19990328 Baltimore Sun: Home rehabilitation loans offered to low-income Westminster residents By Kristine Henry
Home rehabilitation loans offered to low-income Westminster residents
Originally published on Mar 28 1999 by the Baltimore Sun. Article written by Kristine Henry, Baltimore Sun Staff
As Westminster prepares to beef up its housing-code enforcement, the city has begun administering a loan program to help low-income residents fix up their homes.
The Maryland Housing Rehabilitation Program is also administered by the county, but city officials wanted a stronger emphasis on the program. The city recently hired a full-time coordinator to handle the loans for Westminster residents.
"We have a lot of housing stock that's very old and it's tired. It's owned by people on fixed incomes and there are things they'd like to do but they can't afford it, but they don't want to move," said Ray Fleming, the city's rehabilitation coordinator at the Office of Housing and Community Development, which is running the program.
"If a 75-year-old woman is living on Social Security, she can't put a roof on the house herself and she does not have the money to hire someone to do it, so it gets deferred," he said.
The loan program is aimed at people whose income is too low to make them eligible for commercial loans, or people who have spotty credit histories, Fleming said.
"The idea is to finance major rehabilitation projects. You might be talking about things like bringing the house up to code, new roofs, new siding, replacing windows or weatherproofing. Things that improve the livability of a house, not just cosmetic things."
The interest rate varies between 4.5 percent and 7 percent with 20 to 30-year terms. To qualify, a single person must have an annual income of less than $36,000; a two-person household's income can't exceed $41,150.
"If their income is very low, they may qualify for a deferred loan," Fleming said. "They would have no payments due until the property is sold. If they borrowed $4,000 for a roof, we would put a $4,000 lien on the house and the loan would be repaid when the person passes away or when the house is sold."
Landlords whose properties have four or fewer units may be eligible.
Karen Blandford, Westminster's manager of housing and community development, said use of the loans at the county level was low.
"In the last 18 months there were three loans countywide. We believe there is more of a need than is being met," she said. "We want to reach out as far as possible. With a local staff person it's a whole lot easier to do marketing, outreach and work one-on-one with people who need assistance."
Fleming said he plans to scour the city, looking for homes in disrepair and mailing information to the owners. He will also speak to local organizations such as church groups and neighborhood associations. He encourages people to let him know of others who may benefit from the loans but are unaware of them, such as elderly relatives or neighbors.
One of his main goals, he said, is to ease people's fears about red tape. He said a short phone call is often enough to see if a person qualifies and if participation in the program is appropriate. Fleming will also help fill out the paperwork. "We'll sit there as long as it takes to help them with it," he said.
So far, no one has applied for a loan, he said, although there have been inquiries. Blandford said the city can administer as many loans as needed.
Fleming is overseeing several other loan programs. The Special Targeted Applicant Rehabilitation Program is similar to the regular rehabilitation loan program, but is aimed at people with lower incomes. No payments are due until the home is sold.
A Lead Hazard Reduction Grant and Loan Program helps homeowners -- and owners of rental properties with up to 100 units -- remove hazardous lead paint from their properties. There is no income limit for the program.
"Entire neighborhoods will benefit if properties are maintained better and are able to be brought up to code," Blandford said.
"One bad house brings everybody down. We want to strengthen all neighborhoods without displacing tenants, and these programs really do help." she said.
For information about the loans, call Ray Fleming at 410- 848-2261, or pick up a brochure at the Office of Housing and Community Development in the Winchester West Building at 56 W. Main St.
Originally published on Mar 28 1999:
Westminster Housing and Community Dev, Westminster Housing initiatives,