Eastern Michigan University represents the largest employer in Ypsilanti, Michigan. However, because Ypsilanti has not been among the most appealing places to buy a home in Washtenaw County, several of the university’s employees live outside of the community. Recognizing this conflict, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw County came up with an implementation strategy that will help stabilize the community, address blight, decrease travel time to work, and promote local shopping and walkability. In addition to promoting walkability, reducing travel time to work may help relieve the overwhelming parking problem on campus. The LiveYpsi home-buyer program was introduced in 2012 to provide Eastern Michigan employees with an incentive to buy their homes in Ypsilanti.
What is it?
Modeled after LiveMidtown in Detroit, the LiveYpsi home-buyer program offers all full-time Eastern Michigan University employees a forgivable loan of $5,000 or $10,000 that will assist with purchase or home renovations, presuming that the newly purchased home will serve as their primary residence. The loan amount is determined based on the purchase location of the home; homes purchased in neighborhoods with less stability receive larger loans to incentivize investment in challenged neighborhoods and avoid a clustering of purchases that neglect these areas.
Why is this relevant?
The LiveYpsi program is an attempt to eliminate blight and revitalize neglected communities. Tying the loan amount to purchase location provides a greater incentive for homebuyers to invest in neighborhoods they may not have initially considered. Avoiding a concentration of homebuying within the same general areas allows for a more equitable distribution of economic development. This facilitates a more widespread blight elimination process, creating a more desirable community and sense of place for current and prospective residents of Ypsilanti.
After receiving a generous, one-time donation of $30,000 from the DTE Foundation to get the program up and running in 2012, LiveYpsi has since been equally funded by Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw County.
The program has proven to be a big success since its 2012 launch, and it is anticipated that it will continue for years to come. The program is being utilized, there is high demand, residents are doing more local shopping and eating, and neighborhood quality has been improving. Roughly 40 homes have been purchased through the program thus far. LiveYpsi has the power to yield positive economic impacts for the city as it provides residents with a sense of place while also promoting the circulation of money within the community.