Through Hamlin Park Initiative, Canisius Promotes Safe Neighborhoods in Buffalo

By Canisius College Communications

Pictured with his family, Michael J. Forest, Ph.D., chair of the Philosophy Department at Canisius, is an Employer Assisted Housing Program (EAH) participant. (Photo by Canisius College)

Pictured with his family, Michael J. Forest, Ph.D., chair of the Philosophy Department at Canisius, is an Employer Assisted Housing Program (EAH) participant. (Photo by Canisius College)

The Hamlin Park Initiative is a program developed by Canisius College to promote a stronger, safer and more beautiful residential neighborhood in the vicinity of the College in central Buffalo, NY. 

“The Hamlin Park community is a terrific place to live and raise a family, and Canisius is committed to doing its part to promote home ownership and assist in our neighborhood’s revitalization,” said Canisius President John J. Hurley.   
 
Since 2011, Canisius has been renovating and selling houses that were previously acquired by the College many years ago for student residences in surrounding neighborhoods, to buyers who commit to being owner-occupiers. When sold, the property deeds include a restrictive covenant to ensure that the properties remain owner-occupied for up to 15 years.  

The program was developed in response to concerns that available neighborhood properties were being scooped up by investor landlords who would convert them to rental properties for students from Canisius and other nearby colleges and universities. The presence of so many students in what had historically been a middle-class residential neighborhood was seen by many to be a destabilizing factor.
 
“If we were to list these homes on the open market, they would likely end up in the hands of investor landlords who in turn would rent them to students, and that’s not what we want,” said Hurley. “The owner-occupied covenant recognizes that families living in nearby homes benefit both the College and the neighborhood. This is another way the College can contribute to the neighborhood's stability.”
 
The College has partnered with Belmont Housing Resources of Western New York on some of the home renovations and sales, and has also done some of the renovations itself. To date, seven houses have been renovated and sold. “We wanted to ensure that the houses were brought up to a certain standard of repair and appearance before they were sold,” said Hurley. “This has made an instant impact.”

Belmont Housing Resources currently has three additional Canisius-owned homes under contract for which it is seeking federal housing funds for renovation and sale to buyers within income limits.

Canisius has also worked with Habitat for Humanity on two other projects involving houses owned by the College. In both cases, the Canisius Habitat student chapter was involved in renovations of the homes, both of which were donated to the Habitat program. “The result was the same,” said Hurley. “We had two houses that would have been cost-prohibitive to renovate that Habitat was able to transform into homes for two Habitat families.”

The Hamlin Park Initiative works in conjunction with another Canisius program that has been in existence for more than a decade: the Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) Program. EAH is a benefit offered by Canisius to enable any full-time employee to purchase a home near the College.

Eligible full-time employees receive grants in the form of forgivable loans to assist with down payments or closing costs associated with the purchases of homes in designated areas. The loans, ranging from $5,000 to $7,000 (depending on the home's location), are forgiven over five years if the employee remains at the College and lives in the home.
 
Since its inception in 2002, the EAH Program has helped 43 faculty and staff members buy homes. “The response to this program has been heartening,” said Hurley. “Staff members at every level have qualified for the program and are now living here in the city of Buffalo.”  

The real estate value of the sold homes is more than $6.7 million, while the value of the loans offered by Canisius is more than $250,000. “Canisius College is a major presence and factor in the city of Buffalo,” said Hurley. “It has been our home for 146 years. And like any good neighbor, we take an active role in helping to further the city’s growth and development by sharing our resources.”