Worcester program creates home-buying incentives

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Worcester is working with local employers, banks and the Massachusetts Housing Partnership to promote home ownership in the city.
Worcester is working with local employers, banks and the quasi-public Massachusetts Housing Partnership in an effort to promote home ownership in the city.

The program, known as Buy Worcester Now, enables participating organizations to expand the home-buying incentives they can offer to their employees.

A key part of the initiative is a new Massachusetts Housing Partnership program called MassWorks, through which the state will match the funding that Worcester-area employers advance to their employees to help them buy homes.

A related Massachusetts Housing Partnership service, called the SoftSecond Loan Program, allows participants to pay less per month on their mortgage payments. Rather than taking out a single, conventional mortgage, homebuyers acquire two separate mortgages, the second of which, covering 20 percent of the purchase price, is interest-free for the first 10 years.

Participating banks in Worcester are offering other incentives to homebuyers as well, such as mortgage rates up to one-half point below market rates.

By late August, about six weeks after the program was announced, five home purchases had been facilitated through the program, with 50 applications being processed, according to figures provided by the office of Worcester City Manager Michael O’Brien. Banks and lenders had received 300 phone inquiries, and the Buy Worcester Now Web site (www.buyworcesternow.com) had attracted more than 30,000 hits, according to O’Brien.

Christina Andreoli, the city’s communications director, described the program as part of Worcester’s effort to limit the consequences of the mortgage foreclosure crisis.

“A lot of buyers have been staying on the sidelines, waiting for the market to bottom out,” Andreoli said. Buy Worcester Now, she added, “is about reversing the trends we’ve been seeing.”

At least 14 local banks and credit unions are participating in the lending program. Organizations offering assistance to their employees include Assumption College, Clark University, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester Polytechnic University, UMass Memorial Health Care, and the building products manufacturer Saint Gobain.

Written by MMA Associate Editor Mitch Evich