Niagara Falls Seeks to Lure Graduates with Student Loan Debt Relief Program

Niagara Falls is kicking-off a program to lure young professionals into the city by helping them pay their student loans.  The $200,000 program would guarantee $7,000 over two years to 20 college graduates on the condition they buy a home or rent an apartment in downtown Niagara Falls.  City officials see “knowledge professionals,” and their discretionary income, as the difference between any city’s success and failure as a living destination.
The program aims to not only bring young people into the city, but to revitalize a struggling neighborhood north of the downtown tourist district (see map below).  Clustering a dense group of talent helps foster entrepreneurial and economic opportunities and growth.    
Graduates who have received degrees within the past two years and graduate school students are eligible.  
The City of Niagara Falls will annually reimburse the graduate for his/her monthly student loan payment amount, up to but not exceeding $291 per month, for two years. This amount would not exceed $3,492 a year and $6,984 during the full term of the agreement.  This payment would be made directly to the applicant during his annual certification with the Community Development Department.  The applicant would be required to show proof of good standing with the loaning agency, and proof of good standing with either his landlord or mortgage agency.  In turn, the applicant is required to maintain residency, in compliance with program standards, in the target area for the two year term of the agreement. 

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“We are trying to build a creative atmosphere in a city that needs it,” says Seth Piccirillo, Niagara Falls’ Director of Community Development.  “We want this approach to resonate with people, and thinking about Niagara Falls in a new light.”
It is already working.  In just a couple of months, the program has gathered national and international press along with hundreds of inquiries from interested graduates.
Next week Tuesday, the City will be hosting a community meeting to discuss the Downtown Housing Incentive Program.  The purpose of the meeting is to inform the public of next steps and to receive public input on the strategy.  It will be held at 6:30 PM at 640 Park Place in Niagara Falls.
Applications for the program are expected to be released by the end of August. 
Says Piccirillo, “Some people have criticized the incentive because it is not enough to ‘fix’ the area.  We agree.  In addition to immediately adding new residents, the incentive can leverage other resources, grants, and get investors interested in downtown Niagara Falls.  There is no such thing as a silver bullet approach to creating a destination neighborhood.  People around the country are hearing about this program and looking into Niagara Falls as a potential living space – there is great value in that alone.”
The student loan payment program is part of a multi-pronged effort to improve a key downtown neighborhood.  
In July the City of Niagara Falls applied for $700,000 in competitive grant funds through the New York State Consolidated Funding Application Process. The applications are currently being reviewed by the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. The funding requests are part of a strategic revitalization of downtown Niagara Falls. 
The funding would be used to demolish blighted homes, acquire commercial properties, assist with commercial façade rehabs, streetscape improvements, and provide matching grants for mixed-use building owners to improve commercial storefronts and rehab residential units.
“Ultimately, we are creating an environment that people want to live in, and businesses want to invest in,” says says Piccirillo.  “Without a strategy we will not survive.  We just need to work together, and get over a time-tested inferiority complex that makes us attack new ideas.  There is nothing wrong with believing that Niagara Falls can become an innovative leader in neighborhood revitalization.  Now we need to execute a plan and prove it can be done.”
Get Connected: Niagara Falls Community Development Department, 716.286.8800
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Entry Image Courtesy of NiagaraUSA

About the author  ⁄ Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

16 comments
JessicaRay
JessicaRay

As for me, I would like to live in a downtown near Niagara Falls. It’s a beautiful place and I think it would be great to live there. Especially if moving there can help to reduce your student loan debt. I think that it’s such an interesting offer. Many of people have student loans debts and even use payday loans online to make payments. So I think that if it’s possible to buy a house or rent an apartment in a nice place and at the same time reduce your college debt then it’s very advantageous. Probably there will be customers who will get interested in this offer and will decide to move to Niagara Falls.

JessicaRay
JessicaRay

As for me, I would like to live in a downtown near Niagara Falls. It’s a beautiful place and I think it would be great to live there. Especially if moving there can help to reduce your student loan debt. I think that it’s such an interesting offer. Many of people have student loans debts and even use payday loans online to make payments. So I think that if it’s possible to buy a house or rent an apartment in a nice place and at the same time reduce your college debt then it’s very advantageous. Probably there will be customers who will get interested in this offer and will decide to move to Niagara Falls.

Buffalo All Star
Buffalo All Star

$7000 over 2 years.. X 20 students = $140,000..out of a $200,000 loan...

gosh..where did I leave that $60,000...am I missing something?

Buffalo_Resurrection
Buffalo_Resurrection

Niagara Falls was a shithole when I was a kid and it is a shithole now; if a young person wants to reside in the inner city, relocate to Buffalo when there is some form of night life and entertainment unless watching drunks walking down the street is still considered Saturday night entertainment as it was when I was a kid living there…

Niagara Falls is one big ghetto with a casino in the middle of it….

Cam33r4
Cam33r4

I don't really get it. They make you MOVE there, but it doesn't say anything about working there. A new grad would probably have a better chance getting a job in Buffalo rather than NF (unless they are maybe planning on working in hospitality management or something).

If I had moderate amounts of loans but got a job in Buffalo, I wouldn't even want to bother with this. It's a long and bad commute (I grew up/my family lives on GI and bridge traffic is really annoying when you are driving around so many out-of-staters) to live in a place with nothing to do. =/ Especially for a young college grad. It just doesn't say very appealing. But I guess to some, it may!

