A company headquartered in Collingwood is giving its employees up to $20,000 towards the purchase of their first homes.
Crozier & Associates, a land development engineering firm that also has offices in Toronto, Milton and Bradford, quietly launched the program in February for its staff, which just passed 200, after the company’s president and other senior leaders listened to story upon story from employees about being priced out of the housing market.
“The idea came during water cooler conversations going back to last fall with a few of my employees, who talked about how crazy the market is. They were all having trouble finding a house in this market that’s affordable and where they’re not constantly in bidding wars with 20 other people,” said Nick Mocan. “That was the impetus for this whole thing. I was in their position at one point in my life, except my first home was $170,000, not $870,000.”
Mocan noted that Crozier’s employees are highly skilled, and given runaway housing prices that are pushing homebuyers further away from urban centres, the company sought a way to help them. After Mocan presented the idea to the company’s accountants and lawyers, the program was born. To date, 12 employees have already used the program and Mocan says at least another dozen more have expressed interest.
“We couldn’t implement this soon enough,” he said. “It launched quietly in February to test it out because we’ve never heard of something of this nature, and the reaction was a bit overwhelming, so we decided to roll it out to all staff.”
The program provides a fixed amount of money with the rest determined by employees’ duration at the company, although there isn’t a wide fluctuation. Moreover, the money provided is tax-free and paid as a bonus that’s put into employees’ RRSP accounts, which they can withdraw and use on their down payments without any penalties. However, because the funds must stay in the account for 90 days (and are subject to CPP and EI payments), Mocan advised employees who are seriously considering a home purchase in the next six months to have the money in their accounts before tendering offers.
One employee who took advantage of Crozier’s first-time homebuyers’ assistance program is engineering intern Ian Blechta, 30, who, with his girlfriend, bought a single-detached house in a new subdivision in Stayner. He says that, because his girlfriend was new in her job at the time, the bank from which they tried securing a mortgage demanded a 20% down payment, but thanks to Crozier’s program, they made the numbers work.
“The program helped a lot because, for the pre-build we bought, we have to pay $10,000 every 45 days, so that’s up to $60,000 and most people don’t have that much cash just sitting there, but we got almost $20,000 from Crozier, which helped us with the second and third payments to keep the contract of the house,” said Blechta.
The young couple will be moving into their Stayner home in September, and Blechta says it’s a good thing the couple purchased when they did.
“At the time we signed the contract, the house was $500,000, and we just checked the price of that same house in the same subdivision and it’s going for $650,000,” he said. “In the last six months we signed, it went up that much.”