Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

January 24, 2004

Would incentives prompt employees to buy homes near Pitt?

Would Pitt employees consider buying homes in neighborhoods close to the University if incentives were in place to help them?

That is the thrust of a new on-line survey designed to measure Pitt employee interest in home ownership in select nearby neighborhoods of central Oakland, South Oakland, West Oakland and Hazelwood. (See map.)

The 20-plus question survey (accessible at:
st=housing ) is the first step in measuring the feasibility of establishing an employer-assisted housing (EAH) program through the University, according to Tracy Soska, chair of the Senate’s community relations committee, which is sponsoring the survey. The deadline for filling out the survey is March 1.

Soska stressed that the survey is exploratory, a marketing vehicle rather than a scientific study, and that no plans are in place to offer EAH benefits at Pitt.

The idea arose from strategies put forth by Pitt’s Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC), said Soska, who also is co-director of that partnership.

“A COPC working group on housing helped put together the survey, working in support of Oakland and Hazelwood community organizations seeking to enhance home ownership and neighborhood revitalization,” Soska said. (He added that North Oakland and Shadyside, as established and stable neighborhoods less in need of revitalization, are not included in the survey.)

“Faculty Assembly and Senate Council last spring endorsed pursuing the possibility of offering employer-assisted housing services, and we will report our survey findings back to them.” UPMC employees are invited to fill out the EAH on-line survey, as well, he said.

Also last spring, the community relations committee heard a report from Fannie Mae, a national private company that provides mortgage money and other employer-assisted services in support of affordable housing. Depending on what parties agree to, EAH services can include home-buyer workshops; help in locating affordable housing; financial and credit counseling; closing costs assistance; down payment assistance; matching savings; “rent to buy” options, and loan guarantees.

“As part of this effort, we’ve also begun to look at other employer-assisted housing programs at other universities” including the University of Kentucky and the University of Pennsylvania, Soska said.

“Penn’s not exactly like us. Penn’s program is in their immediate campus area but it’s combined with some development projects that the university is doing,” Soska said.

“Kentucky’s is a program operating in conjunction with the city [of Lexington] to develop some key neighborhoods, and it’s handled through the [university’s] human resources office, where they do workshops to advise people. So, they’re a few steps ahead of us right now.”

Soska acknowledged that most EAH programs include financial support from the employing institution. “However, we’re not trying to put this University into a position where they’d have to underwrite loans. We’re cautious of that. But this type of program does fit in with both the community’s and University’s short- and long-term housing strategy, increasing the area’s stability and lessening problems of absentee landlords and housing code violations, maintenance, safety and other issues,” Soska said.

The on-line EAH survey was designed by Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research, which will evaluate the data.

For more information on the survey, contact community relations committee member Linda Hartman at 8-1479 or

The Senate’s community relations committee, in conjunction with several Oakland community groups including the Oakland Task Force, Oakland Planning and Development Corp. and Oakland Business Improvement District, also will be seeking input on which kinds of businesses Pitt employees want to see near campus. A separate survey on that will be going out this spring, Soska said.

—Peter Hart

Leave a Reply