HomeStreet (HMST) of Seattle has extended a housing assistance program to the Spokane, Wash., area.

The Hometown Home Loan Program provides free homeownership education, savings on purchases and refinances and access to down payment assistance to the employees of participating companies. Currently more than 60 public and private companies, including the University of Washington, and several labor unions in three states offer the program.

It has been available to Seattle-area companies since 1994 and the $2.4 billion-asset HomeStreet said Thursday that it is extending it to the state's second-largest city.

The program is free for employers to participate in and is included as part of the benefits package offered to employees, Dianne Wasson, vice president and regional manager of affinity lending at HomeStreet, said in an interview.

"Employers most often see the program as an opportunity to recruit and retain employees," Wasson said. "Most employers realize that if employees are well housed then their lives will be more stable."

Employers help the bank promote the home loan program through articles in employee newsletters, information posted in break rooms and seminars HomeStreet bankers present at the companies during lunchtime, Wasson said.

HomeStreet has a team of loan officers that are dedicated to working with customers from these business partners. The bank also works with nonprofit organizations, such as Community Frameworks in Spokane, that can provide credit and budgeting counseling to customers who currently don’t qualify for a loan, she said.

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