April 11, 2011

More reasons to live near your work

Larger base grants now available for eligible employees

Live Near Your Work, a program that helps Johns Hopkins Institutions employees buy homes in select Baltimore neighborhoods near Johns Hopkins campuses, has announced several enhancements that will provide larger base grants to eligible homebuyers and expanded opportunities to receive home-buying aid. The program also has added a new neighborhood to one of its target areas that are eligible for $17,000 grants.

These improvements, supported in part by extended funding from The Rouse Company Foundation and more dollars from the City of Baltimore, became effective April 1. In yet another enhancement, the Live Near Your Work website, which includes videos of featured neighborhoods, listings of eligible homes for sale and other program details, recently received a significant makeover. The site is at web.jhu.edu/lnyw.

Administrators of the program, which has assisted more than 450 homebuyers since its inception in 1997, hope that the improvements will allow even more Johns Hopkins employees to reside in neighborhoods nearer to their workplaces.

“There are so many benefits associated with living closer to where we work, and our program, which helps employees do just that, has gotten even better,” said Michelle Carlstrom, senior director of the university’s Office of Work, Life and Engagement. Carlstrom oversees the program and has herself purchased a home through Live Near Your Work. Since doing so, her daily drive from home to office has dropped from nearly 90 minutes to just four.

“This program helps employees cut down on their commuting costs and travel time, and it could allow us to build home equity,” she said. “We can enjoy the benefits of urban living while contributing to the vitality of our new neighborhoods.”

Johns Hopkins—which, with more than 46,000 in-state employees, is Maryland’s largest private employer—began offering Live Near Your Work grants in 1997 through a collaboration with Baltimore City and the state. The maximum a homeowner then could receive was $3,500 to be applied to closing costs. But as property values rose, these grants covered a smaller portion of these costs.

In 2008, Johns Hopkins enhanced the program with help from a $2.5 million grant from The Rouse Company Foundation. The revised program established two large Live Near Your Work zones: one near the university’s Homewood campus, the other surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital. Within these two areas, smaller neighborhood clusters, identified as tiers, became eligible for home-buying grants ranging from $6,000 to $17,000. Areas within the Live Near Your Work footprints but outside the tiers became eligible for $2,500 grants.

Maps showing the eligible neighborhoods are posted on the Live Near Your Work website.

Recently, The Rouse Company Foundation extended its support for the program through July 31, 2014, and the partnership with Baltimore City has opened the door to further program enhancements:

• Johns Hopkins is now participating in the city’s Vacants to Value program, which offers an extra $500 from the city for people who buy a vacant home in certain target areas and meet city guidelines.

• The $2,500 grant for home purchases within the Live Near Your Work footprints but outside the target tiers has been increased to $3,000, thanks to additional city funding.

• An East Baltimore target area that is eligible for $17,000 grants has been expanded to include the Oliver neighborhood.

• Because of another boost in city funding for the tier areas, Johns Hopkins is now offering an additional $1,000 for employees who attend an eligible Johns Hopkins Live Near Your Work home-buying event and settle on a house in target areas A, B or C by June 30, 2012.

The first such home-buying event, called LNYW on Wheels, took place on April 2. Two charter buses transported interested employees on a three-hour tour of neighborhoods that are within the Live Near Your Work footprints. Beginning later this month, a series of walking tours will introduce employees to a wide range of areas [see box].

Grants are available to full-time, benefits-eligible employees of Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Johns Hopkins Health Care, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, Johns Hopkins Bayview and Johns Hopkins Home Care Group. Grant recipients must occupy their Live Near Your Work home as a primary residence for at least five years.

Johns Hopkins residents, postdoctoral fellows, house staff and students, and employees of the Applied Physics Laboratory are not eligible for the Live Near Your Work program.