A program geared toward getting more professionals to buy homes in downtown Allentown is expanding by adding city police to the program.
The Live Near Your Work program was developed by the Downtown Allentown Community Development Initiative, a group of 12 companies and three private foundations that have a stake downtown.
The program was launched in June and provides incentives including a $10,000 cash grant to qualified downtown employees who buy a home in certain downtown neighborhoods and live there for at least five years.
The grant is to help pay for the buyer’s down payment, closing costs and renovations.
The program targeted workers at many of the participating firms, including National Penn Bank, Gross McKinley, Lehigh Valley Health Network and Trifecta Technologies. It was previously expanded to provide support for teachers in the city’s downtown schools and professors at the city’s colleges, and now with an influx of cash from one of the DACDI members, Allentown police officers now qualify for the program.
Don Bernhard, executive director of the initiative, said it’s good to expand the program to include as many professionals as possible.
“The intent is to get people to buy a house and stay here,” he said.
The program covers parts of the city between Fifth and 12Th streets and Walnut and Liberty streets and a few other pockets.
“It’s a pretty wide swath of the city,” Bernhard said.
While there has been a great deal of development in the area, much work remains in rehabilitating downtown residential areas.
“There’s still a fair number of affordable houses,” Berhnard said. He encourages those looking to take advantage of the program to pair the grant money with other available programs to get the best value.
For example, if someone finds a house that needs work, the homebuyer also can apply for state façade program grants that could provide up to an additional $10,000 to fix up the outside of the building.
He said people willing to put in that kind of extra work can save a great deal of money.
In addition to the grants, participating banks, including National Penn Bank, QNB and Wells Fargo, are offering mortgages with reduced closing costs and other benefits to Live Near Your Work participants.