The town is preparing to apply for a $300,000 Town-wide Housing Rehabilitation grant in order to establish a self-contained fund that would provide zero-interest loans to struggling residents in need of home repairs.
If Brookfield is awarded the grant, qualifying residents will be able to apply for no-interest loans to make repairs to a leaky roof, install a new boiler, fix a broken septic system or make needed modifications to accommodate a disability, said Lisa Low, president of Oxford-based Lisa Low Associates, the grant writing and administration firm hired to manage the prospective fund.
(The town issued a request for proposals for the administration position, however the only other application arrived three hours past the deadline and was rejected, according to Ginny Giovanniello, executive assistant to the First Selectman.)
“Somebody who wants to repair their roof can borrow from this fund,” First Selectman Bill Davidson explained, however they have to show “significant economic need.”
Housing Rehabilitation funds — part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Connecticut Small Cities Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program — would be available to residents with low to moderate incomes, or those making less than 80 percent of the local median income. In Brookfield, the median income for 2012 is $110,400, meaning a family of four would require an income of less than $70,950 to qualify; a single person would need to be making less than $49,700.
Applicants must also be up to date on their taxes and the property must be clear of liens.
Most often, homeowners who take advantage of this program are on fixed incomes, whether retired or disabled, and the repairs are of safety or sanitary concerns, according to Low, whose firm manages similar funds in nearby New Fairfield, as well as several other towns, and has a full-time Housing Rehabilitation Fund specialist on staff, Adam Kinkel.
For their work administering the fund, the firm will receive $75,000, or 25 percent of the grant award.
If the state approves an applicant for a loan, a bid process begins to find a contractor and the fund administrators oversee the construction work from project start to close. The homeowner then pays down the loan over the life of a set mortgage, backed by a lien held by the town. Those payments are returned to the fund and put toward new projects.
Low noted that New Fairfield’s fund has repaired, restored or upgraded over $650,000 in assets since being established in 1991 on a $200,000 grant.
Obtaining the initial grant funding, however, is a competitive process, especially with $2 million in reduced federal funding to the state CDBG program this year. In years past, the state has given out between 20 and 25 community development grants a year to small cities, to a range of programs.
This year might be closer to 15 to 20 grants, however Low sees grants awards trending toward projects like Housing Rehabilitation grants, where smaller dollar amounts are involved and those dollars stretch farther over the long term.
The best way to compete, according to Low, is to show a need by establishing a “waiting list” of prospective applicants that would be interested in the program.
(To be included on the list, contact Lisa Low Associates at 203-888-5624 with your name, address, phone number and email.)
The final grant application is due in June and a decision should be rendered by the end of September, early October, Low said, with the funds becoming available to approved homeowners by February 2013.
The Board of Selectmen (BOS) have scheduled a public hearing in the (BHS) media center at 7 p.m. on April 2 to solicit community input on the project.
[The article previously stated, in error, that Lisa Low Associates works with the town of Bethel. This error has been removed.]