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Mayor hails success of homebuyer incentives

Baltimore has seen a "dramatic increase" in the number of homebuyers in the past four years, about a third of whom are new to the city, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Friday.

She told a gathering at the Engineers Club that her administration continues to work toward her goal of expanding the city's population by 10,000 families in 10 years. She established the Vacants to Value program — providing cash incentives for people who buy restored homes that have been vacant for at least a year — and invested in an array of programs to encourage home ownership and support stable neighborhoods.

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Under the year-old banner of the Baltimore Homeownership Incentive Program, or B-HiP, these efforts are meant to reverse a tide of population loss that started in the 1960s, when more than 900,000 people lived in Baltimore. Since then, the city has lost about one-third of its population.

According to the mayor's office, these programs have helped an increasing number of families since Rawlings-Blake took office in 2010. The city projects that 834 families will get help buying a home in the fiscal year that ends in June 2015, more than double the number in 2012.

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The programs include cash incentives to help buyers make down payments and cover closing costs, some tailored specifically to first-time buyers and to city employees. The Live Near Your Work program — in partnership with nearly 80 employers in the city, including Johns Hopkins and Under Armour — provides incentives for people to live near their workplace.

The four-year-old Vacants to Value program has encouraged developers to restore nearly 2,000 vacant and rundown properties, demolish more than 1,000 and stimulated about $107 million in private investment in neighborhoods, the mayor said.

"Thanks to programs like these, we are seeing some amazing results," Rawlings-Blake said. "Together, I know we can do even more."

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