Hart gives incentives for housing in local area

President Ann Weaver Hart unveiled Temple’s Employee Home Ownership Program last Monday that offers full-time employees a piece of the burgeoning North Philadelphia franchise through significant financial assistance.

“This program will provide financial assistance to full time employees that would like to purchase a home in our surrounding communities,” Hart said last Monday at the Bell Tower.

In partnership with the city’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, Temple will offer employees substantial financial incentives to purchase property in any of the eight districts that surround the Main and Health Science campuses.

Qualifying full-time employees will receive $4,000 to $5,000 in forgivable loans. The loans will be forgiven at a rate of $83.33 per month, or $1,000 per year, until the entire loan is completely absolved. The home must be used as a primary residence throughout the five-year period.

Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street attended the unveiling and addressed the crowd, expressing his support for the program.

“The city of Philadelphia is enormously pleased to join with Temple in making this announcement,” Street said. “We are going to kick in some cash to the program just like the university because we all need living wage jobs in order to take care of our families.”

The city will match the amount contributed by the university through its Home-Buy-Now program with grants using approved mortgage lenders, which do not have to be repaid. The university has $500,000 dollars set aside for the program.

Through a combination of both university and city programs, an employee may be eligible to receive up to $17,000 in funding to purchase a home. Additional funding will be provided by the city’s Finance Housing Agency.

In addressing blighted and vacant property in the city, the university will provide additional financial aid to any employee who purchases property subjected to the city’s 10-year tax abatement program.

The university will also provide seminars to educate the employees on the opportunities placed before them as well as to ensure that their individual rights are “protected and fully explained,” Hart said.

Hart said 10,000 students now live on or near campus, which is more than twice as many as in 2002. Since then, private investors have spent more than $200 million on real estate development in the area.

“The program will provide our employees with the opportunity to live where they work,” Hart said. “Current neighborhood residents will watch their property values continue to grow as they are joined by Temple employees who will put down roots and raise their families as investors in this community.”

Of the 5,600 people employed by the university, 500 already live in one of the eight districts surrounding the campus, with about half of them renting.

“As demonstrated by the University of Pennsylvania, it makes good sense, if we’re to improve the neighborhood and cut down on crime, it makes perfect sense,” Marvin Worley, a security officer for Temple, said of the program. “I can well imagine in the future that Temple is going to benefit greatly from that.”

The university lists such benefits as expanded dining options, new retail stores and shopping options, entertainment and residential development.

“It sounds like an excellent program, but it sounds like Temple is trying to monopolize the area,” said Dwayne Sherrod, a Temple employee. “Students and faculty are going to take over the area. They already got the students, and now they’re trying to use us to get it.”

Penn has had a similar program in place since 1967 that offers employees up to $7,500 in forgivable loans to move into the surrounding West Philadelphia region.

“We recognize that we are inexorably tied to the many neighborhoods that surround Temple University, and we would not have it any other way,” Hart said. “Our goal is continued growth and investment in our city.”

Sam Benesby can be reached at samuel.benesby@temple.edu.

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