For the third time in three weeks, Fannie Mae has announced a homeowners� mortgage program aimed at commuters. As we stated earlier in this space, so called Workplace Initiatives are destined to be the new focus of mortgage lenders.

Workforce policy is concerned with the distance employees are forced, because of economic conditions, to live from the site of their employment, resulting in a profound impact on work related (commuting) expenses, stress, and family life, not to mention the environment and urban sprawl.. Employers, federal and city government, and the secondary market players have finally begun to understand the problem and design programs to solve it.

We recently spotlighted a new Smart Commute program in Portland, Oregon designed to reward homebuyers who purchase homes close to public transportation. Now San Antonio, Texas and St. Louis, Illinois and two of its surrounding counties are the sites of new Smart Commute programs. Fannie Mae, selected local lenders and the metropolitan transit authorities are the sponsors of these initiatives designed to encourage home buying in areas where public transportation is an option for getting to work. Smart Commute features a low ($500+) down payment option and gives income credit up to $250 per month for two income families who pledge to use that transportation. This income credit can, for example, increase a borrower�s mortgage eligibility from $100,000 to $117,000. Other goodies such as transit passes are also available to participants

The stated goal of these new programs is to reduce the time, cost, and stress of long commutes to the workplace. Obviously the side benefits, not only to homebuyers but to the community at large, may be reduced traffic and pollution and increased interest in inner-city/transit line real estate.

Three programs in quick succession may or may not constitute a trend, however, if this does continue we will periodically publish an update of such transit friendly programs. For the record, here are the contacts for the three programs referenced above.

Portland, Oregon: Countrywide Mortgage c/o Francene Grewe. (503) 309-2924;

San Antonio, Texas: San Antonio Federal Credit Union, (210) 258-1998;

St. Louis, St. Louis County, and St. Clair County, Illinois: Countrywide Mortgage, (800) 877-LOAN (5626) or 1st National Bank of St. Louis, (314) 835-3700.

And if your local community is interested in starting such a program, contact Fannie Mae�s Consumer Resource Center, (800) 732-6643.