Trinity’s participation in Hartford’s Homeownership Incentive Program (HIP) got off to a successful start in April as Katherine Bergren, an assistant professor of English, and her husband, Justin Eichenlaub, purchased a house in the city’s South West neighborhood thanks, in part, to a $10,000 forgivable grant from the College.
Bergren is the first Trinity employee to take advantage of HIP, a program that the College officially kicked off in February, making five $10,000 grants available on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified homebuyers. The grants are forgiven in their entirety if the buyer lives in the residence for five years and stays at the College.
Bergren, who joined Trinity’s faculty in September 2013, and Eichenlaub, who works at Yale, purchased a brick Cape Cod in the South West section of Hartford, off Fairfield Avenue. The closing took place on April 11. The four-bedroom house is about a mile from campus, close enough for Bergren to walk or ride her bicycle to her office.
Proximity to the workplace is one of the stated goals of HIP. “By living close to work, employees save commute time and money and help to improve the environment, while enjoying easy access to the many benefits the area has to offer,” said Sandra Magee, a human resources specialist at Trinity.
Arriving here from Oakland, CA, Bergren said the couple primarily looked at houses in Frog Hollow and Hartford’s South End before “falling in love” with the Cape Cod shown to them by Amy Bergquist of RE/MAX Premier Realtors.
“The neighborhoods around Trinity have a lot of wonderful things about them. To live in the city where I work is very important to me,” said Bergren. HIP “absolutely made it easier to buy the house. I don’t know if we would have been able to afford it. It’s a great thing that Trinity has done.”
Trinity, Hartford Hospital and the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are operating under the auspices of the South Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA).
“Close to 35 years ago, Trinity College was a pioneer in what is now a full-fledged movement among anchor institutions around the country to invest resources to benefit their surrounding communities,” said Melvyn Colon, executive director of SINA. “The motto of this movement is Live Local, Hire Local and Buy Local. In keeping with the spirit of Live Local, Trinity College is using its employee benefits program…to assist in the revitalization of neighborhoods hit hard by the housing recession.”
Aetna and Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center are working with the Asylum Hill-based North Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (NINA). Both SINA and NINA are partners in the program first unveiled by the MetroHartford Alliance in May 2012. Although the Alliance spelled out certain criteria that had to be met, it left it up to the individual institutions to decide when to launch HIP. Hartford Hospital, for example, began offering the grants last year. Trinity chose February as its springboard.
“The rules are adaptable,” said Julio Concepcion, vice president of Hartford Partnerships at the MetroHartford Alliance. “The only absolute is that it must be a $10,000 grant.” Concepcion said it is the Alliance’s hope that other city corporations and institutions will eventually step up.
David Corrigan, NINA’s program manager, said Aetna has had its first Hartford homebuyer and Saint Francis is expecting to close a deal in the near future. “It’s definitely important to bring homeownership into the city,” he said. “We’re helping to create a more sustainable city.”
Trinity’s criteria are as follows:
- The residence must be in a nearby neighborhood: Barry Square, Parkville, Frog Hollow, South Green, Behind the Rocks, South West, South End, South Meadows and Sheldon Charter Oak.
- The applicant must be employed by Trinity for a year (though an exception was made in Bergren’s case because some flexibility is built into the program).
- The buyer must be pre-approved by a mortgage lender.
- The buyer must live in the residence – a single-family, two-family, three-family house or condominium -- for at least five years.
- The incentive is reserved for 60 days from the date of approval notification.
- An employee who leaves Trinity voluntarily or is terminated is required to repay the outstanding balance of the grant.
Bergren, who teaches romantic poetry, 18th- and 19th-century British literature, Romantic poetry and postcolonial literature, said she couldn’t be more pleased with the way things turned out.
“It went really smoothly working with SINA. There were no hitches along the way,” she said. “And our neighbors are the most welcoming people we’ve ever met.”
Applications are available from the Human Resources Department. For more information about HIP, contact Dean Iaiennaro at 860-493-1618 or DIaiennaro@sinainc.org.