County Comment: House Keys for Employees Program Approved

County Comment
House Keys for Employees Program Approved
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In its regular meeting on January 30, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners Approved the Maryland "House Keys for Employees" program, designed to assist eligible first-time home buyers who are County Employees, with down payments and closing costs.
The program is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's Community Development Administration (CDA) in cooperation with local governments and private employers.
Assistant County Attorney Andrew Wilkinson said that the program allows eligible home buyers to receive a matching contribution towards the down payment and closing costs for a home purchase if the buyer's employer also makes a loan or grant to the employee up to $5,000.00.
This goal of the State CDA initiative is to foster home ownership statewide, and Washington County government was approved by the State to participate in the program.
Eligible employees could get a County loan, an additional $5,000.00 from the State, and another $5,000.00 loan from the State under certain situations.
In passing the program the Commissioners stipulated that the home must be a primary residence and be located in Washington County. The loan would be payable on sale of the residence or satisfaction of the first mortgage. Employee eligibility would begin on the date of hire, and was seen as an incentive to attract quality employees. Repayment would also be due if the employee left County service, on an installment basis.
Community Development Administration rules would be followed, and there would be no limitation on the number of times an employee could use the program.
CDA rules allow that if the property is located outside the "Targeted area", the City of Hagerstown, the buyer must be a "first time homebuyer", defined by the state as a person who has not owned a principal residence in the last 3 years. Under those rules, if the property is located inside the target area, the buyer does not need to be a first time homebuyer.
Eligibility requirements vary as to number of family members and area where the home is located. Outside the targeted area a family of 1 or 2 could have an income of as much as $75,000 and be eligible, with the maximum home price at $319,000. Families of three or more would have an income ceiling of $87,285. Within the target area, the income for a 1 or 2 person family could be as high as $91,000 with a $390,000 home cost limit. Families of 3 or more could make as much as $106,260 in the target area.
One of the goals of the program is to further redevelopment in areas where housing is clustered, such as cities, and to foster a "live where you work" environment.
Eight counties in Maryland have such a program, Wilkinson said, and the program would be open to all citizens if their employers decided top participate.
The City of Hagerstown has such a program in place for its employees through its Community Development Program. Washington County's program will be administered through the Human Resources Department.