Housing Program Rebuilds Neighborhoods, Helps Employees Purchase Homes - Shaker Square Area Development Corporation The SHAD Connection Winter 2017-2018.
Posted November 15, 2017 in Articles
Author: Thomas Jewell
Five years into their owner-occupancy, Cathy Niswonger and Paul Ernsberger couldn’t be much happier with their nearly century-old house in the Larchmere neighborhood.
Well, there are still a few remaining projects that are a work-in-progress. But with the deal they got through the Greater Circle Living (GCL) program, they had plenty of money left over to complete their checklist of “potential.”
“It only took $3,000 of my own money for the down payment,” Niswonger said. “That’s what people are used to putting down on a car. And I put it down on a house.”She and Ernsberger are among the owners of more than 50 homes that have been purchased in the Shaker Square-Buckeye-Larchmere neighborhoods since May 2008: more than any other of the nine eligible zones that qualify for GCL forgivable loans.
GCL is a part of the Greater University Circle Initiative launched in 2005 by the Cleveland Foundation to rebuild surrounding neighborhoods. Since its inception GCL has increased benefits to as much as $30,000 in downpayment assistance to employees at participating nonprofit institutions, namely Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Museum of Art and University Hospitals.
Moving from Parma, Niswonger has worked at the Cleveland Clinic since 2009, getting into the nursing program after that. Ernsberger, who came over from South Euclid, is a professor in the Nutrition Department at CWRU’s School of Medicine.
Together, they moved into the Shaker Lakes Apartments in 2010 and subsequently went to the neighborhood’s flagship summer event PorchFest, featuring dozens of live bands.
At a recent meeting of the Shaker Square Alliance, Larchmere Merchants Association President Susan Rozman noted that PorchFest has long-term benefits in drawing people into the neighborhood and bringing them back, sometimes for good, once they look at the housing market.
And that’s exactly what happened with Ernsberger and Niswonger. They started looking for a home to buy in the summer of 2012.
“And I didn’t want anything that didn’t have a front porch,” Niswonger said, adding that her mother in Parma had already heard about the GCL program, which led Cathy to call Cleveland Clinic’s Human Resources Department.
That got the wheels in motion. Some of the requirements include a pre-approval letter from a bank and a homebuyer education course which holds four evening classes with a certificate earned upon completion.
“They want people to succeed in this program,” Niswonger said, pointing out that GCL bills itself as “An Incentive to Live Near Work.”
A big incentive for the couple is the fact that by living and working in Cleveland, they no longer have to deal with the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA).
After missing out on two other houses by a day, their soon-to-be home on East 127th Street between Larchmere and Shaker Boulevard was on the market three days.With the GCL-infused financing in hand, they closed within a month in October 2012. But they held off on the housewarming party until the following summer’s PorchFest.
Ernsberger, you see, is a member of the Workmen’s Circle Klezmer Orchestra. His upright bass occupies a prominent spot in the couple’s dining room.
Another celebration may be pending with the ceremonial burning of their five-year promissory note that required them to live in the house in order for the loan to be forgiven.
But they don’t see themselves moving anywhere, especially with monthly mortgage payments of $312 (Niswonger pays the property taxes in advance, rather than rolling them into the mortgage).
“It’s a really exciting time to be living here,” Niswonger said. “I fell in love with the brick street, lined with the Bradford pear trees. And the neighbors are great.”
A co-founder of the East 127th Street Brickside Block Club, she also loves the proximity to the North Union Farmers Market, shops and restaurants on Shaker Square, as well as Larchmere, noting that many of the merchants live in the neighborhood.
The GCL program also provides up to $8,000 in matching funds for exterior home repairs and one-time rental assistance up to $1,400.
GCL Manager LaVerne Peakes noted that along with the 52 home purchases, another 25 people have used their incentive to rent in Buckeye-Shaker since 2008.
In all, GCL has invested about $4.9 million and leveraged over $33 million in Greater University Circle through home purchase, improvements and rental assistance programs, with over 400 employees receiving funding for individual incomes ranging from $17,500 to $647,000.
For more information contact Peakes at 216.707-5019 or firstname.lastname@example.org, universitycircle.org and greatercircleliving.org.
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