Housing help is here for those who qualify

Struggling homeowners in Washington County can now apply for financial assistance for major repairs through a Community Housing Improvement Grant.

The grant was received by Washington County from the Ohio Department of Development and administered by Washington-Morgan Community Action.

The bulk of the grant, $330,000, is set aside for owner-occupied housing rehabilitation, said Kenny Vigneron, director of Housing and Transportation for Washington-Morgan Community Action.

“When they do an owner-occupied project, the inspector inspects the entire house and finds any issues where the house doesn’t meet residential rehab standards and all those issues need to be addressed,” explained Vigneron.

Those residential rehabilitation standards are established by the Ohio Office of Housing and Community Partnerships (OHCP). According to OHCP’s housing rehabilitation handbook, grant funded projects are intended to “correct one or two significant problems that adversely affect occupant health, safety and or structural integrity.”

Said Vigneron, each home eligible for the owner-occupied grant is eligible for a combined forgivable and deferred loan of up to $42,000.

Owners would only be required to repay part of the forgivable loan if they move, refinance or sell the home within six years, he added.

In that case, owners would have to pay 15 percent of the principal amount.

The new grant also contains $88,000 for the emergency home repair program. That program focuses on addressing homes that need smaller scale repairs or accessibility updates, said Vigneron.

“For the home repair, they can just go in and fix the furnace or install a sewer tap. They don’t have to bring the whole house up to code,” he said.

To qualify for either program, residents must provide verifiable income documentation and be at or below certain income levels: $31,200 for a family of one, $35,650 for a family of two, $40,100 for a family of three, $44,500 for a family of four, and so on.

Prospective homes must be inside Washington County, but not in the municipalities of Belpre or Marietta, and they must be the owner’s primary residence, added Vigneron.

An ongoing Community Housing Improvement Program is already benefiting residents in Marietta, said Vigneron. The Marietta grant has helped with the completion of two projects and there are another two in progress, said Vigneron.

“We are still looking for two units for owner-occupied rehab in Marietta,” he added.

The new Washington County grant also includes $22,000 for new construction through Habitat for Humanity, said Vigneron.

These grants are a great benefit to the community, said Washington County Commissioner David White.

The grant helps repair properties that might not otherwise get the attention they need, but the benefits stretch further than just the affected homes, said White.

“It also makes our county and our community a more desirable place for people to come in and relocate. It helps community development as well,” he said.

Interested residents are asked to submit an application to Washington-Morgan Community Action by Feb. 24. The homes that have the greatest need for repairs will be addressed first until the funds are exhausted.

For more information contact the Washington-Morgan Community Action Housing Office at 373-7671.