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Go West (Philly), Young Family

As part of a continuing effort to bolster the West Philadelphia neighborhood in which it resides, Penn has announced that it will give cash incentives and enhanced home mortgages to members of the faculty and staff who commit to residing in the University City area.
   Under the Home Ownership Incentive Program, the University will give either $3,000 per year for seven years or $15,000 up front for housing expenses to employees who purchase homes in University City. Buyers must commit to reside in that home for at least seven years. Those who already own homes in University City can obtain up to $7,500 in matching funds toward exterior home improvements. And Penn's Guaranteed Mortgage Program, begun in 1965, now offers an option to finance 120 percent of the cost for a property needing rehabilitation.
   "We recognize that buying a home is one of the most important decisions that people make," says Diane-Louise Wormley, Penn's managing director for community housing. "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."
   According to Dr. Judith Rodin, CW'66, president of the University, the idea is to "make it easier, more affordable, and more attractive for people to put down roots in the community," adding that the new programs are "meaningful ways in which we can demonstrate our commitment to our host community, and our enormous confidence in its future."
   In an editorial titled "All this and original woodwork, too," the Philadelphia Daily News praised the program, noting: "Just by being there, more middle-class families who are invested in the community around Penn will make it safer, more stable, and more attractive. Eventually, these homeowners could provide the sort of critical mass that is a prerequisite for rejuvenating public schools and for completely taking back the streets." And an editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer called it a "solid idea that can benefit the University, the neighborhood, and the entire city."
   "Penn is doing a wonderful thing with this effort," said Dr. Elijah Anderson, the Charles and William Day Professor of Social Sciences, in an op-ed interview with the Daily News. "It will have an impact in terms of cleanliness and improving the quality of life." Recalling how he and his family were driven from their neighborhood near 47th Street and Hazel Avenue three years ago by a long series of crimes and apathetic responses by the police, Anderson noted that Penn is "really leaning on the Police Department" to be more active.
   "I wish they'd done it sooner," he said about the housing initiative. "Three years ago, we didn't have this kind of thing."

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Copyright 1998 The Pennsylvania Gazette Last modified 5/12/98