BEACON FALLS — Low and moderate income home owners may soon receive a helping hand to fix up their houses.
The town’s applying for a Community Development Block Grant. The grant is part of the Small Cities Program. The grant would give the town $300,000 that it could loan out to low and moderate income citizens for home repairs that might otherwise be unaffordable.
The loan would be at 0 percent interest and would not have to be paid back to the town until the title changed hands, either by the owner selling the home or by the home being inherited upon the owner’s death.
The owner would have the option of paying back all or some of the loan so the full price wouldn’t be collected when the title changed hands.
The town estimated that, with the $300,000 grant, it could assist between seven and 10 property owners.
Lisa Low, of Lisa Low and Associates, explained at a public hearing Monday night, that this money would be available to people who are at a certain income level.
“[Housing and Urban Development] publishes income limits every year for every community in the country,” Low said. “Basically you are considered low and moderate income if you fall within 80 percent of the area median.”
According to HUD’s website, Beacon Fall’s median income is $92,200. The site says that a family of four would qualify for this loan if their total income was $65,000.
The limits are adjusted depending on how many people are in the household.
Low explained that the other qualifying factor is how much equity a family has in their home.
“You need to have (at least) 15 percent equity in your home. You can’t be under water on your mortgage,” Low said.
She explained that this rule was in place because the town would not want to put its assets at risk.
Low said that if the town was awarded this money, it would be able to use this money again and again. After the town loaned the money out, any time it came back to the town, the town could loan it out again.
The money in this loan could be used for any type of project, including blight removal, as long as the project was used to fix or upkeep the house.
Resident Carol Sullivan was concerned with people who had allowed their property to become blighted not because they couldn’t take care of it, but just because they wouldn’t take care of it.
Low said that they do not look at whether an applicant couldn’t or just didn’t take care of the property. However, the homeowner does sign a contract that states the house must remain in the same condition that the loan brought it to or the town can retract its funds.
Resident Sue Dowdell asked Low how much the town was paying for her fees.
Low explained that her services cost the town nothing. When the town receives the grant, there is some money set aside in the grant for paying contractor fees.
“One of the beauties of the Small Cities program, the way it is structured, is that part of the funding is used for soft costs. Soft cost is the money that is used for the consultant,” Low said.
This means that Low’s fees are tied to the acceptance of the grant.
“If this application is not awarded, the town is under no obligation to pay the writer of the applicant,” Low said.
If the town is awarded the grant, it will give out the loans on a first come, first serve basis. The applicant will have to meet the standards set out by the grant, but the town will not look through the applications to decide who is in the greatest need.