Duke’s boost to Southside

Jan. 17, 2013 @ 05:05 PM

One of the more welcome sights around Durham’s downtown in recent months has been the work underway in the Rolling Hills/Southside area. After what seemed like years of delay and semi-starts, the city has launched a full-scale effort to revitalize those historic inner city neighborhoods.

The first phase of the Rolling Hills redevelopment will be 132 rental units along Lakewood Avenue, and they will be an important impetus to beginning to populate the project area.

But home ownership is also a major goal of the city, not just in this but in many of its community development efforts. The stability that home ownership can help bring to a neighborhood cannot be underestimated.

So it was welcome news this week when Duke University said it would help prime the pump. Duke will supply $10,000 loans to at least Duke 10 employees interested in buying a house in the Southside portion of the redevelopment.

Duke will recruit potential buyers who have worked for the university or for Duke University Health System for at least five years. 

“This affordable housing initiative for low- and middle-income university and DUHS employees will be a first among institutions of higher education in the U.S.,” Phail Wynn, Duke’s vice president for Durham and regional affairs, said in an email last week.

The $10,000 can provide part of a down-payment, or closing costs for a home purchase. And Duke will forgive $2,000 of the no-interest loan for each year the recipient lives in the house.

This is far from the first time Duke has used its resources to leverage important community development projects. Its leasing of space in key downtown renovation projects has been critical to launching downtown’s renaissance.

Duke helped to stabilize and energize the Trinity Heights neighborhood by putting owner-occupancy covenants on many houses it owned and sold to homeowners, and it developed townhomes and single-family houses for sale to Duke employees.

Duke has loaned money to Self-Help Community Development Corporation to build or renovate affordable housing in Durham and other areas. Indeed, some of that money has helped Self-Help purchase the very land in Southside where the pilot no-interest loan program is targeted.

Duke’s new program will help the city “establish an initial, critical mass of individuals (buying in Southside) who can know they’re not going it alone,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said.

That’s an enormous boost to the project, and we commend Duke for taking that step.