Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 21, 2017

Housing fund helps residents make repairs

Courtesy of: SCOTT TIMM Scott Timm’s front porch, seen here, had potentially hazardous rotting floorboards and posts, which he was able to replace thanks to a grant from AHEAD Regional Housing Trust Fund.

Alice Dickerson’s roof was in poor condition.

Not only damaged by general wear and tear, the shingles had even been recalled. But after speaking with a contractor who steered her in the right direction, Dickerson was able to get a brand new roof. Her total out of pocket expense? $70.

Dickerson’s story is similar to many others who have benefitted from a small interest loans funded by a grant through, AHEAD Regional Housing Trust Fund.

RHTF, partners with six counties: Jefferson, Wapello, Van Buren, Keokuk, Davis and Mahaska, to provide funding to qualified residents who, like Dickerson, are in need of assistance with general home repairs, rehabilitation and utility and rent payments. It also helps with funding new constructions with Habitat for Humanity.

Participating counties collectively receive the grant from RHTF each fiscal year, sharing in the funds. The counties work together to provide a match of at least 25 percent per individual resident.

“For every local dollar that we can round up for a match, we can leverage $4 from the state housing trust fund,” said RHTF Project Coordinator Matt Naumann.

He added that $80,000 would leverage $322,000 — the max for this area.

“We hope to raise the $80,000 this year,” he said.

The counties raised enough to receive $300,000 last year.

There are no caps on the number of applicants for any particular county, as residents who meet the qualifications may apply for assistance.

Dickerson, a Van Buren County resident, said she was very pleased with the program.

“I only had to pay the loan processing fee which was only $70 and I got a new roof,” she said.

Qualifying under RHTF’s Urgent Emergency Repair Program, Dickerson’s loan is deferred until she decides to sell the home or passes away. In either case, her low or no interest loan may become due for repayment. However, depending on a particular recipient’s income, some loans may be forgivable.

Jefferson County Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said the entire process of providing the funds and repayment actually thickens the county contribution pot.

“Once that money is out there and it starts coming back we can use that money for the match as well,” he said. “We’re about getting the money out there to help people with their homes and then getting the money back so that we can have a bigger match and help more people.”

Approximately $100,000 is left from 2013’s $300,000 allotment.

Adam Plagge, director of the Fairfield Economic Development Association said the applications currently in process should exhaust those funds.

“We’ve got 50 applications right now from another county,” he said.

But, since the fiscal year came to a close on July 24, Dimmitt said the 2014 allotment would be awarded soon, so new applicants are encouraged to continue applying to the program.

“The more people in Jefferson County who are aware of this program the better,” Dimmitt said, adding that the program benefits the homeowner now, by making homes safer, keeping costs down and increasing overall property values.

Residents who earn 80 percent or less of the Iowa Finance Authority’s median family income guidelines may qualify for one of the following six programs: New Construction, Repair and Rehabilitation, Rental Improvements, Demolition and Re-development and Urgent Emergency Repair.

In addition to completing an application, candidates will need to provide information like: proof of ownership, verification of employment, proof of income, tax returns, utility information, etc. A more thorough explanation of those requirements is listed on RHTF’s site.

However, applicants won’t have to go through the added expense of hiring an appraiser.

Dimmitt said the program acquires the appraisal already on file with the county.

“This allows us to process the application quicker,” he said.

But one of the biggest obstacles the program is facing now is exposure since many residents who qualify for the program have no idea they are eligible.

“People don’t know it’s out there,” said FEDA Project Coordinator Anna Bruen. “I had no idea it existed and I qualify for it; a lot of people who qualify for it don’t know it exists.”

City of Fairfield Sustainability Coordinator Scott Timm took advantage of the program.

“When we purchased the house, the porch was in rough shape; we knew it would be around $7,000 to fix it,” he said.

Timm’s porch had rotted floorboards and posts. He applied to RHTF’s Repair and Rehabilitation program and was approved. He was required to contribute $1,200. The rest was funded by a small interest loan through the program.

“It was very easy to work with the people. They were very helpful and supportive,” he said. “It went very quickly and we were very happy with the work.”

Though Timm’s income is “middle range,” with a family of five, he qualified.

“I would definitely recommend the program—and getting in line before the winter comes,” he said.

But the program is not only for owner-occupied homeowners. Landlords may also qualify, provided they meet certain criteria.

“The rental improvement program is a program to help landlords improve rental properties,” Bruen said. “They get loans up to $6,000 for improvements.”

However, there are some stipulations; landlords must contribute 50 percent of project costs, and tenants must meet certain income guidelines.

“We don’t do many of those, but we’d like to,” Naumann said. “We are trying to fix up the housing stock of our city and we need people in Jefferson County to take advantage of this.”

For more information, visit www.area15rpc.com or contact FEDA at 472-3436.

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