Home-buyer incentives to UB community help build University Heights
After getting off the ground less than three years ago, the University at Buffalo’s Home Loan Guaranty Program has helped fifteen UB employees buy homes in the University Heights neighborhood. The program is responsible for 6 percent of real estate transactions over the past year in that community.
Funds increased for home loans
“In a really active, really mature program, you’d be talking about twenty to twenty-five homes per year,” says Danis Gehl, director of the University Community Initiative (UCI). “So for us not having been around for very long, we’re doing pretty well.”
The Home Loan Guaranty Program enables eligible UB employees to finance up to 120 percent of the purchase price of a home, including renovation and closing costs, and it does not require a down payment. It is just one program sponsored by UCI, a collaboration between UB and its private-sector partners that works to revitalize the neighborhoods around the South Campus.
Gehl points out that UB’s commitment to the program has a psychological, as well as economic, impact on the neighborhood.
Home ownership, she explains, provides stability. The fact that UB is helping its employees invest in the neighborhood shows other potential home-buyers, who may not work at UB, that it’s a good place to put their money and their families.
“There’s a psychological impact,” she says. “It’s a signal to everybody that the university is encouraging employees to be in the University Heights neighborhood and it’s a vote of confidence for that neighborhood.”
David Benders, program director at WBFO, UB’s National Public Radio affiliate, and one of the program’s first home-buyers, agrees. He says that although he and his wife had never owned a home, they didn’t fit the typical “first-time home-buyer” profile: they were a little bit older and didn’t have a nest egg for a large down payment.
“It was really true that you could get into a home with either no money down or very little, get a very good rate and have a guaranteed mortgage,” he says.
Benders has been living in his new home for about two years now, and says he and his wife are extremely happy with the sense of community created through neighborhood programs like the Winspear Block Club.
And for Benders, who works on the South Campus, living in University Heights is a plus.
“I’m a lifelong Buffalonian and a longtime UB employee, so I believe in the neighborhood,” he says. “It’s a diverse neighborhood. We’ve got college students, some older home-owners, and some young families with kids. When I go to work, I see the kids standing on the street corner waiting for the school bus. That’s what a neighborhood means to me.
“It is really like a dream come true. I can literally walk to my office. I live within walking distance of Talking Leaves, restaurants like Amy’s Place and Lake Effect, and my barber. You don’t get that anywhere else. This is like the sweet spot.”
Michael J. Pietkiewicz, director of federal relations in the Office of Government Affairs, was the first UB employee to purchase a home through the program. He notes that the program encouraged him and his wife to look for a home in a neighborhood they might not otherwise have considered.
“As a result, we found a safe and walkable community that embraces diversity and is replete with beautiful, well-built homes, pocket parks and tree-lined streets,” Pietkiewicz says.
The Home Loan Guaranty Program is open to those who hold an appointment half-time or greater, or who hold an adjunct/part-time faculty position with a term appointment with UB, the SUNY Research Foundation, UB Foundation Services, Inc., or UB Foundation Activities, Inc. Home-buyers must purchase in the University Heights area bounded by Kenmore Avenue, the old railroad right-of-way, East Amherst Street, Westminster Avenue, Hewitt Avenue, Eggert Road, Winspear Avenue and Main Street.
For more information, visit http://www.homeloan.buffalo.edu.