One highlighted their concern for workforce housing opportunities and emphasized the importance of good public-private partnerships. 

King Harris, an MPC vice chair, after championing the EAH program at System Sensor, has researched regional housing issues[4] and reaches out to area corporations, encouraging them to invest in EAH for their workforces. 

In Feb. 2002, the Village of Arlington Heights and the Arlington Heights Housing Commission hosted a Summit on Affordable Housing in the northwest suburbs.  Ron Buch, a vice president with Northwest Community Healthcare, presented the hospital’s new EAH initiative and its commitment to helping employees buy homes close to work.  More than 150 people attended, including representatives from more than a dozen northwest communities. 

Public Attention to Employer-Assisted Housing

Harris and Mayor Mullins of Palatine also participated in a roundtable televised on WTTW public television Ch. 11 as part of the Chicago Matters: Inside Housing series which included features broadcast on WBEZ public radio and CLTV cable television, articles in the Chicago Reporter magazine and events at the Chicago Public Library in April, May and June 2002.  This media attention to housing issues served to educate the public more broadly about housing needs throughout the region. It also provided recognition to corporations addressing housing issues.  For instance, a clip of Northwest Community Healthcare’s employer-assisted housing roll-out to employees was televised.  In addition, CLTV interviewed both MPC President MarySue Barrett and EAH partner Caroline Goldstein of Bank One.  Also included in the show was one of the first Bank One employees to secure a home.  Employer-assisted housing also received coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Daily Southtown, the Courier News and the Chicago Reporter.

For more information:

Samantha DeKoven, housing associate, Metropolitan Planning Council, at 312/863-6021.

MPC is deeply grateful to the following whose funding made this work possible:

[1] BP Leader Award for REACH; Bank of America Leadership Award for King Harris, who, as CEO of Pittway Corp. started EAH at System Sensor.

[2] Temporarily suspended at the end of the two-year pilot, the program has been reinstated for 2003.

[3] Housing Endorsement Criteria promote mixed-income and mixed-use housing developments that meet community needs while also addressing broader regional sensible growth goals, such as increasing the supply of affordable housing and overcoming the regional mismatch between the location of employment opportunities and housing affordable to working families.  The Criteria are being adopted by municipalities and other governmental units to evaluate housing development proposals and overcoming barriers – such as community resistance, exclusionary zoning ordinances and financial impediments – to quality housing options. 

[4] Published as Recommendations for Developing Attainable Workforce Housing in the Chicago Region by Chicago Metropolis 2020 in July 2002