Homebuyer Program a success for Yale, city

The Yale Homebuyer Program — the crown jewel of Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs — enters its fifth phase this year, riding high after being successfully reviewed by the Yale Corporation and passing the 500-participant mark this summer.

The widely lauded program, which contributes to 10 percent of all home purchases in the city of New Haven, provides University employees with $25,000 over a 10-year period toward buying homes in areas near campus designated by the University. The program has evolved since its 1994 beginning from encompassing homes in the entire city to targeting areas closer to campus that the University deems in need of greater homeownership.

The initial program provided 230 Yale employees with a $20,000 benefit over 10 years. Now recipients receive $25,000 with a first payment of $2,000 with remaining nine annual payments are $2,000 each.

As of the start of this month, 513 Yale faculty and staff have participated in the program, and Yale has spent more than $11.6 million toward home purchases of more than $59.6 million.

Shawn Webb, who works at Patient Financial Services, was the 500th home buyer to be supported by the program. She now lives in Newhallville in a three-story, two-family Colonial-style home with her husband and two children.

Webb praised the simplicity of the application process.

“All you have to do is call Bill Carney,” she said. “It was really easy.”

Carney, the manager of the program, has been running it from its inception.

The on-line application is one-page long. When Yale President Richard Levin helped shape the program, Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said, he insisted that the application process be simple.

“It’s clear that the simplicity of the program is one of the reasons it’s so popular,” Morand said. “If you had to sit down and fill out 25 forms you might not get through it.”

The program is available to University employees who are either faculty members working at 50 percent or more of full-time or permanent employees working at least 20 hours per week. The participant pool is 50 percent minority; 80 percent are first-time homeowners, and 50 percent are unionized workers.

The Office of New Haven and State Affairs carefully controls what information about the program is released to the public. The office would not make Carney available for comment and directed all questions to Morand.

Yale’s selection of covered neighborhoods depends in part on how much homeownership needs to be encouraged in those areas, Morand said. Some have questioned why the Fair Haven neighborhood, which is predominantly Latino, is not covered by the program.

“With the largesse of Yale, it would seem that stabilizing homeownership in all of New Haven would be a good thing,” said a homeownership advocate who declined to be identified.

Harvey Edelstein ARC ’73 is the chief executive office of the Fair Haven Development Corporation, which works on promoting home ownership in the Fair Haven neighborhood. Edelstein said that pushing for expanding the Homebuyer Program to include Fair Haven is not a priority because his development corporation has other sources of help for aspiring homeowners. He said he understands Yale’s desire to cover only areas directly adjacent to campus.

“It makes sense to protect oneself, and I think it’s a good thing to protect the areas surrounding Yale,” Edelstein said.

The University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania have similar homebuyer programs to support their employees, but Morand said Yale’s program is the largest of its kind in dollar amount and number of participants in the country.

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