- By Samantha DeKoven, November 17, 2011
On Nov. 7, I joined developers and other real estate professionals for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s (WHEDA) multi-family housing conference. At a panel focused on workforce housing, I spoke about MPC’s EAH initiative, highlighting a few case studies in which Chicago-area employers have helped workers move closer to work. My fellow panelists Ted Matkom, with Gorman and Company, Inc., and Joe Alexander, with the Alexander Co., described workforce housing projects in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and LaCrosse, Wisc. These developments are providing new rental and for-sale home options close to jobs, and supporting local community revitalization initiatives.
I was particularly inspired to hear from Dwight Morgan, senior vice president for human resources at Aurora Health Care, a nonprofit Milwaukee-based health care provider. Aurora Health Care launched an employer-assisted housing program in 1993 as a walk-to-work initiative: Geared toward stabilizing the local community, the company provided assistance to employees to live close enough to their work site to take the heel-toe express. Today, the program has been broadened to enable employees to buy homes anywhere in the city of Milwaukee. The hospital provides $3,000 for downpayment/closing cost assistance, and employees receive free credit counseling and homebuyer education from Select Milwaukee, a nonprofit housing counselor.
More than 350 employees (from a total statewide workforce of 11,000) have bought homes through the program, leveraging outside resources and leading to millions of dollars invested in Milwaukee’s neighborhoods. Intuitively, Morgan noted, the hospital sensed that the program promotes better retention, and these instincts have been confirmed by an analysis conducted by the Center for Housing Policy, which found that while Aurora Health Care’s overall workforce has a longevity of 10 years, EAH participants have been with Aurora Health Care for 14.7 years. Morgan also pointed to outstanding performance of EAH participants: While 64 percent of all employees perform at a level that is “competent,” 75 percent of EAH participants are scored “exceptional.” » read more