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Incentives aplenty for employees to buy a South Side home

By combining a new federal tax credit available to first-time homebuyers or long-time homeowners with the benefits offered by Lehigh’s newly revised mortgage incentive program, faculty and staff can save money when they buy a home on Bethlehem’s South Side.

Lehigh’s mortgage incentive program, now in its 11th year, offers alternatives for employees who work at least 75 percent of a full-time schedule and are interested in purchasing or renovating an existing single-family home near campus. Lehigh has three plans to choose from—with each option including forgivable five-year loans as well as discounts offered by Wells Fargo.

“One of the key components of the university’s strategic plan is a commitment to being an active partner in the renaissance of Bethlehem,” says Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “The South Side is undergoing a tremendous transformation and this mortgage incentive program will only add more momentum to that renaissance.”

The three plans are:

Community home purchase support plan. Employees can receive a loan worth 10 percent of the purchase price (maximum $7,500), forgivable after five years, to buy a South Bethlehem home as a primary residence. The residence would have to fall within the boundaries of East Third Street to the north, Mountain Drive West to the south, Wyandotte Street to the west and East Eighth and Hayes Street to the east.

Expanded community home purchase support. Employees can receive a loan worth 10 percent of the purchase price (maximum $5,000), forgivable after five years, to purchase a South Bethlehem home as a primary residence. The residence would have to fall within the boundaries of the Lehigh River to the north, Mountain Drive West to the south, City of Bethlehem limit to the west and East Eighth Street and Lynn Avenue to the east.

For the university loan, no interest payments are due, and the loan will be forgiven at 20 percent per annum over five years.

Curb appeal support. A $2,500 one-time “curb appeal” deferred payment loan (which is in addition to the above incentive). The university loans must be spent on exterior home improvements, which improve the curb appeal of the home (provided the total cost of the renovations exceeds $5,000). No interest payments are due on the loan, and the loan will be forgiven at 20 percent per annum over five years.

“Lehigh University has had a long-standing commitment to the community development of Bethlehem’s South Side and this new Mortgage Assistance Program is further evidence of that commitment,” says Bethlehem mayor John Callahan. “Nothing stabilizes and solidifies a neighborhood like homeownership, and Lehigh’s program will provide opportunities for Lehigh employees to realize the American dream of homeownership, while helping to strengthen the neighborhoods surrounding the university. We hope programs like this serve as a blueprint for other businesses or organizations in the city and we commend Lehigh for its leadership and vision in this area.”

For first-time homebuyers and long-time homeowners (those who have owned a home for the five previous years), there are added incentives to purchase a home, thanks to the recent expansion in homebuyer credit offered by the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009.

Under the new federal law, an eligible taxpayer must buy, or enter into a binding contract to buy, a principal residence on or before April 30, 2010 and close on the home by June 30, 2010. For qualifying purchases in 2010, taxpayers have the option of taking the first-time homebuyer tax credit of $6,500 on either their 2009 or 2010 tax return. Eligible employees should consult with their tax adviser.

For more information on the Lehigh employee home buying initiative, contact David Hammer, Lehigh’s assistant treasurer, at 610-758-3110 or dlh5@lehigh.edu.

 

Story by Bill Doherty

Posted on Thursday, January 21, 2010

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