Stately brick row homes dot a sunny boulevard. Homebuyers cheerfully chat with neighbors who stop by on the street to exchange friendly greetings. It is a scene of neighborhood bliss. So shows a video posted on the Live Near Your Work webpage, an initiative otherwise known as LNYW that was launched by Hopkins in 1997 as a program designed to help faculty and staff purchase homes in neighborhoods near Hopkins campuses in Baltimore City. The grants it gives to help buy these homes are only available to current full-time employees of the University, omitting part-time workers, house staff, or visiting/adjunct professors.
This past September, LNYW offered a special for homebuyers looking in the East Baltimore neighborhood of Eager Park: $36,000 toward the purchase of a new home, with the grant money aiding in down payment and closing costs. The steps to receive the grants are simple. Potential grantees must pass a homeownership counseling course, become pre-qualified by a mortgage lender and then purchase a home within the LNYW neighborhood boundaries before applying and receiving a grant. The grants are different for each neighborhood; for example, a grant for a home in Central Baltimore comes in at $17,000, while one for a place in Better Waverly is $10,000. LNYW works with the City of Baltimore to supply these grants. Home buyers often receive more money through grants such as “Vacants to Values,” bestowed by the City of Baltimore on homes that have been vacant for over a year and then renovated to sell.
The program, in an ideological sense, is a success. Far from stereotyping Baltimore as a “dangerous” city to live in, as news outlets oft imply with reports on crime and destitution, the initiative encourages faculty to immerse themselves in the city and create more of a connected campus community. President Ron Daniels has often emphasized Hopkins’s stated commitment to supporting Baltimore’s growth and expansion as a vibrant urban center. Bringing homeowners into Baltimore City is one important step in that process. More occupied homes means more business and activity in the neighborhood, thus helping lighten the city’s economic woes. A housing crisis has plagued Baltimore for years, with thousands of foreclosures and demolitions stemming from the Great Recession (and earlier), giving parts of the city the feel of a ghost town. The Washington Post reported in 2015 that there were over 16,000 vacant homes and buildings, and that, in those concentrations of vacancy, the life expectancy and poverty level of residents were lower. Bringing in new homeowners is what Baltimore needs.
The program is also obviously a boon for faculty and staff members who are able to receive help in purchasing their homes, thus offsetting some of the cost and stress of home buying and shortening the commute to work. Providing Hopkins workers with benefits such as home buying help is a crucial aspect of engendering a productive and supportive workplace.
It is important to consider the fact that LNYW, while correct in encouraging the integration of faculty and staff into the fabric of Baltimore City, should be emphasizing the right type of integration. Hopkins has been consistently accused of gentrifying Baltimore neighborhoods, especially in East Baltimore. Eager Park, opening this fall, is a newly developed area under the Hopkins co-founded East Baltimore Development Incorporated. The EBDI has received much criticism in its history for removing many Baltimore residents from the area in order to pave way for development. However, Eager Park will provide more community space beyond just renovated housing, including becoming the site of the new Henderson Hopkins elementary school.
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