SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Affordable housing continues to be an issue in the Hostess City. Three major Savannah employers are tackling the crisis by helping neighbors become first-time homeowners.
It’s an opportunity for an employer to reward its employees.
“Oh my God I was so happy. I was like telling everybody, OK, I’m about to do this, I’m about to do this,” First-time homeowner Tameka Wallace said.
Wallace is a first-time homeowner and it’s all thanks to the Employer Assisted Home Purchase Program created by the city of Savannah.
“One of our goals as the city was to set the program up first for our employees to show that it could be done and then to reach out to other employers,” Director of the Housing & Neighborhood Service Department, Martin Fretty said.
Memorial Health and St. Joseph’s/Candler are also providing assistance. In 2018, Memorial Health established a community benefit fund. Over the last three years, they’ve made contributions of $30,000 a year to the Savannah Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF).
“For Memorial, we have a big family and we want to help out in as many ways as we possibly can,” Memorial Health CEO Shayne George said.
One of the main challenges first-time homeowners face is being able to afford a down payment and the closing costs. Through the SAHF, employers are able to donate to help bridge the gap.
“We’ve often heard that homeownership is the American dream and being able to work with employers to provide funding to help their employees, they’re able to accomplish or achieve that American dream,” Community Housing Services Agency Executive Director Anita Smith-Dixon said.
The loan the employee receives is forgivable as long as they work at their place of employment for at least five years.
“If the sell of this house was to be $160,000 the buyer might only be able to afford $120,000 mortgage from the bank.” Fretty said. “So working with the city, CHSA, the Savannah Affordable Housing Fund, and the employers, we try to find a way to piece together that other $40,000.”
It’s a program Wallace hopes other businesses will consider.
“It’s a blessing. The proof is in the pudding,” Wallace said.
So far the program has helped more than 150 people become homeowners. The city is still looking for more employers to participate. Employers interested should call Anita Smith-Dixon at 912-651-6926.