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New London looks to develop home down payment program for teachers, city employees

New London — The Board of Education has teamed up with the City Council to explore ways to financially reward teachers and other city employees who purchase a home in the city.

Board of Education President Elaine Maynard-Adams said she first came up with the idea after hearing about Lawrence + Memorial Hospital’s Home Ownership Made Easy program. The hospital’s program provides eligible employees up to $10,000 in forgivable loans and other incentives for buying a home in New London.

“I like the idea because I think it's a great recruiting tool for us. By us, I mean the Board of Education. I’m sure it’s a good recruiting tool for the city and I’m quite certain the city is struggling to recruit employees the same way the board is,” Mayard-Adams said. “Every day we’re losing top candidates to districts that pay more money than we do.”

Maynard-Adams discussed the idea with the Economic Development Committee of the City Council last week. Talks are expected to continue at a joint budgetary task force meeting next week.

Boosting pay for teachers to match some other wealthier districts is simply not feasible, but Maynard-Adams said the district is in need of bilingual, math and science teachers and paraprofessionals. Her idea is for a pool of money to be jointly developed and funded by the city and school board.

“I believe there is great value in our employees living, working and playing in our city,” she said.

The idea could be expanded beyond teachers to include firefighters, police officers and anyone else who works in the city. Councilor Reona Dyess said that perhaps the program could be used as a tool to attract more Black and Hispanic employees and help diversify the city's workforce.

Judy Cox, a loan specialist working in the city’s Office of Development and Planning, said the city used to have a home down payment program funded with $100,000 from the city’s budget. That was about 10 years ago. The funding for the New Home New London program, however, was reserved for low-income residents meeting certain income guidelines. New homeowners were eligible for up to $5,000.

Similarly, the city is using $150,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to fund a program that provides up to $15,000 to individuals buying a home in the city. The program also has income guidelines and is open only to current New London residents. An additional incentive of the program allows up to $20,000 for a down payment for an owner-occupied home, Cox said.

“This is a valid discussion,” said Felix Reyes, director of the city’s Office of Development and Planning.

“Across the nation, especially in the urban sectors, we are struggling to recruit teachers and keep teachers.”

Reyes said that while the city may not have salaries comparable to places such as Darien and Westport, the real estate and the cost of living is lower in New London and can serve as an incentive, especially for new college graduates.

While there is no money in the current budget for such a program, Maynard-Adams said she would like to see the city and school board consider at least $50,000 each to kick-start the initiative.

g.smith@theday.com

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