HUD helping homes, people for 37 years

Sue Guinn Legg • May 31, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Every year for the past 37 years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant home-rehabilitation program has been helping low- and moderate-income level homeowners in Johnson City make substantial and emergency improvements to their homes they otherwise may not have been able to afford.

The program is funded entirely by HUD at no cost to the homeowner or the city and has helped hundreds of homeowners since its inception in 1975.

Steve Baldwin, director of the city’s community development office, said the program is not only the longest running but “by far” the largest CDBG program the city takes part in. It also has the longest waiting list.

The program’s purpose is to not only help individual homeowners but the community as well by maintaining the level of affordable housing that will be available for the long run.

This fiscal year in Johnson City, the program provided $287,376 in HUD funding for repairs to 16 homes.

Baldwin said the majority of the projects take place in the city’s older neighborhoods where, rather than deteriorating, rehabilitated homes that will eventually be sold or passed on to the owners’ heirs will remain affordable for the long term.

Administered for the city by the First Tennessee Development District, the program is available to homeowners whose total household income is no more than 80 percent of the median income for the community. While the income limit varies from year to year, FTDD Housing Director Sherry Trent said the limit for this fiscal year is $28,700 for a one-person household or $40,950 for a household of four.

In addition to the income limit, eligibility requirements include the house be occupied by the owner for a minimum of 180 days. The home must be insured and both city and county property tax payments must be up to date. The homeowner cannot own more than one home and must agree to a three-year lien that is placed on the property to prevent owners from fixing up a house in order to immediately place it on the market.

Trent said the program is often utilized by low-income seniors who are referred to it by local social service agencies. Contracts are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. At any given time, the waiting list includes about 50 homeowners. Homes in need of substantial rehabilitations often remain on the waiting list for up to a couple of years while emergency rehabilitations can often be made in as little as a few weeks.

“Substantial” home rehabilitations are defined as repairs needed to correct building code deficiencies in order to make a house “safe, sound and sanitary,” and “emergency rehabilitations” are defined as “rapid and essential” repairs needed to protect the homeowner from “imminent danger to human life, health or safety” or to protect the property from further structural damage.

Both substantial and emergency rehabilitations may include the replacement or repair of a roof, plumbing, electrical or heating systems, foundations, sub-flooring, windows, doors and handicap accessibility. If the condition of the home is so poor it can’t be repaired, Trent said the program also gives the homeowner the option of having the home torn down and rebuilt.

The total contract cost of a substantial rehabilitation cannot exceed $25,000. The contract limit for an emergency rehabilitation is $10,000.

“It’s a good program that can help people stay in their homes when they’re elderly and on a fixed income instead of being forced to move into assisted living,” Trent said. “We’ll be glad to help anyone. We’ll look at their income and see what we can do for them.”

Applications and more information about the program may be obtained by calling Mindy Bowman in the FTDD Housing Department at 722-5100.

HUD Maximum Household Income Limits for CDBG Home Rehabilitation for 2012

(Based on the number of persons living in the household regardless of relationship.)

1 Person 2 Person 3 Person 4 Person 5 Person 6 Person 7 Person 8 Person

$28,700 $32,800 $36,900 $40,950 $44,250 $47,550 $50,800 $54,100

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