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Hogan, Rawlings-Blake partner to increase homebuying in Baltimore

Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake teamed up Wednesday, pledging $3 million to try to lure more homebuyers to Baltimore after April's civil unrest.

The state committed $2 million and the city contributed $1 million to a program that will provide financial incentives for people to move to Baltimore, officials said.

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Called the "Maryland Grand Slam," the program will offer prospective city homeowners four ways to reduce the cost of buying a home — including $7,500 in down payment assistance grants.

The city's Board of Estimates approved Baltimore's $1 million contribution Wednesday. The $2 million in state funds comes from $20 million the Maryland Board of Public Works authorized to help Baltimore rebuild after the rioting that followed the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody.

"A strong housing market is key to a strong economy," Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement. "This program will help more families become homeowners and will improve our economy."

Rawlings-Blake, a Democrat, held a news conference at City Hall to announce the program with Tiffany P. Robinson, an assistant secretary of housing and community development under Hogan. The governor and the mayor have clashed recently over funding for the Red Line, city schools and rebuilding city liquor stores, but Rawlings-Blake said the new effort shows the administrations are working together.

"At a time when people say there is little collaboration between the city and the state, I beg to differ," she said. "We have opportunities for collaboration, and we have leadership at the city and at the state that are taking advantage of that opportunity."

Robinson said the initiative is modeled after a "triple play" program in Prince George's County that offered an array of incentives and lured 400 new homebuyers to that county.

At the news conference, Robinson said Hogan's background in the real estate business made him "proud" to partner with the city on the initiative.

"We are excited to launch this, and we expect this program to be just as successful" as the one in Prince George's County, she said.

The Maryland Grand Slam offers $5,000 toward down payment on a home in the form of a state grant; another $2,500 in the form of a city grant; a federal tax credit through the Maryland HomeCredit program that can save a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars over the life of the loan; and an extra 0.25 percent discount on loans through the Maryland Mortgage Program, which offers low-interest mortgages. In addition, the state will waive its usual fee for that program, a savings of as much as $450.

Rawlings-Blake has set a goal of attracting 10,000 new families to Baltimore. Since 2010, the city has gained about 1,600 residents.

Ken Strong, an assistant city housing commissioner, predicted the program would set "new records" in offering incentives to move to Baltimore.

Robinson said more details about the program will be unveiled at a later date.

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

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