A common saying which is familiar to many is “necessity is the mother of invention”. In the current economic conditions we find ourselves in these days, the “mother” is working double-time to take a difficult situation and turn it around for the better.
One such turn-around can be found in Sioux Falls, however many communities across the country have similar programs designed in much the same way. Many low-income families are struggling to make ends meet so setting aside money for home repairs is often at the bottom of a long list of responsibilities.
Enter the Single Family Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program, made available through Sioux Falls Community Development Affordable Housing Division. Eligible families can receive a loan of up to $25,000 towards home repairs, bringing them up to code in many instances.
The program saw a great outpouring of applicants in 2011 – enough of an increase (10%) from 2010 to require re-directing funds from other programs to fund more projects. The increase, according to officials, has been the result of more people choosing to stay put combined with lower buying and building activity.
Darrin Smith, director of Community Development noted that, “This program has the strongest demand of all our programs.”
The program has done more than just help low-income individuals improve their homes – it has resulted in a metamorphosis to some neighborhoods.
“The repairs have translated to significant neighborhood upgrades,” said Kathryn Henning, a member of the Pettigrew Heights Neighborhood Association.
“This program is beneficial to all the core neighborhoods, because it gives people who may not have the extra money to do things like roof work, painting, replace doors and windows, become more efficient with winterization,” she said.
Changes have been made for the current year, based upon what happened in 2011. Smith noted that, “Now, having all of 2011 under our belt, and seeing the same kind of demand we started seeing the last half of 2010 in this program area, we were smart enough to budget appropriately in 2012 for this program”.
Income requirements are fairly liberal – individuals must have an income which is less than 80 percent of the area median income, and must have owned their home for at least one year.
This loan isn’t for cosmetics, however. Smith noted that those individuals applying for these loans must use the funds for “serious rehabilitation issues.”
A side benefit to these upgrades doesn’t cost a thing, but the impact will continue to be felt for some time – hope. Henning observed an increase in morale among homeowners in the areas receiving program funds, as these individuals felt better when critical repairs such as electrical wiring or furnace upgrades were completed, as they felt safer in their own home.
Another bonus to these homeowners is lower costs. A home which has adequate insulation and upgraded heating appliances offers lower fuel costs due to better efficiency.
“It’s a way to improve the neighborhood, and the whole community benefits from that,” said Henning. “It gets rid of the blight that can be present and makes the area surrounding downtown much more desirable to live in and visit. It’s benefiting the whole city.”