Cambridge staff offered loans

Carly Hilts 27 November 2008

Cambridge University is offering ‘senior staff’ up to £250,000 to help them buy a house in the city.

The University used to award a maximum of £150,000, but has decided to increase the amount due to rises in house prices in Cambridge.

The change will take place from January 1 and the University hopes that it will help to attract ‘significant people’ from other cities or abroad who might otherwise be discouraged by the cost of buying housing.

University Director of Human Resources Indi Seehra said: “Cambridge has become like part of the London commuter belt now; it’s relatively difficult to buy a property here.”

She added: “At a time when Cambridge is increasingly seen as a global player, this is a useful incentive to attract people to move here from abroad, as well as other parts of the UK, giving us a competitive edge when up against other leading players to attract significant people.

“The scheme tends to be given to relatively senior staff, helping us to attract significant people.”

The University has had a ‘shared equity scheme’ in place since 2002 to help staff buy homes.

Lecturers and ‘relatively senior administrative staff’ are eligible for the scheme, in which the University buys 50% of the new house and the staff member gets a mortgage covering the rest of the cost.

The interest rate on the share owned by the University is also subsidised by the scheme. Indi Seehra said: “Although house prices are not going up by as much now, there was a long period in which they did increase, and the attraction of the scheme became eroded very quickly.”

This change was also mentioned in The Reporter.

An announcement on November 10 read: “An equity share scheme was introduced in 2002 to help new academic and academic-related staff who encountered difficulty in purchasing a property in the Cambridge area.

“The Council has now agreed, on the recommendation of the Finance Committee and the Human Resources Committee, that the maximum sum available in any particular case be increased from £150,000 to £250,000, with effect from 1 January 2009.”

Another change to financial aid for University staff was also mentioned in the same issue of The Reporter.

The University is going to increase the loans available from Loan Fund II ‘to help University staff purchase, build or extend a property in the Cambridge area’ tenfold, subject to approval by the Regent House.

The notice read: “The Council has agreed to a recommendation by the Finance Committee that the upper limit of the loan available from this fund be increased from £10,000 to £100,000, and is submitting a Grace to the Regent House for the approval of this increase with effect from the same date.” This proposed increase is also due to rising house prices. For a property to be eligible for a loan, it must be located no more than 20 miles from Great St Mary’s Church.

Twelve employees of the University have bought their homes under this scheme so far.

Carly Hilts