Owning a home near the place you work, especially in an urban setting, has much to recommend it -- for the employee, the employer and the city. So why don't more people choose that option?
One answer is cost.
The Hartford Homeownership Incentive Program, which provides ownership grants to eligible employees, aims to vault that hurdle. Now, a year after its inception, the program, known as HIP, is bearing fruit. Let's hope these early successes encourage more people to take advantage of the initiative.
HIP, started by the MetroHartford Alliance, has five partner institutions: Aetna, Connecticut Children's Medical Center, Hartford Hospital, St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, and Trinity College. Each offers forgivable $10,000 grants to employees who agree to live in homes they've bought in Hartford for at least five years and stay with their employer for the same amount of time.
The Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance and its counterpart, the Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, administer HIP.
Two Hartford Hospital employees and one from Aetna recently have closed on properties in the city; a third deal is pending. These purchases don't constitute a tsunami of employee ownership -- but the trend is in the right direction.
There's so much to be gained when city workers own homes near their jobs: Commuting time is shorter, not to mention less polluting; neighborhood stability and pride are boosted; Hartford becomes more than a place for suburbanites to inhabit just during the working day; suburban sprawl is lessened.
Hartford is said to have one of the lowest rates of homeownership in the country, although the numbers are skewed because many states don't define "city" as narrowly as Connecticut does. Still, efforts such as this one ought to be encouraged.
"It's HIP to live in Hartford" is one of the ownership program's slogans. Some have taken the message and the generous incentive to heart. Good for them.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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