For community members who live on the edge financially, a needed home repair might be beyond their budget.
The Housing Rehab Program, administered by the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments (SEUALG), offers grants and loans through state and federal funds to pay for home repairs for those who qualify.
Barbara Fausett is the program manager. She’s worried that if the community doesn’t take advantage of the program, it could lose its funding.
“It’s a program that is very beneficial to the community … if we don’t utilize these programs, they could go away,” she said. So far, she has been able to use the available funding, but the money has not been evenly spread across the region.
SEUALG serves Carbon, Emery, Grand and San Juan counties. Fausett said almost all of the available funding has been used in Carbon County. The program usually completes between 24 and 32 projects each year. Last year, only three of those projects were in Grand County, and two were in San Juan. Fausett has been trying to raise awareness of the program’s existence in Grand and San Juan counties.
“We’re really wanting to let people know that it’s there and available for them,” she said.
The program uses two funding sources: the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund (OWHLF).
The CDBG is a federal grant available to low-income (60 percent or less of the area’s median income) homeowners who live in their homes, and who are over age of 62, have a disability or care for children under the age of 10. The grant can be up to $10,0000 for home repairs related to health, safety and code compliance.
For more expensive projects, the OWHLF can be used in addition to the CDBG grant. It is a low-interest loan program offered by the state of Utah. The interest rate is determined by the applicant’s income.
Dawna Houskeeper is the assistant program manager. She described last year’s repairs to Moab homes. Each of the three residences they worked on is owned by a woman over the age 62. On one home, the Housing Rehab Program paid for a new roof and a railing and stairs around an open deck. Another home required foundation repair.
“She [the homeowner] had a little addition on her house, and it was actually sinking,” said Houskeeper. “And so we had to actually go in and bring it up, put cement underneath it to even it out. That was a big, interesting project. It doesn’t show after it’s done, but it took money to do it.”
The Housing Rehab program also paid for a new roof on that house.
The third Moab home repaired by the program last year involved several projects. The house received a new roof, the electrical system was redone, two new exterior doors were installed and the furnace was replaced.
“We do a lot of roofs,” Houskeeper said.
Fausett acknowledged that Carbon County has the highest population of the counties served. By U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2017, Carbon County has a population of 20,295, compared to Grand County’s 9,674.
The program’s offices are also located in Carbon County, which she believes contributes to higher awareness in that region. But she has been reaching out to other counties, presenting her program at county council meetings, chamber meetings and senior centers. She is planning to visit the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center and the Castle Valley Town Council meeting.
Fausett said the SEUALG does not have specific data on how many Grand County residents might be eligible for the program, but she’s certain there are many who could take advantage of it and so far haven’t.
“I know they’re there,” she said. “I just can’t seem to connect with them.”
According to 2017 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 1,750 people over the age of 65 in Grand County, 851 people under age 65 with a disability and 1,044 people living in poverty, suggesting that there may be Grand County residents who could benefit from the program.
Fausett also suspects that some potential applicants might be put off by the deed restrictions on the grant. By accepting the grant, the homeowner agrees not to sell, transfer title or refinance within a five year period. If they do any of those things, they must repay the grant money, with a 20 percent reduction each year. For example, if the home was sold two years after the repair, the owner would owe $6,000 back to the program. This restriction is in place to keep people from abusing the program to “flip” homes for a profit. Fausett emphasizes that the restrictions are not meant to harm those in need.
“They’re in the market to keep people in their homes safely,” she said of the federal and state departments who fund the programs. “It’s better for [residents] to be in their home than if social security was paying for them to be in a rest home. That’s the mindset behind why we’re doing this, why these tax dollars are doing these things.”
For more information about the program, visit seualg.utah.gov.
Housing Rehab Program administrators spread the word
“We’re really wanting to let people know that it’s there and available for them.”