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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 29, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 5
Home-buying Program Gets Major Boost

Michelle Carlstrom and her new house in a Live Near Your Work neighborhood near the Homewood campus.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Grants up to $17,000; boundaries encompass more areas

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

A program that encourages Johns Hopkins employees to purchase houses in select Baltimore City neighborhoods has recently been re-launched with greatly expanded grants.

The Live Near Your Work program, which formerly provided up to $2,500 to help with down payments and closing costs, now will offer up to $17,000 in financial aid to eligible homebuyers. The revamped program has set a goal of providing grants to more than 300 Johns Hopkins employees during the next four years. The new funds became available Aug. 1. The changes will be officially announced today at the Live Near Your Work Home Ownership Expo, to be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Johns Hopkins Hospital's Turner Concourse.

The program is designed to help university and medical system employees become homeowners in Baltimore City and to live closer to the Johns Hopkins campuses.

William Brody, university president, said that the program allows employees to cut commuting costs, build home equity and contribute to the vibrancy of the city by strengthening neighborhoods and being in sync with the region's "smart growth" strategy.

"We see Johns Hopkins' enhanced Live Near Your Work program as a winner for everyone. It benefits our employees and the institutions, as well as the communities surrounding our campuses and the city of Baltimore," Brody said. "With about 45,000 employees, Johns Hopkins is Maryland's largest private employer. We represent an enormous and highly diverse pool of potential Baltimore City homeowners, and we hope many of our employees will choose to take advantage of this enhanced benefit."

The program is open to most full-time, benefits-eligible employees of the Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System. Eligible employees at campuses in other cities, such as the Montgomery County Campus in Rockville, Md., and the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., also can participate if they wish to live in the targeted Baltimore City neighborhoods. No retroactive grants will be awarded.

Under the revised program guidelines, home purchases must be made within two Baltimore City program areas that include the Homewood, Johns Hopkins@Eastern, Peabody, East Baltimore and Bayview campuses. Within these areas, grant amounts will vary according to the neighborhoods in which the homes are purchased. For example, home purchases in a Homewood area that includes portions of the Harwood, Barclay and Greenmount West neighborhoods are eligible for $17,000 grants; for houses in the Remington and Better Waverly communities, as well as a section of Abell, $10,000 grants will be awarded. The minimum grant level is $2,500.

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

LNYW administrators are trying to focus the home ownership incentives in a way that maximizes the positive impact on select neighborhoods.

Michelle Carlstrom, senior director of the Office of WorkLife and Engagement, which administers Live Near Your Work, said that by providing the greatest home-buying incentives in these priority areas, the program aims to bolster neighborhoods that already are doing well and to strengthen emerging neighborhoods as they become more vibrant, diverse and desirable places to live. Carlstrom, herself a recent homebuyer who participated in the program, said it also helps Johns Hopkins recruit and retain employees.

Johns Hopkins originally launched its Live Near Your Work program in 1997 in collaboration with Baltimore City and the state of Maryland. It provided financial help to benefits-eligible employees who chose to purchase homes in more than 12 neighborhoods surrounding the Homewood, East Baltimore, Peabody and Bayview campuses. More than 300 Johns Hopkins employees have purchased homes in the targeted communities through the program, receiving up to $2,500 through a combination of Johns Hopkins, city and state grants.

In recent years, however, soaring home costs have negated the impact of the program and caused it to stagnate, Carlstrom said.

"Fewer people were taking advantage of the program because it just wasn't enough of an incentive anymore, especially in certain neighborhoods where home prices just skyrocketed," she said. "We feel the new program and grant amounts will encourage people to participate and provide the home-buying assistance they need."

The additional home-buying support was made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the Rouse Company Foundation. In accepting the grant, the Johns Hopkins Institutions agreed to provide a matching sum.

One of the first beneficiaries of the new program was Keith Brock, an accounts receivable coordinator for the Johns Hopkins University Press. Brock, who joined JHU in 2006, had learned of the Live Near Work Program through a colleague and earlier this year attempted to find a home in the greater Charles Village area.

He found one on Guilford Avenue, but the price tag was a little more than he wanted to spend. To his surprise and delight, he discovered that the house was in one of the newly targeted zones and that he was eligible to receive $16,000 from Johns Hopkins and $1,000 from the city.

"The Live Near Your Work Program is the only way I could afford a house in the area I was looking at," Brock said. "I'm just very grateful for this program. The changes to the program allowed me to buy the home I wanted, where I wanted and with a mortgage I could afford. And I was amazed how easy everything was."

Mary Leslie Sylvia, administrative coordinator in the School of Medicine's Neuroscience Critical Care Unit, moved from Georgia to Baltimore in January and had been renting. She wanted to own a home close to the East Baltimore campus as part of her goal to achieve a healthier lifestyle. She found just what she was looking for on East Baltimore Street, located adjacent to Patterson Park.

Sylvia closed on her house earlier this month and said she looks forward to commuting to work on a bike.

For more information about the program, including a detailed map of the Live Near Your Work boundaries, go to: or call 443-997-7000.


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