The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has launched a new homeownership promotion program for its employees that includes down payment assistance and educational tools and support. The program is part of a broader effort by UAMS to establish resources and policies that support employees and their families as part of the organization’s Vision 2029 strategic plan.
To be eligible, employees must:
- Be employed full-time;
- Have a total annual income of $52,000 or less;
- Be employed at least six months; and
- Currently reside in one of nine central Arkansas counties (Pulaski, Faulkner, White, Garland, Lonoke, Conway, Perry, Prairie, or Saline).
Eligible employees will gain access to targeted financial educational classes, free tax preparation with the opening of a savings account, and housing/credit counseling and homebuyer education offered by program partner Southern Bancorp Community Partners.
Eligible employees who purchase homes for their primary residence in the area south of Interstate 630 between University Avenue, Asher/Wright Avenue and Chester Street may also qualify for down payment assistance through a 2:1 match savings program. Employees saving $1,000 through an individual development account will qualify for a $2,000 match toward their down payment.
The homeownership program is similar to those adopted by anchor institutions — hospitals and educational institutions — in Memphis, Philadelphia, and Detroit as part of a collaborative effort to simultaneously invest in employees and stimulate community development in areas needing revitalization. Often these programs are paired with other anchor institution strategies to transform their surrounding communities through local hiring, procurement, planning, and policy strategies.
In December 2017, members of the Invest Health initiative from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the City of Little Rock, Better Community Development Inc., Southern Bancorp, and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance partnered with the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service as part of the school’s lecture series to bring speakers to Little Rock for a lecture on anchor strategies and lessons learned from successful efforts in other cities. Tommy Pacello, president of the Memphis Medical District Collaborative, offer a more detailed look into successful Memphis efforts as part of the lecture and met with anchor institution leaders in Little Rock to explore potential efforts locally.
In May 2016, Little Rock was selected by the Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. The initiative was aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.
Employer-assisted housing incentives such as the one now offered by UAMS can generate considerable benefits for both the anchor institution and the surrounding communities. According to a white paper by U3 Advisors, for the institution, “encouraging employees to live closer to work can help reduce their commute times, increase quality of life, and support the attraction and retention of talent.” For the surrounding community, homeownership programs are also useful in supporting community development goals by stimulating housing demand and bridging the affordability gap.
The City of Little Rock also has a homeownership program, through which low- and moderate-income first-time homebuyers can apply for down payment assistance of up to $5,000. Funds for the program are provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships program, also known as the HOME program.