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Cannelton residents: Want free money for home repair?

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Get application, information at utilities office or city hall

CANNELTON – Cannelton homeowners are encouraged to apply for funding to help them make repairs to their houses, people working to obtain that money have said several times.

Their most recent urging came during a special meeting of the city’s common council Feb. 24, when Tony Pappano explained procedures that will be followed if an application for a community-development block grant is successful.

As the News reported Feb. 24 and Thursday, city leaders adopted a comprehensive plan to bolster their application’s chances for success and hired Insight 2000 to submit it and, if approved, administer it.

“It’s going to be very competitive,” the company’s Tony Pappano said as the latest meeting opened. “We’re going to do everything we can to get funding.”

“I think you’re in a very good position in terms of need,” he said before beginning a description of a housing procedures manual he said “will determine who gets put on the program and who doesn’t, in priority.”

Pappano secured the council’s approval of the manual, which applicants can pick up at the Cannelton’s utilities office or City Hall. It describes income, types of work and other criteria that will go into decisions about granting loans that will be forgiven if homeowners reside in the repaired properties long enough. A loan of less than $5,000, for example, will require a homeowner to remain in the house for one year. Two years’ residency will be required for loans between $5,000 and $10,000 and three years will be required for higher amounts. People who leave before meeting the residency mandates will be required to repay prorated balances on the loans.

The city would apply for $350,000, which could fund repairs for “at least 20 houses and more than that, depending on what needs to be done,” Pappano added. “We’re going to get down to the point of who gets help and how do you determine who gets help? That’s what you’ve hired us for. You are not going to be involved as a city council in selecting people who get on the program.”

Up to $20,000 can be borrowed for a single property, Pappano said.

All of the applications will be confidential, so city officials won’t see information residents submit, such as income, he added.

Applicants must live within the city limits, he said, and income limits are listed on the last page of the manual. They range from a single householder earning $12,500 a year to a seven-member home with income of $58,850 and are based on federal regulations. Points are assigned for criteria such as income, age and disability status.

“The purpose of the program is, naturally, to help the people and bring their homes up to certain standards,” Pappano said, “but the other purpose is to stabilize the community.” He noted that a lot of discussion about substandard buildings occurs throughout the city and at council meetings. The loans can go toward roofing, foundation, heating, electrical, plumbing or insulation repair or replacement and other problems.

A problem facing many older residents is laundry equipment they can’t get to.

“Age catches up with us,” Pappano said, explaining he’s heard from many people who say their washer and dryer are down in the basement, “and I can’t go down those steps anymore, and I don’t want to go anywhere else, I want to stay in my home. Can you help us redo some plumbing and bring the washer and dryer upstairs?”

“Yes we can,” he said. “These are the kinds of issues that you get into.”

People also tell him things like “I have a little bit of money saved, but a roof’s going to cost $7,000 or $8,000, and I just don’t have that kind of money or it’s going to take all my savings,” he said. “We can come in and help.”

“If you decide you want a swimming pool attached to your house because it gets hot in the summer,” he continued, “we can’t do it.”

The city advertised to compile a bidders list and bids for any work authorized under the program will be opened at a public meeting, Pappano said. While he’s prevented from excluding any interested contractor, “we want a lot of local people involved” as much as possible, he added. If a large discrepancy exists between two bids for an electrical job, he’ll look into the reason.

If a homeowner feels, for example, “this guy that bid $2,500, I don’t like his work, he’s been ripping us off, he’s no good,” Pappano said. “Well, we go back and check it, and say … we disagree with you. Our records show that he does good work. If you want to hire this other person and pay the extra $2,000, you’ve got the prerogative to do that.”

Income verification will occur for each application, Pappano said. Varying circumstances, such as recent employment or unemployment and amount of savings available, can make eligibility more complex than it seems.

“Have people fill these things out,” Pappano said about the application. “Don’t let them determine whether they’re eligible or not, because it’s just too complicated.”

If the application for the current round of funding is not approved, opportunities to resubmit it will come later this year, Pappano said.

In a November 2007 News report, Pappano said homes in the city’s historic district could pose difficulties as regulations for the district conflict with those for the grant program. He said after the latest meeting that shouldn’t deter people from applying, either.

“We’ve rehabbed several houses here in the district,” he said. “It worked out fine.”