Reality check

Secura partners with housing authority to help workers purchase homes

Posted on Jul 1, 2016 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Liz Garrow is the prototypical Millennial by almost every measure.

Almost. At 24, Garrow recently became the proud owner of a small ranch home on Appleton’s north side, closing the deal and moving in this past May. As many in her generation struggle with financial burdens that, force them to return to their parents’ homes and delay home purchases, marriage and families, Garrow is taking down damaged trees and adjusting to new noises in the night.

Garrow’s employer, Secura Insurance, helped her take the step to home ownership thanks to its  Employer Assisted Housing program, a partnership with the Appleton Housing Authority, giving it a powerful tool to attract and retain top young talent in the region.

“It really shows they care about you both inside and outside of work,” Garrow says, emphasizing a Millennial affinity for corporate culture. “I know we have a reputation as job jumpers, but something like this really helps. If you know your employer cares this much, it’s a lot more comfortable settling down in one place.”

Launched in 2013, the partnership between Secura and the housing authority has helped 16 of the insurance firm’s employees purchase a house, with another three applications pending, says Sam Benjamin, human resources manager for Secura. In a nutshell, the company provides up to $5,000 to help the employee purchase a home, while the housing authority provides required educational classes on becoming a successful homeowner and handles some of the paperwork involved.

“Secura is always looking for ways to help our associates meet their goals both at work and in their personal lives,” Benjamin says. “If we can help them secure something they really want, then they are happier and that helps us and our culture.”

Though not specifically designed as a tool to help with the attraction and retention of Millennials, Benjamin says that demographic has utilized the program the most.

Millennials, a critical group for the future of the region’s workforce, could certainly benefit from such a program, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That data shows that in the New North region, 18- to 34-year-olds are increasingly living with their parents compared to previous generations. The Appleton and Green Bay metropolitan areas have seen the greatest spike, increasing to 29 percent in 2013 from 22 percent in 2000 and to 25 percent from 21 percent, respectively.

While the program is currently unique to Secura, any company willing to invest the resources could add an EAH to its array of benefits, says Kent Gross, homebuyer program manager with the housing authority.

“It certainly benefits the community by increasing home ownership,” Gross says. “This program helps them get started on the right track, which results in greater stability.”

A stable workforce certainly helps the regional economy, which is already struggling to find talent.

Not that any of that was on Garrow’s mind when she decided to participate in the program. She was more interested in getting out of her parents’ house, where she had lived for two years following graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. While she had already saved enough for a 20 percent down payment, the additional boost allowed her to bypass requirements imposed without a significant down payment.

She’ll still have to live in the house for five years, but that should be plenty of time to adjust some of the more interesting aspects of home ownership.

“I never knew an icemaker was so loud when it goes off in the middle of the night,” Garrow says, recalling one of her first nights in her new home. “I’m telling you know, it will be a woman living alone who invents the first silent ice maker.”