Institutional financial support for employees to buy houses in weak real estate markets
A tried and true formula for building demand in weak real estate markets is for institutions, universities mostly because they alone among nonprofits tend to be well off, to provide financial assistance to employees to buy houses in targeted communities.
University of Pennsylvania did this as part of their University City initiative.
Johns Hopkins University just announced a similar program in Baltimore ("Johns Hopkins ups the ante on 'live near your work' with $36K deal," Baltimore Business Journal), which has a bimodal real estate market. Basically, neighborhoods along the Charles Street corridor, north and south, are doing well, and neighborhoods outside of this corridor aren't doing nearly as well.
For a decade or longer, JHU has been working on the "East Baltimore Development Initiative," an area adjacent to the JHU Hospital--an area significantly east of the main campus--where they have been developing a biotechnology and life sciences campus and initiative, mixing academic endeavor with space for start up and established businesses.
On September 10th, the University is offering a "one day sale" with $36,000 of financial support, to buy a house in the EDBI zone.
I'd argue this isn't the same as what Penn did. EBDI bought a few residential blocks and demolished all the buildings, and is now building new houses, which cost $260,000 or more.
Where Baltimore needs help is stoking the demand and stabilizing neighborhoods comprised of extant housing, places like Reservoir Hill, Hollins Market/Pigtown, etc.
Then again, what JHU is concerned about primarily is the success of areas immediately abutting its campuses and facilities. EBDI qualifies, Hollins Market doesn't.
Same thing with the University of Pennsylvania, which provided less support ($7,500) and also targeted the assistance, albeit to a much larger area around the main campus. I believe that this program has changed as the residential housing market around the campus has improved. Now, employees can receive financial assistance towards closing costs, and lower cost loans for renovation.
The University of Chicago has a similar program. Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island has a mortgage assistance program as well as a program where houses owned by the university but no longer a high priority for university functions are sold to faculty and staff.
Baltimore also has a resident attraction program called Live Near Your Work, which is a joint venture between the City and employers based in the city. The program aims to recruit more employees to live in the city and "live near their work" to reduce the transportation impact from long commutes. The City and the employer each contribute $2,500 towards the purchase of a home. University of Maryland Baltimore participates in the program. UMB's eligibility area, near the campus, is definitely a weak real estate market, including neighborhoods like Union Square and Sandtown-Winchester.
-- University Employer-Assisted Housing: University-Community Partnerships, Lincoln Land Institute