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Johns Hopkins Grant Program Leads to More Baltimore City Homebuyers

April 1, 2010

Since Johns Hopkins launched a revamped and incentive-laden program aimed at distributing $5 million to help employees buy homes in select Baltimore City communities, 108 employees have been awarded $635,500 in grants, and more are expected to apply as the weather warms and the home-buying season kicks into high gear.

Launched in 1997 to help Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System employees become homeowners in Baltimore City while cutting down on commuting time, saving gasoline and strengthening urban communities, the Live Near Your Work Program originally offered grants of up to $2,500 to help with down payments and closing costs for properties near various Johns Hopkins campuses.

Less than two years ago, however, a $2.5 million grant from the Rouse Company Foundation (with Johns Hopkins Institutions providing a matching sum) allowed the program to expand, offering up to $17,000 in grants to individuals. The increase stimulated substantial employee interest.

For instance, in this fiscal year alone, which began July 1, 56 employees received grants, and 15 of those fell into the $17,000 category, according to Michelle Carlstrom of the Office of Work, Life and Engagement, which administers the Live Near Your Work Program.

“Before we made the changes, the program was beginning to stagnate due to rising home costs. So we made it more attractive, giving greater financial incentives and making it more flexible in terms of options,” said Carlstrom. She noted that, of the grants awarded this fiscal year, 28 were for home sales near the Homewood campus, including those in the Barclay and West Greenmount communities, situated southeast of Charles Village.

“This is exactly how we wanted the program to work – to go out from historically strong neighborhoods and keep moving out to make a difference in emerging neighborhoods where home sales (previously) were flat,” she said.

Carlstrom said that indicators are also promising in the area just north of the medical campus, the site of East Baltimore Development Inc.’s $1.8 billion revitalization project. Since the relaunch, five Johns Hopkins employees have received grants to buy homes in that area, where a significant number of new homes are being built.

Grant values vary according to the neighborhood in which the home is located. For example, employees buying homes in the Barclay, Greenmount West and Harwood communities are eligible for grants of up to $17,000, whereas those purchasing property in Better Waverly, Remington and sections of Abell can apply for up to $10,000 in assistance. The minimum grant level is $2,500. Homes may either be existing or new.

The program requires that recipients own and occupy their homes for five years, participate in home ownership counseling and contribute at least $1,000 toward the purchase, depending on the location.

The Live Near Your Work Program is open to most full-time, benefits-eligible employees of the Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System, though eligible employees at campuses in other cities (such as the Montgomery Country Campus and the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.) also can participate if they wish to live in the targeted Baltimore City communities.

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