By CBS Baltimore Staff

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City is doubling the incentives it offers to eligible first-time homebuyers from $5,000 to $10,000 in an effort to make buying a home more affordable, Mayor Brandon Scott announced on Wednesday.

On top of that, the city is offering up to $20,000 in financial incentives to qualified candidates who purchase their first home in parts of the city designated as Impact Investment Areas, the mayor’s office said in a news release detailing the changes.

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The additional incentives, which come in response to rising home prices and mortgage rates, are billed as part of the mayor’s long-term goal of expanding Baltimore’s middle class—and the city’s overall growth strategy.

“In order to continue to grow our city and strengthen our economy, we must do everything in our power to prevent potential Baltimore homeowners from being squeezed out of the marketplace,” Scott said in a statement.

An estimated $2.5 million has been budgeted for the First-Time Homebuyers Incentive Program, which is paid for by block grants and overseen by the city’s Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD).

Nicole Hart, the DHCD deputy commissioner for homeownership and housing preservation, said the funding will be available to eligible homebuyers who file applications starting on May 1.

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“The incentive functions as a five-year forgivable loan, reducing by 20% each year provided the homebuyer lives in the house as their primary residence,” Hart said.

To qualify for the program, which provides assistance with closing costs and down payments, buyers must plan to live in the home and have a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).

The Area Median Income is $55,950 for a one-person household, $64,950 for a two-person household and $79,9000 for a four-person household, according to figures provided by the city.

The mayor said the  program is proof of the city’s commitment to “equitable neighborhood development.”

“Home buying incentives can level the playing field and ensure greater success for many potential homebuyers,” Scott said.

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To learn more about the program, visit the city’s website.

CBS Baltimore Staff