A group of MBA students has redesigned the city’s HOMES program in hopes of making it more successful.
The program promotes Schenectady while trying to sell the many foreclosed houses owned by the city. But the process moves slowly, with sales trickling in.
So Mayor Gary McCarthy worked closely with four MBA students at Union Graduate College to make the program better.
Student Malcom Butehorn said the problem was mostly one of disorganization.
“It’s a pretty unwieldy thing right now,” he said, noting that attorneys, code enforcers and council members are all involved in making it work.
“A lot of hands in the cookie jar,” he said.
The students are proposing the creation of a new department for selling homes, with one person in charge.
“It brings accountability,” Butehorn said, adding that the official would be responsible for checking to make sure everything was done right to prepare for a sale.
The students are figuring that creating a department might get HOMES funded in the budget — or at least get an accounting of how much time various employees are spending on the venture.
For example, the department could be assigned half a code enforcer, representing the work that enforcer is already doing for the program.
Currently, employees in every department are just fitting in HOMES work whenever they can.
“They do the job because it needs to be done,” student Molly MacElroy said.
McCarthy, who has read the students’ drafts and is eagerly awaiting the final version on Monday, said he agrees HOMES needs its own department.
“Their suggestions are well taken,” he said. “We’ll look at it and see how to make those suggestions reality.”
Having a department could make it easier for buyers to get involved, he added.
“If you’re walking in the door for the first time, you don’t know quite who to call,” he said. “It’s that vagueness.”
Student Bryan Gallagher also designed a low-cost marketing plan to help spread the news.
He envisions a YouTube channel with videos showing off Schenectady, the homes for sale and the program. He wants contractors, bankers and others to record classes on everything from rehabbing a house to the ins and outs of applying for a mortgage.
He also wants a city employee to regularly write a blog about home buying and ownership, as well as maintaining an active Facebook page.
“The main cost is clock time,” he said, adding that companies might pay the city for the privilege of teaching a YouTube class.
But that’s not enough, he said.
He wants neighborhood association members to volunteer as ambassadors, each guiding one buyer through the entire process.
After the buyer moves in, the ambassador’s job wouldn’t be done, he said.
They would try to get their buyers to join neighborhood organizations and become active in the community.
That’s the end goal, the students said, to create active residents who make Schenectady better.
They’re so enthusiastic about the program that some of them are considering houses here.
“Schenectady is set up for prime time,” Butehorn said.
The others agreed, arguing that they should buy houses now — well, as soon as they get a job after graduation — so that they can get in while the prices are still low.
And the HOMES program makes it even more enticing, they said.
“Where else can you go where a city is going to help you buy a house?” MacElroy said.