As an incentive for Eastern Michigan University employees to move to Ypsilanti, a new program called Live Ypsi will offer employees between $5,000 and $10,000 in forgivable loans toward the purchase of a home in the city. The money can be used for any expenses, including down payments, mortgages and renovations. Also, for every year the homeowner is still employed by EMU, 20 percent of the loan will be forgiven, so in five years the full amount of the loan will be wiped away.
“We’re confident that though the grant amount may seem small, it can go a long way,” said Leigh Greden, Eastern Michigan University’s executive director of government and community relations, who is one of the organizers of the program. Live Ypsi is planned to be completely up and running sometime in May, Greden said, “We’re really close.”
The model for the Live Ypsi program, according to Greden, is the city of Detroit’s Live Midtown Program, which provides financial incentives for those who move to the neighborhood around Wayne State University. Compared to Live Midtown, however, Live Ypsi is intentionally much smaller.
“We see this as a pilot program,” said Greden. “It’s small. It’s designed to be small. We want to test it, see how it goes, refine it if necessary and continue raising money.”
Initial seed money for the program came from the Eastern Leaders Group, a partnership that brings together government, educational, non-profit and business groups to improve life in eastern Washtenaw County.
EMU President Susan Martin also contributed a portion of the initial seed money on behalf of the university. According to Greden, Martin has been an enthusiastic supporter of the program. “It’s safe to say she sees this as a great benefit for our employees and a good way for the university to help support the community,” he said.
The program is still under development, and Greden is looking for more funding partners in addition to the county and university. They have already secured funds from DTE Foundation and Greden is confident they will secure more sources. “A majority of the funding will come from outside EMU,” he said.
Greden said there are many benefits to the program, including being a recruiting tool for new employees and increasing revenue for local businesses. “I think this is a win-win for the university, for our employees and for the community” he said.
Currently, less than half of all permanent university employees live in the Ypsilanti area. Greden is already seeing signs indicating this program will change that number. “We’re getting a lot of interest in it, so we’re excited.”
One who has expressed interest is Tricia McTague, an assistant professor of sociology, who is currently renting in Ypsilanti Township.
“We’re pretty far out, and away from where everything is. We’re looking for a place that’s more integrated into campus life and city life,” she said.
McTague has lived and worked at other universities, but none of them were a good fit.
“As a sociologist, I wanted a little bit of spice, I wanted variety,” McTague said.
She said she especially liked EMU’s campus and community, and appreciated the presence of diverse programs and resources, including a women’s center, LGBT resource center and African studies program.
McTague is already house hunting in Ypsilanti, and is excited about the opportunity presented by the Live Ypsi program. “The program is great,” she said. “I think it’s a really smart idea. There are a lot of really good reasons to stay in Ypsi.”