by Jordan Green

The city of High Point is providing grants to low-income households with special needs to pay for home repairs.

Many homeowners can relate to the dilemma of needing to make thousands of dollars worth of repairs to preserve the value of their home — often their most significant asset — but having no extra income after mortgage payments, utilities and groceries to make the investment.

Even if they’ve built up some equity in their property, they might not be able to shoulder the additional debt burden that comes with taking out a new loan.

Meanwhile, the city of High Point holds a vested interest in helping homeowners make repairs both to shore up the city’s tax base and to encourage new investment. For both the resident and the city, the worst thing that can happen is for the home to be lost to foreclosure, because it becomes uninhabitable and the homeowner stops making monthly payments.

The city’s Urgent Repair Program provides funds of up to $8,000 to low-income residents to make repairs. Now in its second year, the program is funded by the state Housing Finance Agency. To date, the city has rehabbed 12 properties through the program, Affordable Housing Manager Richard Fuqua said. The city recently received $100,000 from the state with plans to address about 20 properties.

The program is targeted at households who earn 30 to 50 percent of area median income. Fuqua said the city determined that asking residents to put up their own money to match the city’s investment would be unrealistic.

“With the income levels of each of these households it was found that there was very little or not any disposable incomes to be able to stay in their home,” Fuqua said. “If you’re handicapped and you need grab bars in your bathroom or access ramps, these funds can be used to provide those accessibility aides as well.”

Common repairs addressed by the program also include leaking roofs, severe plumbing problems, dangerous electrical problems and heating and air-conditioning deficiencies.

To qualify, residents must live in the city of High Point and have a household income of not more than 50 percent of area median income. For a family of four that would be $28,950. To be eligible, residents must also have a special need.

“You have to be elderly, or handicapped or disabled,” Fuqua said. “Or you have to be a single parent with a child living in the home, a family of five or more household members, or if you have a child under the age of 6 that has an elevated blood level.”

The state funding guidelines cap the amount that can be spent at $8,000 per property, but Fuqua said the city allocated an additional $10,000 to cover repairs in instances when the cost has exceeded that amount.

The repair funds available to eligible residents are described in a brochure produced by the city as an “unsecured deferred, interest-free loan,” but function as a grant. Recipients are required to sign a promissory note, but the loan is forgiven at a rate of $1,000 per year until the principal is completely eliminated.

Fuqua said the city is eager to publicize the program, particularly to residents with very low incomes.

“We are wanting to make sure the community is aware of the resources available, particularly to people in the very low-income category of 30 percent or below area median income,” he said.

Most of the households that have taken advantage of the program to date are in older areas of the city near the center. “We have representation throughout the city, but the majority of our focus has been in the core city, where a lot of the older homes have been built and continue to exist,” Fuqua said. “We want to continue to improve the housing stock and help people who don’t have the income to maintain those homes.”

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