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Potential homeowners can get help

September 24, 2006

There are several government-funded programs to help prospective home buyers in Hagerstown.

The City of Hagerstown runs the Single-Family Homeownership Program and a program for professionally employed people who are renting or buying homes within a two-block radius of Public Square.

Both programs are paid for with federal grants administered by the city.

There also is the Hagerstown Home Store, a privately run operation that receives most of its funding from federal grants administered by the city.

· Single-Family Homeownership Program: Those who meet certain income guidelines might qualify to purchase a home the city has bought and renovated. Since 1992, about 90 homes have been sold through this program.

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Income limits for program participants are on a sliding scale. For example, the maximum income level for a household of two is $39,350; for a family of four, it is $49,200; and for a single-person household, $34,450.

· Downtown Residency Initiative Program: The city's Downtown Residency Initiative Program provides assistance for professionals who live within two blocks of Public Square.

Professionals buying homes can receive up to $1,500 toward the purchase, and renters can receive up to $1,200 a year through the program. There are no income limits tied to the program.

For more information, call the Department of Community Development at 301-739-8577, ext. 136.

· Hagerstown Home Store: The Hagerstown Home Store, which opened in January 1999, is a source of information and financial guidance for prospective home buyers.

The Home Store is operated by the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, a nonprofit organization. All of its services are free and available to anyone.

About 3,000 people have attended twice-monthly workshops at the store at 21 E. Franklin St. in Hagerstown.

The workshops are the first stop for people who think they want to buy a new house. Lending, real estate and home insurance professionals volunteer for each workshop.

Those who continue working with the Home Store then meet with housing adviser Barb Spielman for financial counseling. Spielman reviews an applicant's finances to determine how much he or she can afford to pay for a home.

The service is confidential, available to anyone and free except for a $16 fee for a credit report used by Spielman to examine a prospective home buyer's finances.

For more information about the Home Store or other programs that assist with buying a home, call the Home Store at 301-797-0900 or visit www.hagerstownhomestore.org.

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