Program helps employees live locally

The Employee Home Ownership program gives grants to eligible university employees to encourage local homeownership.

Jojy Varghese, Urban Affairs Coalition director of community and economic development, works in his office at 1207 Chestnut St. on Monday. | HANNAH BURNS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University revived the Employee Home Ownership program to assist its employees in purchasing houses in areas near Main Campus and the Health Sciences Campus in collaboration with the Philadelphia Home.Buy.Now program.

The program allows any full-time, non-probationary university employee to receive a forgivable loan up to $5,000 from the university and matching grants up to $4,000 Philadelphia Home.Buy.Now program to go toward purchasing a home in eight North Philadelphia ZIP codes.

Employees are able to receive up to $9,000 total from Temple’s program and the Urban Affairs Coalition.

Due to lack of funds, the city had to freeze Philadelphia Home.Buy.Now at times, which is administered by the UAC, including in 2009 and 2010, said Jojy Varghese, the UAC’s director of community and economic development. The city unfroze the program most recently in January, Varghese said.

Temple employees must buy a home within these ZIP codes, which include the Nicetown and Fairhill neighborhoods, with their own financial bank or realtor, said Gerry O’Kane, the university’s director of benefits.

The goal of aiding Philadelphia employees in finding their homes in the same area as their jobs started with PHBN in 2004 with a collaboration between the UAC and the city.

Temple first participated in the program in 2007, three years after the UAC originally asked about 50 employers to provide some type of monetary benefit to their workers, Varghese said. The funding for Philadelphia Home.Buy.Now comes from the city’s Division of Housing and Community Development, which allows employees to search for homes within the designated ZIP codes.

“If you’re in North Philadelphia, Temple University has done a great job for providing many homeownership opportunities within the Temple North Philadelphia radius,” Varghese said.

“Our first grant that we’ve given out a few weeks ago was nearby in Brewerytown, so really it’s a win-win for the city, it’s a win-win for the employer and it’s definitely a win-win for the employee knowing that this person doesn’t have to travel 20-30 minutes,” Varghese added.

The UAC is a nonprofit that works to improve communities in Philadelphia. The UAC pushes for a diverse platform that allows employees of different backgrounds—including young workers, minorities who have faced setbacks and middle-income families—to buy homes.

“I know more than half of the people that we’ve given this to have been people of color,” Varghese said.

Philadelphia’s contract with the UAC consists of providing funds for managing the programs. It allows the UAC to run workshops and educate people on how to purchase a home and provides other forms of housing counseling. 

The remainder of the funds come from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which has a yearly grant cycle for which organizations similar to the UAC can apply. The Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund grant provides match funding options, which is the source of the grants. Companies have no limits to the number of loans they give employees. 

“From this, employees receive a forgivable loan, and through the city, they apply for a matching grant based on their income,” O’Kane said.

Flexibility allows the program to be more accessible, despite the fluctuating budget from distributing grants on a case-by-case basis.  

With the increase in funding from the city, Varghese said that the UAC wishes to also increase the number of employees benefiting from Philadelphia Home.Buy.Now.

“[The program] really shows that people aren’t just buying a home, but they’re staying in their communities,” Varghese said.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.