The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 27, 1999
September 27, 1999
VOL. 29, NO. 5


Home Owners Wanted

Live Near Your Work program gives employees $3,000 toward costs

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

A newlywed who had recently received a full-time faculty appointment in the School of Medicine, Joe Bienvenu knew it was time to leave his renting days behind him. Bienvenu, an assistant professor in the Psychiatry Department, says that even before his appointment he had already begun to canvass neighborhoods such as Fells Point and Mt. Washington, looking for just the right first home for himself and his wife, Holly.

Then one day last December he discovered "the" place--a one-time warehouse in Little Italy. On a subsequent tour of the property, the couple instantly realized they had found a home with lots of promise.

"I thought, my goodness, this a beautiful place. It needs some work, but what a lot of space," Bienvenu says. "In fact, I thought it was too much for us--just too much house. But I could definitely see myself living there and working on it over the years. That is, if we could afford it."

With a $3,000 Live Near Your Work grant to help with closing costs, Joe Bienvenu and his wife, Holly, were able to land the house they wanted in Little Italy. Bienvenu, an assistant professor of psychiatry, is among the more than 140 Hopkins employees who have received the grants.

The problem, albeit a significant one, was the "exorbitant" asking price and the amount of money the couple had available to put toward a down payment. They were still paying off their honeymoon and assorted wedding-related costs, and cash was scarce. So, knowing the house had been on the market awhile, they decided to be patient and see if the price would drop.

Looking for other cost-cutting measures, Bienvenu remembered the Live Near Your Work program. Bienvenu had read that any full-time Johns Hopkins employee in good standing could apply for a $3,000 grant toward the down payment or closing costs on the purchase of a home in three selected targeted areas--Homewood, East Baltimore and, added this month, Mt. Vernon, near the Peabody Institute campus. University employees may choose any of these neighborhoods; hospital and health system employees must buy in East Baltimore.

Meanwhile, the asking price for the house, as they predicted, had gone down. The lower price and the grant helped make up their minds, Bienvenu says, and the two decided now was the time to buy.

"This grant really eased the burden of the closing costs," says Bienvenu, now one of more than 140 Hopkins employees who have benefited from the two-and-a-half-year-old Live Near Your Work program.

The program is a partnership between the Johns Hopkins Health System, The Johns Hopkins University, the Maryland Department of Community Development and the Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development. The university and the health system are two of 13 employers participating in the statewide program, a list that includes the Maryland Institute, College of Art; the University of Maryland at Baltimore; and Union Memorial Hospital.

The primary goal of the program is to stimulate home ownership in targeted revitalization areas. The belief is that increased home ownership will stabilize the neighborhoods by adding individuals who have a stake in the health of their community.

The $3,000 LNYW grant is made up of matching $1,000 contributions from the state, Baltimore City and the participating employer. Due to the success of the program, in the current fiscal year the city, state and university have agreed to provide additional funding beyond the planned 30 grants planned for Hopkins.

Eligible employees are those who are in good standing and are receiving full-time benefits. Those applying for a grant must choose a house in a Live Near Your Work target area, contribute a minimum of $1,000 cash toward its purchase and live there as a primary residence for a minimum of three years.

The boundaries of the new Peabody target area are Chase Street on the north, Guilford Avenue on the east, Mulberry Street on the south and Howard Street on the west. A map of the more complicated boundaries of the Homewood and East Baltimore target areas can be obtained in human resources offices or viewed at .

Those who purchase a home in the Homewood and East Baltimore target areas might also be eligible to receive an additional $2,000 if the house lies in the overlapping Abell Foundation areas. The Abell Foundation last year awarded the university and the health system a $40,000 grant to supplement the housing incentive provided to employees who purchase a home in the Homewood target area south of 28th Street or in the East Baltimore target area bounded by Aisquith Street, North Avenue, Edison Highway and Monument Street.

Kathleen Beauchesne, director of WorkLife Programs at the university, says the LNYW program overall has been "wonderfully successful" as the cash incentive has truly made the difference in an employee's ability to buy a home.

"Some people definitely would not have bought a home so soon without that money," Beauchesne says. "I just think this is a terrific program. Our employees are pleased to have it."

The grant can be applied to the purchase of any home in the target areas, whether it costs $25,000 or $325,000.

The steps needed to receive a grant are to find a home you are looking to purchase; obtain an application package from your human resources department; attend a housing counseling session; and then obtain a mortgage through an approved lender. Provided all these steps are successfully completed and verified, the applicant can receive the grant from the city in as little as two weeks.

The counseling sessions are with the staff of neighborhood housing agencies in the target areas. Beauchesne says this service is perhaps the greatest benefit to the first-time home buyer.

"The feedback that we've gotten on the housing counseling has been excellent. The employee's relationship with the housing counselor, we think, is really the key to the success of this program," Beauchesne says. "For people who haven't bought a house before and who may have some financial problems or other related issues to deal with, it's an invaluable process. The counselors helped many of our employees, taking them step by step through the sometimes daunting process of buying a home."

To find out more about the Live Near Your Work incentive program, visit its Web site at or contact your divisional human resources office.