Affordable Housing Initiative For Duke Employees

Duke will partner with city and local agencies to build houses in Durham neighborhood

Duke is partnering with the city of Durham to create affordable housing for Duke employees to revitalize the Southside neighborhood (highlighted in orange). Map courtesy of the City of Durham.

Duke is partnering with the city of Durham and local agencies to redevelop the Southside neighborhood in Durham as part of a program that will provide home ownership to eligible Duke University and Duke University Health System employees.

Through the initiative, which will create up to 45 new homes in a largely abandoned area south of downtown Durham, a four-bedroom home with an $180,000 construction price will cost an employee about $115,000.

In an initial pilot phase this summer, Duke will select 10 eligible employees to receive loans to purchase the first set of homes. Eligible employees must have at least five years of service at Duke, earn $40,000 or less annually from Duke and have less than $66,000 in total income if part of a two-person household. The total income threshold increases $5,000 for each additional household member. 

Additional information is expected within the next month, including instructions on how employees can apply for the loan program. Construction on the first 10 homes as part of the Southside redevelopment project is expected to begin late this year.

Phail Wynn Jr., Duke's vice president for Durham and regional affairs, said the initiative is an example of Duke's unique partnership with Durham and local agencies. A number of higher education institutions provide housing incentives for faculty and professional staff but none that he could find provide affordable housing incentives and subsidies for low-to middle-income employees, he said.

"This is a unique opportunity for Duke employees interested in home ownership to purchase new homes and help repopulate a historic neighborhood of Durham," Wynn said. 

To make the new homes affordable, the city of Durham will use Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to subsidize building costs. Duke will offer a $10,000 loan for a down payment, and the loan will be forgiven after five years of occupancy. In addition, the Self-Help Federal Credit Union will offer below-market mortgage interest rates for the homes. 

As part of the program, Duke employees selected for the initiative must participate in Self-Help's "Fast Track to Homeownership program" to learn about budgeting and credit repair to help position them as financially secure homeowners. Duke will pay the $1,000 cost per household for the Fast Track program.

Once Self-Help approves the 10 pilot participants for loans, the city will begin to work with builders such as Durham Habitat for Humanity, Durham Community Land Trustees and other local developers to build the houses. 

Wynn said that construction in the neighborhood south of downtown Durham will begin when guaranteed buyers are secured for the homes. He said he particularly likes the opportunity the initiative creates for an "affinity" neighborhood - a community of Duke employees within a community.

"There is a lot of potential because of its location near to the downtown area and Duke," Wynn said. "We hope that Duke employees will be instrumental in creating the critical mass needed to create a thriving neighborhood."