The Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition (GPUAC) has recruited 25 employers to offer employer-assisted housing (EAH) programs. As a result, 27 employees have purchased homes in Philadelphia.
GPUAC’s Home•Buy•Now initiative, which has been in operation since the fall of 2004, is designed to help employers recruit and retain employees and to strengthen the housing market in Philadelphia. Employers create their own program in one or more of three areas: homeownership financial assistance; home improvement assistance; or homebuyer education and counseling. GPUAC helps them develop an EAH plan consistent with organizational priorities, develop product materials, and conduct financial-education workshops for employees.
Tamara Grossett, a program manager in community and economic development at GPUAC, said that 23 of the 25 employers involved are offering homeowner financial assistance programs, and the remaining two employers are providing only homebuyer education workshops.
The employers include a wide range of nonprofits and for-profit corporations. Some employers, such as Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and NewCourtland Elder Services, used Home•Buy•Now to supplement existing EAH programs. Others, such as Keystone Mercy Health Plan, started new EAH programs.
Employers that develop homeowner programs in conjunction with Home•Buy•Now enable employees to obtain funds for home purchase in the city of Philadelphia. Employer contributions are matched up to $3,000 per employee with Neighborhood Transformation Initiative funds. In addition, depending on income, employees may be eligible for another $2,000 in closing cost assistance from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). Nine lenders offer their own, PHFA, or Fannie Mae first-time homebuyer mortgage products to employees of participating employers.
Employers decide on employee eligibility, such as income levels and length of service, and geographic service areas (often neighborhoods around employers’ facilities). Employers must contribute at least $500 of their own money toward a program. Participating employers that have developed homeownership programs are providing grants or forgivable loans of $2,000 to $3,000 per eligible employee.
Grossett said that in the coming year GPUAC will target for-profit companies that have a presence in Philadelphia. She expects that Home•Buy•Now will require a sustained multiyear marketing effort to reach a large audience of employers.