Selected Speeches

Live Near Your Work

January 9, 2018
UM BioPark

Good morning, everyone. It’s so great to have you here for this celebration of our community.

Mayor Catherine Pugh has taken time from a very busy schedule to join us. We couldn’t be more grateful for her partnership in our “good news” announcement today. To our elected officials—Del. Antonio Hayes, Councilman Eric Costello, Councilman John Bullock—thank you for being with us. Representing Congressman Elijah Cummings are his district director Harry Spikes and special assistant Chanan Lewis. Representing the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development is Assistant Secretary Carol Anne Gilbert.

Baltimore City Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman is here with us this morning, as is Deputy Commissioner Alice Kennedy. They’ve been instrumental in helping us strengthen the University’s Live Near Your Work program. I thank the University leadership for coming out today, and I’d like to acknowledge Bill Wood, chair of our UMB Foundation Board. To everyone on UMB’s Live Near Your Work committee—who’ve labored on this program for years; who’ve made sure that we put our time, energy, and resources into building the community we want—thank you.

Annie Milli and Live Baltimore, thank you for being the face of homeownership in the city and for joining us today. To Matt Gallagher and the Goldseker Foundation, thank you for your critical support of the Southwest Partnership. This room is filled with our community partners—and with leaders from the neighborhood associations. For years, you’ve led the way for UMB as we’ve enlarged our community engagement efforts. For years, you’ve waited for this announcement. Thank you for your guidance, your counsel, and your generous partnership.

Several years ago, UMB launched its Live Near Your Work program. The sponsor was our BioPark, where we’ve gathered today. This BioPark, you’ll recall, was UMB’s first meaningful steps over Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.—our first attempt to knit ourselves closer to this community of Southwest Baltimore. The park is emblematic of our roots in West Baltimore, growing and deepening over the years.

The BioPark’s board began offering $2,500 to employees who bought a house in one of several West Baltimore neighborhoods. The money qualified for a matching grant from the city, and so prospective homebuyers were offered, in total, $5,000 toward a down payment and closing costs.

The program was grounded in the fact that it’s infinitely easier to build a community of strength, a community of mutual respect, a community shaped by a shared destiny—when we work together, and socialize together, and, yes, LIVE together.

Our fates are entwined. What’s good for this community is good for UMB—and the reverse is equally true. And so we wanted to find a way to get more of our employees into the neighborhoods we serve. We wanted to blur the line between University and community—between neighbor and employee. We wanted our people to have an interest and a stake in our actions in West Baltimore—in a way that only those directly affected by our actions can.

At first, the Live Near Your Work program was only for employees located in this BioPark, but after a couple of years, it was opened up to any UMB employee. And yet—I’ll be honest—we didn’t have many takers. The number of people we’ve helped into homes in this community has been embarrassingly small.

And so we started to rethink how we implement Live Near Your Work. We tightened the neighborhoods eligible for the home-buying grant. This map should look familiar to many of you. These seven neighborhoods—the neighborhoods of the Southwest Partnership—are where we focus many of our community engagement efforts. This is our home base.

We added a stipulation to the program—that if you take advantage of the grant, you have to keep the property you purchase as your primary residence for five full years. This is to make sure that people don’t buy a house as an investment property, fix it up, and then resell it at a higher price. We don’t want employees to flip these homes; we want them to live in them.

And then we had to consider the fact that our investment of $2,500 simply wasn’t incentive enough. And this is what I think many of you came out to hear. We arrived at a number more than six times higher than our original investment.

The University will now offer a home-buying grant of $16,000, which will be matched by the city’s $2,500—for a total incentive of $18,500!

This is a game-changer. This amount of money will put Southwest Baltimore into the mix when employees are considering a home purchase. This will be an incentive we can use to attract the best and brightest professionals to UMB. This will get some of our entry-level employees into a home of their own, which is so important, because we know that homeownership is critical to community-building.

This is a powerful way to show our neighbors that we are tethered to one another, that every shared effort and decision is rooted in strengthening our shared community—one we call home as much as our neighbors do.

I know Mayor Pugh believes in this as well. In her State of the City Address last year, she asked: “How do we keep young people who graduate from Baltimore’s universities living and working in our city—and how do we expand opportunities for university employees to live near their work?”

I think she’s asked ME the exact same questions nearly every time we meet. Mayor Pugh, we’re so grateful for your partnership. Please welcome the Honorable Catherine Pugh.


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