For homeowners and families who have an income at or below 80% of the federal median income and need to have their house upgraded — help is on its way.
St. Vincent de Paul is bringing their Rural Housing Rehabilitation Program (RHRP) to the Veneta area. This grant offers: “Reasonable terms for home repair, improvement, and preservation of housing for Lane County residents.”
Kay Bork, community development director with the City of Veneta, said that almost half of the applicants are from Veneta, while the others range from Dorena to Fall Creek.
“The city went through an intensive outreach effort when the program was introduced to get people to apply. We put letters in utility bills and went to the senior center and encouraged people to apply,” she said. “We’re happy we have Veneta homes being addressed.”
Bork thought it was “a significant statement” that the council agreed to be an applicant, even though it meant using resources that won’t just be used to help Veneta.
Andy Clay, program manager, said 14 of the 22 applications have been approved and are in various stages, with four of them already in the bidding process for contractors. Although they are still taking applications, there is now a waiting list.
Bork said the City was approached by St. Vincent de Paul because Veneta was one of the smaller cities who had yet to be involved in the program. Bork, who has worked with the non-profit in Junction City, said that she was excited to work with them again because they’re “great to work with.”
“For us, the council agreed because we thought it was important for people to stay in their homes, and if they have significant repairs, to make the house more livable,” she said. “It’s better for the community and better for them. The ultimate outcome is to make safety and health improvements so they can live more comfortably in their own home.”
The collaboration started in 2016 with a needs assessment, and will continue until the end of 2018. The society has two years to spend the money and make the repairs.
The foundation has partnered with Lane County and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to combine federal housing money along with St. Vincent de Paul’s resources to help provide safe and secure loans to people who have been unable to receive a loan through the bank.
Qualifying household incomes range from $33,050 for a one person household, up to $62,350 for an eight person household. The loan doesn’t have to be paid back until after construction, and interest doesn’t accrue during the process.
The goal is to preserve and improve housing, alleviate health and safety problems, and to keep elderly and vulnerable individuals and families in their homes. Examples of the work the non-profit does is repairing roofs, electrical, plumbing, and structural work.
In a press release, St. Vincent de Paul said they have helped a senior citizen with arthritis and glaucoma who had a recent knee replacement install a walk-in bathtub and shower with grab bars. A disabled resident had a new wheelchair ramp built in and automatic lighting.
“It’s rewarding to assist people through the short journey of home repair challenges,” Christina Spencer, loan specialist with St. Vincent de Paul, said in an email. “Because, I know it provides them such long term rewards of relief, safety, and preservation of their biggest investment.”
She said some of the challenges can be waiting for the full repair to take place. Individuals must first qualify for a loan, have it be processed and approved before the property is inspected, and then move forward with the bid and finding a contractor to complete the repair.
Clay said the focus now is to reach out to more general contractors to bid on the projects. The program connects the homeowners with the contractor, and Clay said he’d like to expand their list so it’s sustainable long term.
“As far as contractors out in the Veneta area, I don’t think we have anyone,” he said. “We’re interested in hearing from anyone. There’s business for contractors to be had. The need out there is ever growing, particularly with elderly and disabled folks who are having greater difficulty.”