City-University Partnership’s Homeownership Program Celebrates 75th Sale Helping Employees Live Where They Work
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle
Since moving into their first house in College Park late last year, University of Maryland employees Sandy Everett and Andrea Ball have enjoyed virtually nonexistent commutes, family just a short hop on the beltway away and walkability to neighborhood hotspots.
Also of importance to the pair of Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center staffers, who had previously been renting in Laurel: artistic freedom.
“It’s so much nicer—you don’t have to ask anybody before you change a wall color,” said Ball, a scenic painter.
That transition wouldn’t have been possible without the College Park City-University Partnership’s homeownership program, they said. The initiative aims to increase the number of UMD and city employees living in College Park by providing a $15,000 incentive to buy a home within city limits. And especially as new eateries, grocery stores and other amenities keep popping up along the Baltimore Avenue corridor, the program is steadily attracting buyers—with Everett and Ball marking its 75th sale.
“We’ve worked hard to make the community an increasingly attractive place to live,” said Eric Olson, College Park City-University Partnership executive director. “People are contributing to the community, becoming part of the fabric of College Park and bringing the university and city closer together.”
The program—funded through grants from Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development, UMD and the city of College Park—launched in 2015 and provides the money to homebuyers through interest-free, 10-year forgivable loans.
Stacked with state assistance for first-time homebuyers, it allowed Everett and Ball to afford a down payment at least a year earlier than they were expecting. Now, they can drive from their home in College Park’s Hollywood neighborhood to campus in around seven minutes, zip on over to local favorites like the Board and Brew and Jerk Pit, and enjoy their yard with their spaniel mix, Banksy.
“It was really an easy process,” said Everett, a technical coordinator at The Clarice. “If you’re looking to stick around for a while, I don’t see a reason why not to (participate).”
Associate Professor of mechanical engineering Mark Fuge, the program’s first homebuyer, can concur. He’s been living in his same Berwyn neighborhood house for over six years, relishing the bikeable commute and nearby trails. Something that has changed, though, is the general perception of the city as a $2 billion revitalization project has brought new retail, restaurants and other businesses to the area now known as Greater College Park.
“When I first showed up at the university and I told people I was looking in College Park, I think people had a very monolithic view of what College Park was,” he said, citing common assumptions that housing in the city was just focused on students.
He was only the second faculty member in his department who lived in town when he started, but five or six others have since joined him, he said. “There are many different neighborhoods with different amenities that I think would appeal to a wide variety of faculty and staff.”
Word of mouth has helped keep the program rolling all the way to its 75-sale milestone. Laura Hood, manager of student programs at the Stamp and buyer No. 15, first heard about the initiative from a UMD colleague and moved into her Daniels Park home in 2016. She and her husband, Aaron—who has since landed a job at Maryland in the Department of Resident Life—can walk to work if they choose, and their young daughter, Molly, recently started going to nearby Dora Kennedy French Immersion School.
Hood knows of a few others down the street who have used the program as well, and she keeps an eye on social media to see who else might be moving in soon.
“It’s always nice to see other UMD staff members come and use the program,” she said. “We’re pretty happy here.”
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