Cleveland Heights considering student loan incentive to help attract new homeowners

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Tens of millions of Americans are faced with paying off student debt and by the end of the year, Cleveland Heights may have a new pilot program in place that could help. Homeowners and builders could be encouraged to move to targeted areas with a student loan incentive.

The Noble, Taylor and Mayfield areas are included in this proposal.

Vice Mayor Melissa Yasinow introduced it to the city council earlier this year. If implemented, she hopes the people who apply will invest in the community.

“I would want to live in the heights. It’s nice and pretty out here, streets stay clean it’s nice, very nice,” said Ariyanna McCauley.

The Tri-C student is looking to buy a home in Cleveland Heights in the next year or so.

“Like many families across northeast Ohio and certainly in Cleveland Heights I have, my family has student loan debt,” said Yasinow.

McCauley said she doesn't owe much, but by the time she wants to move, she could qualify for the program.

A maximum of 10 incentive agreements would be given out. Applicants would need to have graduated with an associate, bachelor's or master's degree within the last five years since the creation of the program.

"People across the city recognize that those neighborhoods have been neglected," said Councilman Kahlil Seren.

He added that this program may help bring long-term positive benefits to the targeted areas. Those neighborhoods are also eligible for certain tax abatements.

To qualify for the student loan incentive, a vacant lot or house would need to be purchased.

"That's where the city would be able to maximize the revenue because those are non revenue-producing areas for the city," said Brian Anderson, Business Development Manager for Cleveland Heights.

The proposed incentive would pay off up to 50 percent or 20 thousand dollars of the homeowner or builder's college debt. After 10 years of living on the property as a primary residence, 80% of the incentive would be paid out, the other 20% at the 15 year mark.

“We understand and appreciate that families of all different sizes, backgrounds have student loan debt and we believe that any family that would meet our qualifications we hope they would apply,” said Yasinow.

Seren said he is excited about the proposal as a general concept but emphasized the details matter.

“We need to be very strict about what we expect and we need to be very clear about what metrics we’re going to use in order to judge whether or not the incentive is doing what we expect it to," he said.

Yasinow said research on similar proposals across the state were taken into consideration.

"Structuring it this way also allows it to be more of less revenue-neutral or even revenue positive for the city," explained Anderson.

Yasinow said she intends to have legislation up for consideration within the next month.

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