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Hagerstown looks at increasing subsidies to downtown renters, home buyers

February 06, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

The Hagerstown City Council is considering whether to increase financial subsidies to renters and home buyers to spur residential growth downtown.

On Tuesday, City Community Development Director Larry Bayer suggested to the council that it increase the amount of financial assistance that the city provides to downtown renters from $100 to $150 per month.

For home buyers, he proposed increasing down-payment assistance from $1,500 to $2,500 on homes selling for $150,000 or less, and from $1,500 to $5,000 on homes selling for $150,001 to $250,000.

Councilwoman Alesia Parson-McBean said after the meeting that she agreed with the proposal.

"To do nothing would not be proactive," she said. "We have to do something."

Bayer said the council should put a 60-day limit on the offer from the time a person or family moves into the property.

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The program, known as the Downtown Residency Initiative, was developed to lure young professionals downtown, Bayer said.

The existing program guidelines require homeowners to remain in the property for two years for the loan to be forgiven, Bayer said. The proposal that Bayer brought to the council would increase the residency requirement to three years for the $2,500 subsidy, and to five years for the $5,000 subsidy.

Bayer said the city has about $50,000 budgeted to pay for the program.

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