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It seems strange at first blush, but Chicago-based Equity Residential Properties Trust, the nation’s largest owner of multi-family communities, wants to help its tenants buy homes. Denver is the second US market where the program is being offered.

The trust has formed an alliance with Ryland Homes and Kaufman & Broad for the undertaking. Tenants in 25 apartment communities in the Denver area can now apply 20% of their rent as a credit to purchase a new dwelling from either of the home builders. The program is under way in Phoenix and will soon be rolled out in Nashville, says Eric Miller, the “Rent with Equity” program spokesman. The program does not result in a rent increase, he says.

”Anyone who has dreamed of owning a home will love this program,” says Mickey Cummings, executive vice president of EQR, whose chairman is Chicago billionaire Sam Zell. ”It is a simple solution to assist our residents in saving money for the purchase of a brand new home.”

Why is Equity encouraging renters to leave? ”I suppose it does seem a little strange, but a lot of people rent an apartment until they can afford to buy a home,” Miller told GlobeSt.com. ”We’re not going to stop that. It’s the American Dream to own a home. So we might as well help people save for a down payment.”

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