Rand503
Rand503

Here's an idea: They want to get rid of blighted housing. Okay, remove it. Then replace it with what -- the same housing you can get anywhere else in the country?

How about copying the Solar Decathlon that is such a success here in Washington. Held every other year, universities from around the world compete to build a 900 sq ft. house that is judged by three criteria: Energy efficiency, use of renewable energy, and use of recycled materials. The final criteria is overall design.

Finalists actually build the houses and put them on the Mall where people can visit them. Over the years, it has helped push home energy efficiencies and make people aware how wonderful a small house for two people can be, and how energy efficient it is.

Perhaps NF could, instead of building the same old stuff, decide to build a neighborhood that is unique -- a place for retirees who can live cheaply alongside average income people. That could generate a whole new industry in energy efficient housing, and it could propel R&D into this area. People would come all over to see how well people actually live in them, and see how they can improved.

Rand503
Rand503

It's possible that this is a good deal for the city. But the only way it's a good deal is:

1. The people that move here generate enough economic activity that in turns generates at least $200,000 in tax revenue, and

2. That is new economic activity that wouldn't have happened but for this program.

if both can be proved, then sure -- the city should spend millions of dollars on this. If it pays out $10 million to lure thousands of people here, and those thousands generate more than $10 million in tax revenue, it's a good deal.

However, I'm not sure anyone at City Hall has crunched the numbers (If they have, they haven't revealed it), and I really doubt 20 people can generate at least $10,000 in tax revenue per person.

This is more "horse pushing the cart" thinking. Cities grow because they have generating economic activity. New wealth is being created and also jobs. this in turn attracts people like a magnet to go there for opportunities. NF, however, is thinking backwards, that if it attracts people, somehow economic activity will magically be generated.

Again, if City Hall can show us where that sort of thinking has worked, I'd love to see it. But I don't think they can.

So all we are left with is a program that someone dreamt up, it sounds sorta good, and they figured it's not a lot of money, so give it a shot. Thank goodness it isn't a lot of money.

But it sure is crazy-ass economic thinking. Will they try communism next?

FadetoBlack
FadetoBlack

This isn't news - it's olds. You're about a month too late.

NorthBuf
NorthBuf

I have 80k in student loans. 7k will not convince me to live move from North Buffalo to the Falls. It's not really even worth the effort and I'd probably not break even

Bump it up to something worth my effort and we'll talk. Make it 20k divided over 2 years and you'd peek my interest. Make it 50k max I'll put my current house on the market tomorrow.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

Well I'm guessing they want to turn this into something sustainable and eventually see natural growth of the area.

They want to turn the neighborhood into an Elmwood Village.

In order to do so they have to stabilize area to make it naturally attractive and start a positive upward spiral. Vibrant neighborhood, people want to move there, this attracts shops which makes the area even more vibrant, which in return attracts even more people. So forth and so forth.

Think of those 20 as the seeds that will cement some stability into an otherwise undesirable area.

20 might not be enough though, or it might be the right number. This has never been done before so who can say where it will end up.

benfranklin
benfranklin

In many ways Niagara Falls actions mirror the discussion that should be taking place in the national election.

The contrast between how they handled the Wallenda event (going after him for the overtime related to police officers, etc) and just giving money to people who've done nothing to earn it would seem to be the recipe of dependency that Washington has cooked up for us.

The message is clear, try and do something in Niagara Falls, whether it be a small business opening, an event that will be seen by millions on tv, or a factory to make solar panels, and the hoops presented to you will be dizzying. Do nothing but move here, no job, no options, and we'll support you.

Tom Friedman from the New York times often writes about how corrupt and poorly run Middle Eastern countries have been, because they've always had the fall back of oil. The natural resource of the region creates a wealth that can mitigate the poor national leadership. I think on a very small scale, the same has happened to Niagara Falls. No matter how poorly run, the city always has a flow of tourists, because of the falls.

Abraham Lincoln made a memorable statement about the Falls...

" When Columbus first sought this continent---when Christ suffered on the cross---when Moses led Israel through the Red-Sea---nay, even, when Adam first came from the hand of his Maker---then as now, Niagara was roaring here....In that long---long time, never still for a single moment. Never dried, never froze, never slept, never rested."

Long after the poor leadership of Niagara Falls is gone, and we're gone, the only other constant will be the water over the falls.

Chris
Chris

Instead of recreating the wheel why not do something that has worked somewhere else?

Every time I hear things like this, the Walenda thing, and all the general crap that goes on in Niagara Falls it makes me feel like NF is doomed forever and for always.

DeanerPPX
DeanerPPX

I didn't notice that until you pointed it out. 20 people for two years... that's a good start, but not much of a dent.

Even with low prices, how many recent grads are ready to buy a house? It's just an incentive to get $300/mo taken off your rent.

I know I wasn't the most fiscally responsible at that age. I'd make sure the payment went directly to the student loan instead of putting it into somebody's pocket.

Other than that, it really IS a good idea. Maybe not the best way for the city to spend its money, but a good idea nonetheless.

andrewhaynes
andrewhaynes

As a 24 year old healthcare worker buried in debt, this really does sound appealing.

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