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Employer-Assisted Housing: The Basics

Employer-assisted housing refers to any housing program – rental or homeownership – that is financed or assisted by an employer. Examples of employer-assisted housing include down payment assistance, home buyer education and counseling and rental search assistance. Employers have a vested interest in making sure their workers can afford decent homes close to the workplace, which can help them attract and retain necessary employees. While employers may be unlikely to take the initiative to invest in affordable housing strategies for their workers on their own, communities can leverage employers’ support for affordable housing with encouragement from the public and/or nonprofit sectors. State and local governments can maximize the likelihood of employer involvement in housing by offering financial incentives to augment or offset private contributions and by facilitating collaboration with nonprofit organizations that work with interested employers to design and manage housing benefit programs. More generally, communities can encourage employers to take a leadership role in advocating for new development and policy changes that can help meet the housing needs of local workers. Communities that are interested in promoting employer-assisted housing initiatives can set an example for the private sector by adopting their own programs for public workers. In some cases these programs may target emergency response workers, such as firefighters and police officers who are critical community workers.

While many communities focus housing assistance programs on emergency response workers or other specific occupations, such as teachers or health care workers, some localities extend the benefits of assisted housing programs to all public workers who are likely to have challenges finding an affordable home. Similarly, communities facing employee shortages in specified occupations may choose to offer housing benefit programs to new applicants in those fields in order to improve recruitment.

Employers can be a tremendous resource even if they do not provide direct housing assistance to employees. By improving access to nearby housing, employers can substantially reduce workers’ commute times, removing a major obstacle to new employee recruitment and improving existing employee retention, morale and productivity. When workers are able to live closer to their jobs, all local residents benefit from decreased traffic congestion and reduced air pollution. Employer involvement in housing initiatives can also contribute to community development in and around workplace facilities. For example, an influx of new homeowners and renters may help to stabilize nearby neighborhoods in need of reinvestment or areas with high rates of foreclosed properties, increasing the desirability of the surrounding environment.

Policies and programs that leverage employers’ commitment to affordable homes are applicable in a wide range of communities. Without employer support, workers holding low-wage or moderate-wage jobs may be unable to find decent housing in high-cost areas and resort towns. In rural communities, employers may need to be involved in housing production programs to ensure there is an adequate supply of housing to support economic development initiatives and attract employees. In declining urban and suburban areas, employer investment in housing can help stabilize neighborhoods and spur revitalization.

There are two major kinds of employer assistance. One focuses on the housing demand side and gives assistance directly to employees through down payment assistance, closing cost assistance, mortgage guarantee, homebuyer education and counseling, rental assistance, credit repair and counseling. The other route to increase access to affordable housing is through housing supply, for example cash contributions, land contributions or employers developing housing for their employees.

Key Resources

The Employer-Assisted Housing section of PolicyLink’s Equitable Development Toolkit provides an overview of Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) strategies and the considerations involved in developing an EAH policy. The toolkit covers the benefits of EAH programs, supportive policies, financing, keys to success, a case study and links to other resources.

The Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago specializes in employer-assisted housing programs. While directed primarily at Illinois residents and employers, the council’s site also has information on efforts at the national level.

The National Association of Realtors Field Guide to Employer-Assisted Housing consists of an “Employer-Assisted Housing Basics” section with links to articles and reports on EAH, and an “Employer-Assisted Housing Plans Across the Country” section, with links to examples of EAH programs.

Employer Assisted Housing Resource Guide. 2014. Saint Paul, MN: Greater Minnesota Housing Fund.

Quantifying the Value Proposition of Employer-Assisted Housing: A Case Study of Aurora Health Care. 2008. By Lynn M. Ross. Washington, DC: Center for Housing Policy.

Understanding Employer Assisted Housing: A Guidebook for Employers. 2007. Prepared by Homes for Working Families (Washington, DC) and Metropolitan Planning Council. Chicago, IL.

Understanding Employer-Assisted Mortgage Programs: A Primer for National Banks. 2007. Community Development Insights. Washington, DC: Community Affairs Department, Comptroller of the Currency.

Connecting Working Families to Economic Opportunities in the Philadelphia Region: The Role of Employers. 2007. By Sarah Treuhaft. PolicyLink and Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition.

Employer Assisted Housing: An Old Concept Gaining New Momentum. 2006. By Lynn Ross. American Planning Association PAS Memo. Available to subscribers to the APA’s Planning Advisory Service.

New Arguments for Employer-Assisted Housing. 2006. By Anna Afshar. New England Community Developments, Issue 1. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Private Sector Solutions for Workforce Housing: What REALTORS and their Partners Can Do. 2006. By Barbara Lipman. Washington, DC: Center for Housing Policy. (The section on employer-assisted housing begins on page 23)

Making the Case for Employer-Assisted Housing. 2005. By Robin Snyderman. Shelterforce Online #141. National Housing Institute.

Employer-Based Homeownership Programs: A Business Case. 2004. By Amy Brown. Washington, DC: Fannie Mae Foundation.

Private Sector Partnerships: Investing in Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization. 2004. Edited by the National Housing Conference. NHC Affordable Housing Policy Review 3(2).

Employer-Assisted Housing: Improving the Bottom Line and Unlocking Doors to Homeownership for Your Employees. 2003. Washington, DC: Fannie Mae.

Right at Home: Local Support for Employer-Assisted Housing  2003. By Samantha DeKoven. ideas@work 2(6). Campaign for Sensible Growth.

Employer-Assisted Housing: Competitiveness through Partnership. 2000. Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.

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