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Walk to Work Turns Renters into Homeowners

Date: May 3, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos by Dottie Stover
Archive: General News

Jada Gaskin is a University of Cincinnati alumna, graduate student and UC employee who became a first-time homeowner through UC's Walk to Work program last May. She's also a wife and mother of three children aged four to eight who's very happy to cut down on her commute to work. The Gaskin family: Andre Jr., Andre Sr., Jada, Lyric, and Victoria

"We used to live in Forest Park, and it would take me an hour to get here and an hour to get home. The difference in the time I save, and my gas mileage, is a huge advantage," says Gaskin, who stopped renting a townhouse and bought a three-bedroom home in Western Hills.

To help with her home purchase, Gaskin received $2,500 in assistance from the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati, Inc., the UC partner in the Walk to Work program. The partnership makes this $2,500 loan interest and payment free, provided the Gaskins live in the home a minimum of three years. When they sell, they pay the $2,500 back to The Home Ownership Center.

Through July 31, the Home Ownership Center of Greater Cincinnati is offering even greater assistance for those buying single-family homes in the City of Cincinnati. It now offers "Right Place Right Price" program in conjunction with FIRSTAR and Provident Banks. For single-family properties in the city of Cincinnati, it offers interest rates of 5.95 percent for incomes up to 115 percent of the Area Median Income. That would be $51,750 for one person or $73,950 for a family of four. Interest rates for people with incomes greater than 115 percent would be 6.50 percent.

For this program, shoppers do not have to be first-time homebuyers. The program is an initiative under the Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN) task force to improve equality, opportunity and inclusion in the city.

UC employees shopping for homes in neighborhoods that touch the perimeters of the campus can qualify for $2,500 in low-interest loans (six percent) from the university. The UC loan would be paid back over a two-year period through payroll deductions.

Applicants for this program must be first-time homebuyers, benefits-eligible employees, and purchasing a home in the Uptown area, which covers Clifton, Corryville, Mt. Auburn, Walnut Hills, Clifton Heights, Fairview Heights, Avondale, Evanston and University Heights.The Gaskin family

The three-year-old UC Walk to Work program is more than a sound investment for homeowners. It's also geared toward improving city life. "The mission of the Home Ownership Center is to strengthen communities through comprehensive home ownership strategies. As a partner, the University of Cincinnati has a more specific goal of stabilizing and improving the quality of life in neighborhoods around the university and creating a more loyal, dedicated workforce," says Thomas Hadley, associate vice president for Student Affairs and Services.

"National studies indicate that employees who own their own homes are more productive and remain with their employers longer."

Hadley says that with the rising rent prices, apartment dwellers planning to live in Cincinnati at least three years or more should give the program some consideration. Hadley adds the homebuyer training class offered by the Home Ownership Center helps potential homebuyers successfully navigate through the home buying process. The class meets on three consecutive Wednesday or three consecutive Thursday evenings for a total of nine hours of training. Hadley himself has attended the sessions and says he gained new insight, even though he has previously purchased homes.

Gaskin says the free classes were informative and helpful. Think of the costs of home inspections or all of those items listed for closing costs, something renters have never come across before. Gaskin says the free classes helped her discover there was a lot she didn't know about becoming a new homeowner.

"I didn't know a home warranty could come with the house. I didn't know if your closing date was toward the end of the month, you might not have to pay an entire month's rent. They also told us about the safety issues over lead paint, and how to get it cleaned up."

Kristine Ritchie, operations administrator of the Home Ownership Center, says the classes for new homeowners are ensuring they're informed about credit, pre-approval and budgeting, navigating the loan process, and the homeowners insurance or hazard insurance policies. "Sometimes you assume a certain type of coverage is included in your policy, while you actually have to purchase it separately. Flood insurance is an example of this. Let's say you have a driveway that slopes down toward your house. You won't be covered if it floods in a torrential downpour, but if you have a sewer backup, you are covered."

As part of the training, Ritchie says an attorney will review the closing process and the paperwork involved with the buyers, explaining closing costs as well as the escrow for taxes and insurance.

Ritchie says satisfaction surveys from people who took the class last year showed 98 percent of the attendees felt much more confident or were more confident about navigating the home buying process. She adds that more than 70 percent of the attendees found they learned more than they expected, and 100 percent said they would recommend the class to someone else.

Gaskin is one of 11 UC employees who received down payment assistance and participated in the program last year. She started as a student at UC in 1994, earned her bachelor's degree in legal assisting and started working for UC in 1998. She's currently earning her master's degree in criminal justice through UC's new online program that started this year, and says that when she gets the chance, she enjoys listening to her twin sister Angelica's Bearcast radio program. Her sister, Angelica Kennedy, is a student in the UC electronic media program.

As a homeowner, Gaskin's coming up on her one-year anniversary in May. Her two girls, eight-year-old Victoria and six-year-old Lyric, share a room. Her four-year-old son Andre Gaskin, Jr. has a room of his own and of course she and her husband, Andre Senior have the master bedroom.

It's just enough room for a young family -- a family that can now enjoy their own yard, relax in a lawn chair on their deck, or have a picnic around the grill. Plus, through the program, they used their loan to cover those items, along with the lawnmower and gardening tools. These are the extra expenses that come with home ownership, but Gaskin says it's all worth it.

For more information about the Home Ownership Center's programs, contact Kristine Ritchie at (513) 961-2800. For additional information about the UC Walk to Work loan program, contact Mary Myrick in the UC Benefits office at 556-0370.

Related story: Home is Sweet for UC Administrator.

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