Levin adds to home benefit zone



The Yale Homebuyer Program will be expanded into the Fair Haven and West Rock neighborhoods of New Haven beginning Jan. 1, University officials announced Tuesday.

The expansion comes after protests from Yale student groups, which argued that the Homebuyer Program’s exclusion of Fair Haven, a predominantly Latino community, was unfair to minority and low-income individuals.

The extension of the Homebuyer Program will create an incentive for more people to purchase homes in New Haven neighborhoods, Yale President Richard Levin said. He said after making several changes to improve the program since its inception in 1994, the recent expansion should greatly benefit the community.

“We’re feeling good about [the Homebuyer Program’s] success and its permanence,” Levin said.

The Homebuyer Program supports Yale employee homeownership in New Haven by providing the purchaser with $25,000 over 10 years. Employees receive $7,000 up front and nine annual payments of $2,000 thereafter.

By incorporating Fair Haven and West Rock, the program will include all six of the city’s Empowerment Zones — neighborhoods designated as in need of the most economic assistance. Vice President of New Haven Office of State and Affairs Bruce Alexander said although Fair Haven and West Rock are geographically further than other neighborhoods currently included, it was necessary to expand the Homebuyer Program into those areas.

“The University and the trustees felt it was important to support the city’s efforts in all of the empowerment zone neighborhoods,” Alexander said.

The four other Empowerment Zones already included under the Homebuyer Program are the Newhallville, Dixwell, Dwight and Hill neighborhoods. Beaver Hills, Wooster Square and part of the East Rock neighborhood are also included.

The same level of assistance is given regardless of the price of the home. The University said it has made an investment commitment of almost $13.7 million to the program. About half the homebuyers who participate in the program are unionized staff, while the other half include faculty and management staff according to a press release.

Deputy Director of Local Cities Initiative Wendy Clark said the Yale Homebuyers Program has had a positive impact on the city by bringing economic diversity and stability to neighborhoods involved.

“When you have homeownership versus rental activity in any neighborhood, it brings stability. People have a more invested interest in a neighborhood — they’re interested in seeing that the community does well,” Clark said.

A coalition of eight student groups at Yale that has been working to convince the University to expand its Homebuyer Program recently met with Alexander and sent a letter to Levin expressing their concern.

Julia Gonzales ’05, who is involved with three of the student groups, said she was pleased with the way the University has handled the issue.

“I’m excited because I feel like the University is finally starting to listen to people,” she said.

Gonzales said she believes the expansion of the homebuyers program would positively affect the community by making it stronger and improving homeownership rates.

“Having more people able to own homes is bound to dramatically impact the way a community functions,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales added that she would like to see the University act the same way with other issues, such as the proposed conversion of the New Haven Savings Bank. She said she hopes this is a positive step towards changing the way the University interacts with the community.

Alexander said the expansion of the program will remain in place for the next two years when further additions or changes may be made.

“We will continue to evaluate the efficacy of the program and make adjustments as it seems appropriate,” he said.

Since its inception in 1994, 591 Yale employees have taken advantage of the Yale Homebuyer Program, and over 80 percent of the home purchases have been made by first-time homebuyers.

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