HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Hagerstown’s mayor and council recently voted to approve a new initiative to help new homeowners in their home buying process with a loan-to-grant program. So the city of Hagerstown has made buying a home more accessible for its residents.

Hagerstown Homeownership Initiative‘ offers applicants up to $7,500 to help reduce down payment closing costs and reduce the barriers associated with homeownership in the city. Due to input from Hagerstown’s city council, some of the barriers to the program have been cut down or removed entirely.

“We have a high percentage of rentals in the city of Hagerstown, and we really wanted to encourage homeownership. We voted to expand it to make it easier for people to apply,” said Emily Keller, mayor of the city of Hagerstown.

“Among some of the changes that you’ll find in front of you is extending the eligible properties to include single-family attached or detached dwellings — so that’s going to be any single-family home, townhome, condo, duplex, what have you,” said Christopher Siemerling, economic development specialist. “As well as establishing a priority for first-time homebuyers or current renters.”

In January 2022, the program was updated with the following changes to remove barriers and open the program to more applicants:

  1. Removing the 12-month vacancy requirement.
  2. Removing the “built prior to 1960” property age requirement.
  3. Removing rehabilitation expenses as an eligible use of the grant funding.
  4. Extending eligible properties to include townhomes and condos.
  5. Establishing priority for first-time homebuyers, current renters, and those purchasing vacant properties.
  6. Requiring applications to be submitted at least 30 days prior to settlement versus 15 business days.
  7. Clarifying that the program is a loan to grant, and no payments would be required to the City if conditions are met.

Before the changes were made, Brian Yurek took advantage of the program and said the move was necessary.

“I had to kind of dig and hunt to find a house that kind of fit the criteria, whereas now this just allows ownership on a broad basis for a lot of people in the community rather than trying to fit into a box,” said Yurek.

As long as the homeowner stays in their home for five years, the loan becomes a grant, and they don’t have to pay it back.

“Having that ability to have that extra amount down allows me to get more money down on the house so that later on, I could get rid of that mortgage insurance and save me a little bit more income every single month,” said Yurek.

The program applies to single-family, townhomes, duplex/triplex, and privately owned condominium structures.