Newburgh Heights' Bold Idea for Attracting Young Professionals: Pay For Their Student Loans

click to enlarge Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins
Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins
Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins says he plans to introduce legislation Monday night that will help new home buyers pay off their students loans. In a statement Thursday, Elkins said he believed the legislation was the first of its kind in the state and had the support of the Village Council. He expects it to be adopted next week.

The ordinance is proposed as a solution to two problems. On one hand, The small, blue-collar inner-ring suburb needs to grow its tax base and does not currently competitively attract recent college grads. If the city wants to successfully transition from a post-industrial to a knowledge-based economy, the ordinance says, it will have to find ways to attract young people. And on the other hand: recent college grads are swimming in student debt. The average student loan debt for college graduates in 2016 was $37,172.00, per the ordinance, up six percent from the previous year.

If the ordinance passes, Newburgh Heights would start a fund specifically to help new home buyers pay off their debts. Each home buyer would be eligible for up to 50 percent of their outstanding debt or $50,000, whichever is lower. (This is a significant incentive!) Per the ordinance, the incentive would be vested at 80 percent after 10 years of residency and fully vested after 15 years of residency to encourage long-term residency and housing-stock stability.

This is one of those sensible ideas that nevertheless may be perceived as radical strategy because it proposes to give to individuals — a generous financial incentive — what is ordinarily reserved for businesses.