House-hunting? Penn can help

Penn faculty and staff who want to call West Philadelphia home can still rely on their friendly neighborhood employer for a helping hand. Thanks to the Enhanced Mortgage Program—open to all Penn and Health System employees—buyers who purchase homes within a defined area of West Philly can obtain a forgivable loan of $7,500 from the Office of Community Housing.

Only the boundaries and loan amount have changed in this second version of the enhanced mortgage program, says Stefany Jones, the director of Community Housing. “It’s $7,500 instead of $15,000, and it’s an expanded area. That’s the only difference. Everything else is the same.”

New homebuyers can put the loan towards a down payment, to buy down points (a one-time cost that can reduce mortgage payments), or for interior and exterior home improvements. Employees who already own a home within the geographic boundaries can also apply for a $7,500 loan to make improvements, but only for homes valued at $75,000 or less. All loans through this program will be forgiven if the buyer lives in the home for seven years.

Jones says she is excited about the enhanced program because Community Housing will be able to offer homebuying or repair help to those as far west as 52nd Street (out from 49th Street), as far north as Haverford Ave (expanded from Market Street) and southward to the Schuylkill River. Part of the impetus for expanding the program, says Jones, was to make it available to more people. “We’re truly overjoyed that we can offer the program in a wider neighborhood span.”

Four people have taken advantage of the forgivable loans since the changes were implemented on April 1. Since 1998, more than 360 Penn employees have purchased homes in University City and another 150 employees have used the incentives to improve porches, roofs or other exterior parts of their home. “Our program has maintained momentum from day one,” says Jones. “The response is good and the continuum of participants has been consistent.”

To schedule an appointment or to learn more about any of the Community Housing programs, contact the office at 215-898-7422 or visit the web site: www.business-services.upenn.edu/communityhousing/.

Originally published on June 10, 2004