Monday, October 19, 2009

Good News for OH Grads

From BusinessFirst:

Ohio is seeking to keep more natives in the Buckeye State after college with a new program that lightens the load for home-buying graduates.

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency on Monday opened up the Grants for Grads program, an initiative that gives any graduate of an Ohio high school a 2.5 percent break on the purchase price of a home within 18 months of graduating from college. Grads don’t receive the full benefit of the break, which helps with down-payment and closing costs, unless they stay in the house for at least five years.

The program got a final legislative OK as a part of the two-year budget Gov. Ted Strickland signed in July. Erin Biehl, a spokeswoman for the agency, said $1 million initially has been set aside for the program but officials hope it will eventually become self-sustaining.

The agency, which provides tax credits for housing developments, mortgages and down-payment assistance to buyers, will issue the grants in the form of zero-percent second mortgage loans to homebuyers who get a first mortgage through a lender affiliated with the agency within 18 months of receiving an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral or other postgraduate degree.

The aid comes in the form of a mortgage loan that’s forgivable after five years, Biehl said, because the agency is then able to track if borrowers move out of state. Those who leave Ohio before the five-year window is up are required to pay back part of the grant.

Strickland said in a release that the program is a way to “better position the state to meet the needs of future graduates as they make plans to build their personal and professional lives in Ohio after college.”

“Retaining educated and qualified graduates will also help to attract new jobs and prevent others from leaving the state,” Strickland said.

While the grant applies to Ohioans regardless of where they attended college, research indicates the risk of “brain drain” is high even for students who attend college in-state. A survey released this summer by the Washington, D.C.-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute think tank found that 51 percent of in-state students say they’ll look elsewhere for jobs after graduation. Of those surveyed, 60 percent said down-payment help would be an attractive incentive for staying in Ohio.

The agency has put income and purchase price restrictions on the program that vary from county to county. In Franklin County, for example, a one- or two-person family can’t participate if annual income is higher than $82,320, while the maximum purchase price for a new or existing home is $298,180. That would value the state’s incentive at up to $7,455.
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