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Guelph firm's unique incentive: help employees buy a home

As housing prices soar, Crozier, an engineering firm that just opened a Guelph office, offers staff up to $20,000 toward buying a home
Nick Mocan, the president of Crozier. The engineering firm has opened a new office in the Old Quebec Street Mall in Guelph.

It's one thing to say build it, and they will come.

But with the average price of a home in Guelph, it's another for someone to actually afford to buy their first home.

Crozier, an engineering firm that just opened a Guelph branch in the Old Quebec Street Shoppes and Office Suites downtown, is trying to remedy that issue with it's first-time home buyers' assistance program.

Introduced during the pandemic, the company offers a one-time gift of up to $20,000 per worker so they can afford a down payment on a home.

"The one common theme, when I was talking to our staff was that it wasn't interest rates at the time, it wasn't always the cost of the home, the price of the home," Nick Mocan, Crozier's president, told GuelphToday when asked about the unique perk.

"The common denominator was the down payment. Coming up with the cash soon after graduating or even 10 years after graduating, people were having trouble collecting the cash to put down as a down payment."

He said the company looked around at other programs available after consulting with workers, and found a solution through the federal government's home buyers program.

"It allows people to access their RRSP money that they built up, that would otherwise be inaccessible until retirement," Mocan said.

The federal program allows people to access up to $35,000 to buy or build their first home without a hefty penalty, as long as they pay it back within 15 years.

Mocan said the company set up its program to deposit up to $20,000 into an employee's RRSP account tax-free as a gift. After a government-imposed 90 day waiting period, the worker has access to the money in full, minus CPP and EI deductions.

He said the total amount is based on salary: employees are eligible for $10,000, plus 10 per cent of their base salary.

So if someone is making $100,000 a year or more, they'd get the full $20,000 benefit put into their RRSP. The one requirement to access the program is the employee needs one year service time.

Mocan explained a down payment on a $650,000 home right now is about $40,000.

The Guelph and District Association of Realtors said the average single-family home costs $905,700 these days, 20.4 per cent lower than February 2022.

"In some cases, (the program is) accelerating their home buying opportunities five years earlier, 10 years earlier, every case is different," Mocan said. "But that's an example if you get into a starter home or starter condo, we could help with virtually half of that down payment."

Mocan said the response internally was "off the charts," adding he's also heard from other companies to learn more about the program.

"It's not rocket science what we're doing," he said.

It's different from giving a bonus, where Mocan said it would be taxed a lot more before it enters the worker's bank account.

Guelph is Crozier's fifth location. Headquartered in Collingwood, it also has satellite offices in Toronto, Milton and Bradford.

The Guelph location has 25 workers, led by longtime Guelph resident Jurgen Koehler.

Overall, 10 per cent of the company's total workforce has accessed the program. This includes three at the Guelph location.

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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a graduate of Canadore College in North Bay in 2011, and his decade-long career has taken him to a number of spots across Ontario in radio, digital and television broadcasting.
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