COLLEGE PARK – Christina Kenny was living in Baltimore when she accepted a job at the University of Maryland. She knew she would be working a lot of nights and weekends at the university’s School of Public Policy. Her husband, Ryan, is a pilot based out of Reagan National Airport.
When she got home after her first day, she had some news for him.
“After commuting 90 minutes up I-95, I got home and said, ‘We’re moving to College Park,’” she said.
When she was first offered the job, her manager told her about the College Park City-University Partnership’s Homeownership Program, which provides $15,000 in forgivable loans to full-time, benefits-eligible University of Maryland and city employees to purchase homes in the city to assist with down payments and closing costs.
Christina and Ryan, along with their eight-month-old daughter, closed on their new home in College Park on June 6.
The Kenny family, along with about a dozen College Park homeowners, were recognized June 10 at College Park City Hall as the program celebrated its 50th homebuyer milestone.
Since its inception about four years ago, 52 homes have been sold through the program, according to data provided by the partnership. Those 52 homes have resulted in $17.6 million in home sales for the city and 122 new city residents.
“Every block that one of those 50 houses is on has a stable homeowner who’s living in the house, who cares about the house and cares about the neighborhood,” said Eric Olson, the partnership’s executive director. “It does make a real difference.”
The program is funded through a grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and matching funds from the city and university. The funds do not have to be repaid as long as the homeowners live in the home for 10 years and either eligible homeowner continues to be employed through the city or university.
Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt, College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn, University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, State Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-21) and Olson all spoke during the event, touting the growing relationship between the city and university.
“It became very clear that we needed to attract first-time homebuyers into the University of Maryland community and the College Park proper and give them that extra little incentive to get into their first home,” Holt said.
According to the partnership, 68 percent of the homes sold through the program are to first-time homebuyers.
Wojahn said the city has changed a lot over the years, largely in part to the university’s investment in the city.
“It hasn’t always been like that, that people at the University of Maryland have been willing to come to College Park and invest in College Park,” Wojahn said. “In the past, we’ve struggled so much to make sure that people who come to work at the university, as faculty or staff, recognize and serve the community around the university and see the community as a great place to live.
When Loh became university president in 2010, he said he wanted to improve the relationship between the university and city.
“We’ve been thinking about ourselves for a long time – the University of Maryland at College Park – as a university in the park,” Loh said. “We should be a university embedded and engaged with the surrounding community of College Park.”
With the city, state and university all contributing to the program, Rosapepe called the program “a genuine partnership.”
“Everyone’s got skin in the game,” he said.
At her family’s new home in College Park Estates, Kenny said the neighborhood is atypical of a college town. She said her entire block consists of young families with children and all her new neighbors have stopped by to introduce themselves.
Kenny, a runner, said she could not wait to participate in some of the community’s races, but first things first.
“We closed on Thursday and I wanted to run the 5K on Saturday, but I didn’t because we were painting,” she said.