Blue Earth offers home fixups

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth’s Housing Rehabilitation and Demolition Program is still active, according to Ann Hanna, administrative assistant with Faribault County Development Corporation.

“We are taking applications for 2014,” she said. “The need is there; it’s just if they can meet our requirements.”

Hanna operates the program out of the corporation’s office in the Ag Center. The program helps homeowners with repairs.

“It’s pretty much for safety and energy efficiency,” she said.

“Blue Earth has a problem with basements, clay in the soil,” she noted. The clay pushes in basement walls, causing physical and environmental concerns.

“That’s what we help with,” Hanna said. “Mold is a big factor in the health of people.”

The program also can help pay for a new furnace, or help put in central air, windows, insulation and roofs, among other things.

One thing Hanna pointed out is that even if homeowners have gone through the program in the past, they can apply again, as long as they have not surpassed the $25,000 lifetime total for the house.

The program began in 2011 when 31 homeowners got help.

The next two years saw fewer people taking part – five in 2012 and just one in 2013 – but Hanna said that was because changes were made to the program.

“They tightened the structure,” she said, adding there are no more total grants given, and homeowners must pay 10 percent down.

The first step to getting help is to fill out an application. Eligibility is based on gross income, combined by the number of people in a household, from one to eight or more.

There are four levels of eligibility:

o Level 1 runs from a household of one earning $24,700 or less, up to a family of eight or more making $42,200 or less.

o Level 2 runs from a household of one making between $24,701 and $31,700; up to a family of eight or more earning $42,201 to $49,200.

o Level 3 runs from a household of one making between $31,701 to $38,700, up to a family of eight or more that makes $49,201 to $56,200.

o Level 4 runs from a household of one making $38,701 to $96,500; up to a family of eight or more that earns between $56,201 and $100,200.

If a homeowner qualifies at Level 1, they are eligible for a 50 percent repayable loan over 15 years, with reasonable payments.

“The lowest payment is $50 a month,” Hanna said.

The 10 percent down payment is applied to this part of the cost, so they are actually only paying back 40 percent.

They might not have to pay back the rest at all.

“Fifty percent is deferrable if you live in the house 15 years,” Hanna noted.

At Level 2, 70 percent of the cost will be financed by a repayable loan, and 30 percent is deferrable.

At Level 3, all of the cost is financed by repayable loan.

“The interest rate is 3.25 percent and most banks are at 6 percent,” Hanna noted. “It is based on income and the number of people in the house, not credit.”

All of the cost for rehab at Level 4 would be financed through the loan guarantee program.

“The reason they would come to me at Level 4 is they can’t qualify for the loan due to credit,” Hanna said.

Rehab is just part of the program. The program also helps finance demolition of houses.

“We’ve probably torn down three houses,” Hanna said. “People have these homes and they’re not worth what it would cost to fix them.”

Homeowners or their heirs sign the house over to the city and the city pays for the demo, she said. The city can then sell the lots for new development.

“The objective is to eliminate blight,” Hanna said.