UM Baltimore set to offer ‘live near your work’ grants to employees

By Melody Simmons  –  Reporter, Baltimore Business Journal

An incentive program to be unveiled next week aims to lure employees of the University of Maryland, Baltimore to become homeowners on the city’s westside.

About 50 homes will be showcased during a March homeownership event to be held at the University of Maryland BioPark that is linked to the UMB live-near-your-work program. That program includes full- and part-time UMB faculty and staff, but not employees of the UM Medical Center, and will formally kick off Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the college on Friday declined to disclose the exact amount of the incentives. Prospective homeowners are required to have at least $1,000 toward a downpayment and complete a homeownership counseling program.

A similar program on the city’s east side in September 2016 granted employees of Johns Hopkins University $36,000 in cash incentives to purchase a new town home in the East Baltimore Development Inc. community in Middle East.

A total of 42 homes were sold in a couple of hours in the Towns at Eager Park development. Funds for the incentives were paid from Johns Hopkins and the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Live near your work housing grants are not new in Baltimore.

The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development has administered one for years and awarded up to $2,500 to home buyers for down payments and closing costs. Often, employers match those awards.

The new University of Maryland, Baltimore program is in partnership with some community groups in the western and southwestern areas of the city, including the Southwest Partnership.

Long stagnant for new housing starts, the area has been undergoing a rebirth over the past 18 months with the redevelopment of the Hollins Market and its surrounding area by War Horse Cities and the massive Center West development with its first phase now underway by La Cite Development LLC.

An email announcing the program said it “will offer employees huge incentives to buy homes in the city and, at the same time, help revitalize several West Baltimore neighborhoods.”

Seven communities are targeted for new homeownership: Hollins Market, Pigtown-Washington Village, Barre Circle, Poppleton, Franklin Square, Union Square and Mount Clare.

Many of those neighborhoods today have vacant, blighted structures in the city’s Vacants to Value program.

“The program will provide a significant down payment and closing costs to employees buying homes in any of seven West Baltimore neighborhoods adjacent to the university, and can be combined with existing city and state grants,” the email from the college said. “The program has the potential to make a huge impact on Baltimore.”