LIHP’s Employer Assisted Housing Program: An Employer’s Perspective
Over 200 Northwell Health employees have become homeowners since 2006
Christina Skoch is a big fan of her employer’s Employer Assisted Housing Program. Not only does she help administer it as a member of the HR team, but she was also a beneficiary of the program when she worked for one of Northwell Health’s hospitals.
Christina is currently Manager of Benefits Administration for Northwell, which has been a lead partner in Long Island Housing Partnership’s Employer Assisted Housing program since 2006, even before she joined the company.
The program was designed to keep people employed on Long Island and to help them establish roots there. Originally the program’s goal was modest.
“We thought it would be great if we could help 20 employees a year. We started with nine participants the first year,” she explains.
In the beginning, Northwell offered $5000 in housing assistance for all qualified employees and $10,000 for nurses, reflecting the competitive nursing market.
“As the company has grown, we now need so many roles filled---we could not even advertise it because it filled immediately and no one could apply after May or June. So employees who wanted to apply in August then had to wait until the next year. The floodgates would open January 1st and LIHP would have all of the applications at once.”
So Northwell made adjustments so that more employees could participate each year. Now they sponsor 40 employees a year at $5000 each.
“It is great because we can now keep it open year-round so we don’t have everyone applying at the same time of year. The flow is consistent and there is a steady stream for LIHP year-round. Everyone is eligible –as long as they have been at Northwell for one year and are benefit-eligible and fall within LIHP’s income requirements/guidelines.
Once the employee applies for the program, LIHP handles everything.
“We do not ask the employees for any financial information---they deal directly with LIHP. We do not want to get involved in their finances and housing directly but we do want to help them. Our partnership with LIHP allows us to support our employees without inserting ourselves into their finances. We send them over to LIHP and they do everything until they notify us to issue a check to a particular employee.”
In the last 13 years, over 200 Northwell employees have become homeowners with LIHP.
“We have had 14 employees go through the program already this year. One of them had been with us one year and one 34 years and they work in a variety of positions.”
Her personal experience
“I didn’t know much about the program but I remembered hearing about it in orientation and on the internet,” Christina explains.
She quickly found the program to be a “well-oiled machine. They send you a big packet of info to review and complete as they want to make sure you are serious.
Interested employees attend sessions to learn about the process and the grants involved. The program has strict income and eligibility guidelines---for example, a buyer has stay in home for 10 years.
“I took the classes at LIHP,” Christina explains. “It was a great way to familiarize myself with them and meet people from other companies going through the process.”
The first home she looked at required a variance and ultimately the deal fell through. She was disappointed but LIHP walked her through the process so she was able to move on quickly and restart her search.
“It really is amazing! One person at LIHP is dedicated to your homebuying experience and is always available for you.”
The house she ended up buying is very different from the first one she looked at and she feels that things worked out as they were meant to.
The home required some updates and the rehab grant dollars were extremely helpful. The program also connects homebuyers with reputable carpenters who understand the process. Christina needed a new oil burner and was able to purchase one with the funds she received.
Helping get the word out
Christina wishes more of her colleagues were aware of the program, although they use a variety of methods to get the word out, including the employee intranet, orientation and social media. Hopefully articles like this one will also help showcase it.
“After 13 years, this program has become a terrific benefit that our employees really appreciate,” she explains.
Christina sums up her experience this way:
“I can’t say enough good things about this program from both angles—as an employer benefits administrator and as a participant!”