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Ohio State ups incentives for employees to buy off-campus homes

The loan amount available to university staff to buy houses in the off-campus area has increased. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Good news for Ohio State employees itching to buy a house near campus: the university recently expanded its Homeownership Incentive Program which provides forgivable loans to staff looking to buy a home in the University District and the Near East Side.

The program provides a zero-interest forgivable loan for down payments on a house. In this case, 20 percent of the original loan amount would be forgiven each year.

In August, approved a higher loan amount for homes being purchased in the University District, which surrounds Ohio State’s Columbus campus from the east, north and south sides. The program was boosted from a $6,000 loan to 6 percent of the appraised value of the home or $15,000 — whichever is greater.

The program is administered by Campus Partners, the university’s nonprofit development extension — which oversees the University District incentive areas — and Partners Achieving Community Transformation, which handles the incentive area on the Near East Side.

Erin Prosser, director of community development at Campus Partners, said expanding the incentive area will give employees more options for housing, including different-sized homes.

“We want to take that incentive and move it to the northern part of the district where that hasn’t been available and really incentivize our faculty and staff to also go into that neighborhood,” Prosser said.

The original incentive program was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1998 in an effort to increase the level of homeownership and revitalize target neighborhoods in the University District. The program was given $500,000 to start with an initial down payment loan given to employees of $3,000.

It really is to drive rates of homeownership and bring more residents to the community … It’s a wonderful opportunity as an employee to pursue homeownership in this community by leveraging the incentive. – Erin Prosser, director of community development for Campus Partners

In 2014, when the loan was $3,000, Prosser said only two employees took advantage of the incentives. After it was bumped up to $6,000 the following year, 17 homes were purchased through the loan between 2015 and 2016. In total, 110 people have taken advantage of the incentive program.

Currently, there is $250,000 remaining in the program fund for Campus Partners. Prosser said there is no set plan for when the money runs out.

“We will see how fast we go with the remaining dollars and what state the neighborhood is in at that point,” Prosser said. “Then let the Board of Trustees decide what they think is best.”

The newly created Near East Side Homeownership Incentive Program, administered by PACT, began in the spring and currently offers $8,000 for a loan and is able to offer $80,000 in total per year.

The programs are administered by Campus Partners, the university’s nonprofit affiliate, which oversees the University District incentive areas and PACT, which handles the incentive area on the Near East Side.

The PACT and Campus Partners programs are offered to staff members and faculty who are at 50 percent employment or greater at Ohio State. The house must be their permanent residence, and in the incentive area to qualify.

The employee must also maintain employment at Ohio State and reside at the home for five years. If an employee decides to leave the home in under five years, he or she is responsible for repaying the remainder of the loan.

PACT’s Near East Side Homeownership Incentive Program has yet to have a buyer close, but David Cofer, executive director of PACT, said it has received numerous phone calls showing ‘significant interest.’

Cofer sees the program as a great opportunity for the community and employees of Ohio State.

“It really is to drive rates of homeownership and bring more residents to the community,” Cofer said. “… It’s a wonderful opportunity as an employee to pursue homeownership in this community by leveraging the incentive.”

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