Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Real Estate Is Now One Of The Perks Available To New Staff At The University Of Calgary

Real Estate is now one of the perks available to new staff at the University of Calgary. With the real estate market in Calgary being so volatile instructors are looking for that little extra perk. Canada.com reports that up to $100,000 is being offered to lure new staff. Full Article.

Mortgage perks lure professors to U of C
Interest-free loans help attract faculty

Deborah Tetley
Calgary Herald

University of Calgary recruiters are offering up to $100,000 in housing perks to new faculty faced with the challenge of buying a home in the city's hot real estate market.

Offers of interest-free loans and principle forgiveness on mortgages to new faculty are giving the university an edge in a highly competitive environment to recruit and retain staff, U of C administrators say.

"When candidates are making a comparison between us and another university, we want to make sure we don't lose them to the housing issue," said Alan Harrison, provost and academic vice-president at the university.

Since the plan's development over the past few months, about seven new professors and instructors have taken the university up on the offer -- on that is modelled after similar strategies at the universities of Toronto and British Columbia. The idea is also being considered at other Alberta post-secondary schools.

Harrison said although candidates are generally looking for "the complete employment package," final decisions often come down to real estate.

"People worry about two things," he said. "Market prices as high as they are and volatility.

"We can't do much about volatility, but we can ease the burden and show (candidates) that we understand the quantum difference between housing markets." Late last month the Canadian Real Estate Association forecast record levels of MLS sales across the country this year with Alberta to lead all provinces in the rate of average price growth.

Although aspects of a similar, smaller housing assistance program have been used by U of C in the past, deans now have discretionary spending power -- and larger budgets -- to lure new staff.

Given the university's goal of hiring 500 new faculty by 2010, many recruiters are capitalizing on the program's success.

In the faculty of science, for instance, at least four recent recruits have accepted interest-free loans to buy homes in Calgary.

Dean Sandy Murphree expects several more candidates will be given similar incentives during the next hiring spree, as the budget allows him to make offers to roughly 15 candidates.

"We want to attract the highest quality people and we can not afford to have an issue like personal finances be part of the problem," Murphree said.

Finances were an issue for new recruit Melissa Giovanni, who graduated in June from University of California, Los Angeles with a PhD.

Giovanni, 27, was recruited by the university in October to teach in the geology department.

She was compelled to accept the university's offer for several reasons, including the "competitive" salary and the housing perks.

"I had just got out of grad school," said Giovanni, who started at U of C Aug. 1. "I had no savings and student loans staring me in the face. Without this loan there was no way I would have been able to afford a down payment on a house at this time in my life." Although renting was an option, Giovanni said the prospect of owning a home sealed the deal.

"This will be a huge factor in my happiness for accepting the job at U of C," she said. Officials said the program is still in the "pilot" stage, and will likely be revised as issues crop up.

For now, individual faculties will absorb the loan charges and the university will provide the principle through its bank.

Principle forgiveness will likely be used as a retention strategy, Harrison said. The total benefit package (principle forgiveness and loans) can not exceed $100,000 per faculty recruit.

Anne Stalker, president of the university's faculty association, said the program has not only succeeded in recruitment, but in making salary offers more fair across departments.

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