This week, NHC’s Solutions for Housing Communications convening will take place on Wednesday, March 15, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event will highlight the release of our newest report, Working to Home: A Toolkit for Building Employer-Assisted Housing Programs. We designed this toolkit as a resource for employers and policymakers interested in launching an Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) program at their organization. It provides history, context, and programmatic examples of case studies to help empower interested entities in successfully designing an individualized program.
The toolkit includes a step-by-step process for employers to craft their EAH program, with suggested considerations and recommendations to build and maintain effectiveness. The toolkit further discusses known challenges to EAH programs and potential solutions.
In advance of launching the toolkit, NHC is previewing the content below. We hope you find it informative and consider building your own EAH program!
Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) programs offer a unified solution to housing, jobs, and transportation issues by empowering organizations to help their employees achieve homeownership, reduce turnover costs, reduce commuting times, and contribute to local community development initiatives.
In every state, people with a wide range of occupations cannot afford to buy a home. As of 2022, the average American renter spends more than 30% of their income on housing. And housing costs contribute to hiring challenges in high-growth areas. At the end of 2022, there were 11 million job openings in the U.S., with 4.1 million people voluntarily quitting their job. One study found that as many as 67% of employers reported that home prices and rental costs affect their ability to recruit qualified candidates.
Some of the most beneficial and effective EAH programs provide downpayment and closing cost assistance for first-time homebuyers in the form of a loan that is forgiven over three to ten years if the employee remains at the organization. Savings on lost productivity, recruiting, and training costs often cover the benefit’s entire cost. EAH programs with additional benefits for employees who live close to work can significantly contribute to economic stabilization. When designed alongside community development initiatives, EAH programs can also support investment in local economic development, reducing the risk of displacing current residents.
EAH programs can include other supply-side assistance methods, such as cash contributions to development projects, land donations, construction financing, investment in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and more. This toolkit focuses on direct cash assistance and low-cost or forgivable loans offered to employees.
Many employers should consider EAH programs as an opportunity to provide impactful benefits to their employees while providing competitive advantages by encouraging employee retention. While employers traditionally do not engage in housing initiatives, EAH programs allow employers to make housing affordability a reality for their employees.
Benefits of EAH programs include reducing employee turnover rates, the potential for net zero cost, fostering homeownership opportunities, leveraging diverse policy initiatives, higher employee productivity and morale, and reduced environmental impact. Known challenges to EAH programs include scalability, tax implications, and marketing.
EAH programs gained traction among employers before the 2008 economic crisis. That year, 9% of companies offered some form of downpayment assistance nationally, an increase from 8% in 2004 and just 4% in 2002. Bringing EAH programs back into the scope of employer benefits can provide a streamlined policy solution for housing, employment, and transportation challenges.
Many have documented how direct-cash assistance is the easiest and most impactful way to make housing more affordable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, housing practitioners and governments at all levels learned valuable lessons from the Emergency Rental Assistance program and Homeowners Assistance Fund. Each provided direct relief to struggling families. Short of a federally funded downpayment assistance program, employers can step in and fill a market need that can also benefit them in return. Many current EAH programs are centered around the public sector, anchor institutions, and community service professions such as police, firefighters, and teachers. Expanding the program into the private sector can stoke substantial housing investment without needing any capital from taxpayers. Leveraging private industry to help address housing affordability in this manner can be a solution that benefits everyone.
We look forward to seeing you on March 15, when we will discuss EAH programs in detail, and release our new report. You can still register here.