Live Near Your Work: D.C. Issues Grants to Support Homeownership
Could homeownership grants that encourage employees to move closer to work also remove private vehicles off the road? Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Could homeownership grants that encourage employees to move closer to work have a positive impact on commuting patterns? Photo by M.V. Jantzen.

Washington, D.C.’s Office of Planning (OP) released a Request for Applications (RFA) for a Live Near Your Work (LNYW) pilot program. The RFA will provide grants for downpayment and closing cost assistance to individual employees in a matching homeownership grant of up to $200,000 that will be administered by qualified employer(s) in the District of Columbia. According to the official press release, the OP will “match employer contributions (up to $6,000 per participating employee) to attract and retain DC residents, with the primary purpose of encouraging employees to live close to their place of employment and/or transit.”

The initiative is to encourage individuals to move within two miles of their work, within a half-mile of a Metro station, or within a quarter-mile of a “high quality” bus corridor, Fast Company reports. The OP’s incentive in pursuing the initiative has advantages for both employees and employers. According to Fast Company,  “people who live closer to their work spend less money and time commuting, employers get the benefit of reduced parking costs and ‘better on time and work performance,’ and the city gets revitalized neighborhoods and a wider tax base.”

However, Fast Company questions whether it would be feasible to extend this program beyond its pilot phase. The $200,000 available from the OP in pieces of $6,000 grants would only be enough for 60 employees. “D.C. would have to spend tens of millions of dollars to truly shake up the demographic and commuting patterns of the city,” the article adds.

Apparently, D.C. is not alone in running the pilot program. Baltimore has a similar program that was launched in 1997. As part of the city’s “Smart Growth” initiative, East Baltimore provided Live Near Your Work grants to fully benefited employees of selected employers, the Dome reports. “[The program’s] goal was to reduce sprawl, cut commutes and increase home ownership in designated areas slated for redevelopment.” Through the program, Johns Hopkins University, a selected employer, was able to extend LNYW grants to 600 employees with grants ranging from $2,500 up to $17,000, depending on the neighborhood.

Upon receiving RFAs, the OP will select the participating employers based on their ability to administer the pilot program, offer homebuyer education, and provide matching grants for their employees. The deadline for the first round of selections will be June 17, 2011. If qualified employers cannot be selected, a possible second round deadline will be October 7, 2011. The expansion of the program is dependent on the success of the pilot program, and if successful, the program could help reduce traffic and air pollution, spur an urban revitalization, and improve the quality of life of the people who participate, GOOD Transportation explains.

Can you be convinced to move closer to work?

If interested, you can attend a pre-application question-and-answer session on May 24, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. in the Office of Planning.

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