RENÉ JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR
Our ancestors who did their work right outside their door would think the typical commute of today’s urban worker is ridiculous. That daily grind contributes to sprawl, traffic congestion and pollution while cutting into time for what we would rather be doing.
So why not live where you work?
That’s what officials of Newark, N.J., thought. So, six weeks ago a new program, in conjunction with a state-run plan, was offered to would-be residents.
For people working in Newark, the “Live Where You Work” program provides a low-interest 30-year mortgage through the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency if they buy a residence in the city.
Other incentives include a grant for up to 5 per cent of the down payment and closing cost of the mortgage, and flexible financing terms through the state agency.
The program cannot be used for single-family residences that cost more than $429,619 (U.S.) or by households with incomes over $100,740.
“There are two objectives,” says Marge Della Vecchia, the agency’s executive director. “We want to promote … responsible home ownership. And we want to help people be more efficient and environmentally sustainable not just with the light bulbs they buy, but with their commuting patterns.”
If residents move away from Newark after already receiving the mortgage and the other benefits, Della Vecchia says the mortgage is broken without penalty and no repayment is expected.
She says other incentives, such as a New Jersey Transit pass subsidy, are being considered for people in the program.
“There’s a lot of creative initiatives happening for smart growth,” says Cherise Burda, Ontario director of the Pembina Institute, a non-profit organization that conducts research on sustainable development.
Burda says while there’s no similar program around the GTA, she thinks the Newark initiative would be perfect for Toronto, or a suburb such as Markham.
“There are a lot of large businesses there because of the cheaper taxes and development subsidies. This type of policy would encourage people to not just work there, but live there as well.”
Urban Studies is a regular feature about initiatives in cities around the world.