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UA partners with Tucson, creates homebuyer initiative to boost ownership around campus

Selena Quintanilla
Recent UA graduate Elizabeth Vargas visits a homebuyer expert table at the Homebuyer Expo at the Student Union Memorial Center on Tuesday, Sept. 13. Vargas is looking to take the next big step in her life by buying a home.

The City of Tucson and the UA have partnered together in an effort to boost home ownership around campus.

Many of the rental properties around the UA are experiencing higher vacancy rates as students move into student housing options around the community. A few months ago, President Ann Weaver Hart and Mayor Jonathan Rothschild talked about finding a way to reverse this trend.

The Help for Homebuyers initiative was the result—a program that seeks to boost homeownership for low- and middle-income Tucsonans. The UA plans to encourage use of this initiative to help fill vacant homes in neighborhoods around the campus.

“For the university, it is great if our faculty and staff choose to live nearby,” said Tannya Gaxiola, assistant vice president of community relations at the UA. “It just makes for a better lifestyle; it makes for a better retention; it’s just all around good.”

Gaxiola also said that if people lived closer to campus they could walk, take the streetcar or take the bus, which makes for a greener campus. It would also increase owner occupancy in neighborhoods and create housing opportunities for faculty, staff and students.

A homebuyer expo was held in the UA Student Union Grand Ballroom on Sept. 13 as a way for community members to learn more about the initiative. The mayor’s office co-hosted the event with lenders, realtors, social service agencies and employers on credit repair and homebuyer assistance and education programs in Tucson.

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“We actually did it during work hours and after work hours as well so we would be able to have as much access for people as possible to come access those resources here on campus,” Gaxiola said. “It was a nice partnership between the university and the mayor’s office.”

Details of the initiative, which are listed on the mayor’s website, include down payment assistance of 10 percent of purchase price or 5 percent of mortgage loan for Tucsonans who make up to $92,894. These are just two of nine initiatives listed.

The money is administered through the Industrial Development Authority of the City of Tucson, according to Gaxiola.

Gaxiola also said that she hopes that the mayor’s program, which is available to the entire Tucson community, will encourage people to buy homes around the UA, instead of just rent.

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According to the U.S. News Report on Higher Education, 80 percent of students who attend the UA live off campus. Although many of these students rent apartments or houses, there are a handful whose parents have purchased properties for their children to live in while attending school.

Gina Williams, a neuroscience junior, said her dad bought a house for her to live in while she was at school because he thought it would be a better investment for the three years she would spend in the house, plus four more years when her brother would eventually move to Tucson for school. However, her brother’s plans changed.

“Even though it didn’t work out that my brother is going to come here, I still think it was better than renting because I was really able to make it my own and change things about it that I don’t particularly like,” Williams said. “And I think after I graduate and move out my dad will either rent it out or just sell it.”

The mayor’s initiative can potentially encourage students and their parents, like Williams, to consider buying instead of renting. As a result, those vacancies in houses around the UA have the potential to be filled.

“I think this is a really great example of how, when the university and the city partner, we can do really good things for the community,” Gaxiola said. “And I hope that as many people as possible take advantage of this.”Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter.

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