The College Park City-University Partnership's homeownership program has received a $150,000 in grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.
Since the homeownership program was launched in 2015, the state has helped fund the partnership's effort to get more University of Maryland and city employees to live in College Park, giving $100,000 the first two years and $75,000 in 2017, said Kevin Baynes, director of state revitalization resources.
This year's grant is larger than any previous year's because the program has effectively encouraged people to live near their workplace, Baynes said.
"Our goal with the program is to help establish a greater connection between campus and the community around it," Mayor Patrick Wojahn said.
The homeownership program provides $15,000 loans to full-time, benefits-eligible city and university employees to help them become homeowners in College Park. The loans do not need to be paid back if they live in the house for 10 years.
"It helps stabilize neighborhoods," said Eric Olson, the partnership's executive director. "You are able to see your students and see faculty and staff on a regular basis, it creates a true living, learning community."
Sixty-two new residents have moved to College Park, purchasing 29 homes and generating $9.5 million in home sales as a result of the program, a news release said.
The program offers other benefits through the community partners, including free access to the College Park Tennis Club for six months and services through McKay Mortgage Company.
Both the city of College Park and this university provide matching $50,000 grants towards the homeownership program as well, Olson said.
Many homeowners are able to qualify for the partnership's down payment and closing cost assistance as well as state down payment and closing cost assistance like the Maryland Mortgage Program, Baynes said. The down payment is the largest impediment to becoming a homeowner for many people, he said.
Some employers, including Johns Hopkins University, as well as state and local governments, support live-near-your-work programs that offer down payment and closing cost assistance that benefit all parties involved, Baynes said.
Living in the city means commutes are reduced, Wojahn said, and more residents could bike, walk or use other more sustainable forms of transportation, which puts less stress on the local transportation infrastructure. Cutting down on commutes also allows more hours in the day to be spent as a part of the community rather than stuck in traffic, Baynes said.
Olson said homeowners who are spending more time in the city also help stimulate the local economy, and Baynes said employers can help their employees become homeowners, too.
Newer houses tend to be located in the suburbs, so the program incentivizes people to move in to older houses in the city, Baynes said. This aging housing stock is often renovated when people move in, he said.
"Some of the money that they would be spending on bigger McMansions that are farther away or some of the money they would be spending on a new car to drive back and forth, they can realize those savings and pump some of that into fixing up and maintaining some of these nicer, older houses close by," Baynes said.
Baynes said programs like the partnership's improve the quality of life in the city for its residents in less quantifiable ways as well.
"The community wins because these people are now not just working in College Park but they are College Park," Baynes said.