Low-income homeowners get a hand with repairs

April 19, 1993|By Patrick Gilbert | Patrick Gilbert,Staff Writer

It may not be the Society Hill Holly tour, but Annie C. Moore fairly gushes with pride as she escorts a visitor through her plain white frame bungalow.

Mrs. Moore, 68, points out the new replacement windows, the new floor around the once-leaking bathroom toilet and the new roof. The $19,500 of work brought the house she has lived in for 31 years up to Baltimore County's building code standards. Work ended March 30.

"I can hold my head high now and be proud of my house," said Mrs. Moore, a widow who raised six children in her home in the Watersedge section of Dundalk.

She is one of 65 county homeowners who have been helped by the county's Single Family Rehab Program this year.

The 10-year-old program is financed by federal Community Development Block Grant funds. The money is used to repair homes of elderly and low-income people who can't afford to bring their houses up to code. The program has a cap of $20,000 for each homeowner.

"The end result of this program is that we are preserving old housing stock in the county," said Frank W. Welsh, county community development director.

The federal money is lent to the homeowner to pay for the work. The county has issued 65 loans in the fiscal year that ends June 30, and completed 75 rehabilitation projects.

About $750,000 was earmarked for the program this fiscal year, Mr. Welsh said.

So far just more than $217,000 has been paid back to the county from the loans.

"We haven't had to advertise the program because it seems to get around well enough by word of mouth," said Peter L. Matthews, who administers the program. Mr. Matthews said he also explains the program at neighborhood meetings.

Mrs. Moore heard about the program when she called the county Department of Aging to ask about medical assistance.

"I told them I couldn't afford to see a doctor, let alone fix my house, which was in bad shape," Mrs. Moore said. "They told my about the family rehab program."

Homeowners who apply to the program can't have household incomes that exceed 80 percent of the median family income level in the metropolitan area, Mr. Matthews said.

The median income for a family of four is $35,300 a year.

If a homeowner meets the income requirements, an inspector is sent to the house to document everything that must be done to meet building codes.

Mrs. Moore's inspector found her house to be every bit as bad as she had described. Every time it rained, she filled her living room with pots and pans to catch the leaks.

Moore said.

The inspector also found the home's electrical system did not meet code requirements.

"We have to take care of everything the inspector finds that doesn't meet code," Mr. Matthews said.

Once in the program, the homeowner applies for a loan just like any other homebuyer, he said.

There are two types of loans -- deferred and nondeferred. A deferred loan carries no interest and does not have to be repaid until the house is sold. Nondeferred loans are for homeowners who can make the payments. The interest rate is 4 percent, usually over 20 years.

The check for the work is made out to the contractor and the homeowner, so the owner has to be satisfied before signing over the money.

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