(Courtesy of 20D20)
Somer Roberts spent much of her childhood on a tree-lined street near Seven Mile and Livernois in Detroit. Her aunt lived on the street and Somer would go there every weekend to play. Today Somer owns her own home in the very same block. She says, “It’s wonderful to be able to actually live there and allow my children to have the same memories I had. It was a wonderful opportunity.
The opportunity came as a result of an incentive program offered by Somer’s employer, University of Detroit Mercy. A $5000 check helped her buy the home three years ago. Somer told us, “Without the help of the university I wouldn’t have been able to afford to purchase it.”
One goal of the University of Detroit Mercy Home Ownership Plan is to help revitalize the Livernois corridor. University president, Antoine Garibaldi explained, “What we provide is a $5000 forgivable loan which individuals can use toward a down payment, closing costs or some other related expenses.” The homeowner has to work with the University for five years, and then the entire loan is forgiven.
According to Dr. Garibaldi, “The incentive is certainly to have more of our faculty and staff in particular live closer to the university and to also be a very important part of the neighborhood.”
A similar program in Midtown has brought new vitality and hundreds of new residents to that area. The UDM program actually began before the Midtown plan, but has received a lot less publicity.
As of October, 26 UDM employees have purchased homes through the incentive program.
University of Detroit Mercy has three campuses–the main location on Livernois near McNichols, the Dental School in Corktown and the Law School on Jefferson near downtown. Employees can use the incentive to purchase a home near any of the three locations.
Dave Nantais works at the McNichols campus. But he and his wife liked living in the Midtown area. So about a year and a half ago, they bought a home in the Woodbridge neighborhood near the Dental School.
Dave told us, “It had been on the market for about a year and a half at the time. We fell in love with it right away and wanted to buy right here.”
The family updated the kitchen and made some other improvements. Now an empty house has become a home. And the Woodbridge community has gained new neighbors.
Dave thinks, “It’s very encouraging that the university is so committed to the city that they want to do this.”
The University’s program has one condition many other plans don’t. It requires potential buyers to enroll in a six week course on home ownership. It covers things like home inspections and how to choose the right realtor.
So far more than 85 employees have taken the course. Somer was the first staff member to take advantage of the incentive program. There will likely be many more to follow.