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Published: Wednesday, 10/2/2002

$550K grant helps qualified residents buy, fix up homes

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bobbi and Josh Killy moved to Wauseon to find a quiet place to raise a family and be near relatives.

What they didn't count on was lead-based paint in their new home, exorbitant utility bills from an aging heater, and mounting house repairs that ballooned them out of their budget.

Five years and three children later, the young couple - he's a lab technician, she's a day-care provider - became “income-qualified” for financial assistance in home repairs last year, Mrs. Killy said.

“It's been great,” she said. “We needed a new furnace, and they replaced a hot water tank we didn't know needed replacing. They found lead paint I had no idea was there.”

Now Columbus has handed Fulton County $550,000 to help more families like the Killys.

The two-year grant is part of a $28 million pot handed down by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Ohio Community Housing Improvement Program, also known as CHIP.

The fund was divvied up around Ohio this summer based on the needs of communities and their track record of spending past program grants. It helps low and moderate-income residents buy or fix homes to meet safety standards.

In Fulton County, a four-person household with an income of $28,350 is considered low-income, while a single person making $19,850 or below is considered low-income, said Liz Keel, housing coordinator for the Maumee Valley Regional Organization, the group that administers the grant for Fulton County.

Throughout the state, many recipients of CHIP funds are working families struggling to meet everyday costs, said Les Warner, assistant chief for the state development department's office of Housing and Community Partnerships.

“There's a lot of working folks who - when you look at their income and you look at the cost of their home - simply don't make what they need,” Mr. Warner said.

The Maumee Valley Regional Planning Organization will focus efforts in several areas in Fulton County:

w $266,500 of the grant will assist 11 homeowners in rehabilitating homes to meet safety codes and provide basic utilities and shelter.

w $78,600 was set aside to help five homebuyers with down payments. To be eligible, participants must agree to work with the office throughout the process of buying their home - from finding the right home to signing the paperwork.

Part of the reason is to prevent participants from falling prey to predatory lenders.

“A lot of times, when you're dealing with this income level, we have lenders who say “Sure, I'll give you a loan,” she said. What they don't say is that it will cost you about three times what it should.”

The grant money can be used to pay up to 5 percent of the purchase price of the home.

w $55,000 is earmarked in a third program for emergency home repairs, such as patching holes in roofs or fixing septic tanks.

w $50,000 will cover the expense of helping Habitat for Humanity build two new homes in the county. The remainder of the grant pays administrative and other smaller costs.

The office this year did not reapply for money that would help landlords fix up rental properties. Only about half of the $100,000 it received two years ago was used, Ms. Keel said.

The Maumee Valley Planning Organization also administers the grants for Defiance County, which received $525,000; Henry County, $500,000; and Paulding County, $525,000. A $550,000 CHIP grant for Williams County is in its second year, Ms. Keel said.



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