Connecticut wants young people to make a down payment on its future.
An incentive program included in the recently passed jobs bill will allow graduates of Connecticut colleges and universities a chance to deposit money into a first-time homebuyers account.
The program, “Learn Here, Live Here” would allow a graduate to deposit up to $2,500 annually for up to 10 years. Participants must remain a Connecticut resident for five years.
“I don’t think it’s a big answer but it will bring the confidence level up,” said state Rep. James M. Albis, a Democrat representing East Haven in the 99th House District. “It gets us moving in the right direction.”
Albis said he campaigned on this issue. Throughout his campaign he heard young people complain about the cost of living, he said. After graduating New York University in 2006, Albis moved back to the Nutmeg State.
All graduates of public colleges or universities in Connecticut who qualified as in-state students and paid the in-state tuition rate and regional vocational-technical schools are eligible for the program. They must have graduated on or after January 1, 2014.
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said the program is part of a broader plan to make Connecticut an attractive place to live and work.
“My observation is this is part of a renewed interest and energy in getting young people to stay in the state,” Smith said. “It will also get the homebuilding and housing industry a little healthier too.”
According to several legislators, Connecticut loses more people between the ages of 18 and 34 than almost any other state.
Under the program, participants would apply to the DECD commission for a payment on their behalf for a down payment on the house. It must be their first home bought. Should the down payment be less than the monies set aside, the excess would go into the state’s general fund.
If someone leaves Connecticut within five years of graduation they must repay a percentage on the funds. If they move after the first year after graduation, they must repay all of it.
The annual total for all program participants is $1 million.
Fred Carstensen, director of UConn’s Center for Economic Analysis, called it a modest gesture at best.
“The real problem is there have to be jobs here that Connecticut graduates want to take,” he said. “There is also this mythology that housing costs are a big problem in Connecticut. When you lose jobs from Groton to Cambridge, Mass., it’s not because of housing.”
Carstensen said the incentive wouldn’t really help attract and keep jobs in the long run.
“None of these things says to the business community you can trust us. Connecticut has a long history of offering incentives and then withdrawing them or curtailing them,” Carstensen said.
DECD’s Smith agreed that no single initiative would change the current dynamic. Rather, she said, it’s important to look at this program as a way to help convince young people to remain in Connecticut.
State Rep. Lonnie Reed, a Democrat representing Branford in the 102nd House District, said “Learn Here, Live Here” makes Connecticut competitive with other regions nation wide.
Students want to build a life and a lifestyle and they look at places like Research Triangle Park and see jobs, research, she said.
“The whole package there is much more attractive,” Reed said. “We’ve been having a brain drain for some time now. The average age in the state is 40; that’s terrifying!”
State Sen. Toni Boucher, a Republican who represents Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton in the 26th Senate District, is excited about the program.
“I love that!” Boucher said. “Years ago we put that out there but the leadership didn’t want it. More than ever we need to keep our 18 to 34 year olds here. They make use of our educational system and if they had an incentive to stay. I’m so supportive of it.”