Penn Offers Cash Incentive to Increase Home ownership in University City

Phyllis Holtzman | holtzman@pobox.upenn.edu | 215-898-8743
Monday, March 30, 1998

PHILADELPHIA --The University of Pennsylvania has established two new housing initiatives -- including a cash incentive program -- and enhanced its Guaranteed Mortgage Program to increase the number of people buying homes in University City, according to Penn President Judith Rodin.

The first new program is the Home Ownership Incentive Program, in which the University will give either $3,000 per year for seven years, or $15,000 upfront to be spent on housing expenses, to Penn faculty and staff who purchase homes in University City. In either case, a home buyer must commit to reside in the home for a minimum of seven years.

The second new program is the Home Improvement Loan Program, in which faculty and staff who already own homes in University City may obtain up to $7,500 in matching funds towards exterior home improvements.

"Our goal in creating these exciting new programs is to make it easier, more affordable and more attractive for people to put down roots in the community," said Rodin. "We are committed to West Philadelphia, and our new housing programs are meaningful ways in which we can demonstrate our commitment to our host community, and our enormous confidence in its future."

In addition, Penn's existing Guaranteed Mortgage Program, which was initiated in 1965, will offer a new option in which faculty and staff buying homes in West Philadelphia may finance 120 percent for a property needing rehabilitation through Commerce Bank. The original Guaranteed Mortgage Program will continue, as well, allowing 105 percent financing for a property located in West Philadelphia, or 100 percent financing in parts of Center City, through Berean Federal Savings, Commerce Bank and Mellon Bank. Since its inception, more than 1,500 Penn faculty and staff have used this program to finance their homes.

"We view these programs as an investment in the future, not only for Penn, but for our community," said Penn Executive Vice President John Fry. "It is an investment that will add to the health and vitality of the area immediately surrounding our campus, as well as helping our faculty and staff purchase their own homes."

The housing programs are administered by Penn's Office of Community Housing (OCH), under the direction of Diane-Louise Wormley, Managing Director for Community Housing.

"We recognize that buying a home is one of the most important decisions that people make, " Wormley said. "We want to encourage people to choose West Philadelphia by offering financial incentives as well as home purchasing counseling, support and other kinds of information on mortgage and rehab programs."

The housing program is one of several initiatives that Penn, in partnership with community residents and organizations, is undertaking to improve the quality of life in West Philadelphia. Other initiatives include the construction of Sansom Common, a 300,000 square-foot retail, dining, bookstore and hotel complex at 36th and Walnut streets; the establishment of the University City District, in collaboration with other area institutions, to provide a cleaner and safer environment for University City; UCBrite, a successful University initiative to "light" West Philadelphia, block-by-block; the 40th Street Action Team, which has made the 40th Street retail corridor cleaner, safer and more attractive; and the sponsorship of new Police Athletic League center at the Wilson School at 46th and Woodland avenues.

"As a great urban university, we know our future is inextricably linked to the health and vitality of our host community," Rodin said. "By sharing our vision, our resources and our commitment with our neighbors, we hope to ensure the best and brightest future for all of us."