Rebates, Low-Interest Loans for Low-Income Plight : Cities Offer Help on Home Repairs
When Cecil and Vivian Kelley moved into their home on Halkett Avenue in Rosemead 35 years ago, they were ecstatic. With two bedrooms, one bathroom and a living room, they had room to spare. But 10 years and two children later, the Kelleys were cramped. And after adding two bedrooms and another bathroom, they ran out of money and their home eventually fell into disrepair.
By May, the Kelleys knew some work had to be done to save their house. They turned to the city of Rosemead for help.
Through Rosemead’s Home Beautification Program, residents who qualify under household income limits established by the federal government can receive rebates of up to $5,000 for work done to upgrade their homes. The Kelleys are the first to have their home repaired under the Rosemead program.
“We weren’t planning anything elaborate,” Vivian Kelley said. “We just wanted to get rid of the termites in our window sills and have the house restuccoed and painted.”
However, because the couple live on a fixed income, they could not afford to have the work done. Nor could Cecil, 60, a retired postal worker who has asthma, make the necessary repairs himself.
“For us it was a godsend,” Vivian Kelley said. “We might have tried to paint the house ourselves but it would have taken a very long time and we certainly wouldn’t have had it restuccoed.”
Other Cities’ Programs
Two other San Gabriel Valley cities, Glendora and Duarte, offer home improvement rebates. West Covina, Pasadena and El Monte offer a variety of low-interest and deferred payment loans to homeowners and, in some instances, to landlords and renters.
To qualify for home improvement assistance, a single person’s income cannot exceed $16,150; a two-person family, $18,450; three people, $20,750; four people, $23,050; five people, $24,500; and six people, $25,950.
Rosemead’s program covers facade improvements such as roofing, sandblasting, stuccoing, exterior painting, window replacement, block wall fencing and driveway installation. No interior work is covered.
“The program is helping low- to middle-income people upgrade their homes, something that most of them ordinarily wouldn’t be able to do without a little help,” said Jim Guerria, a Rosemead consultant.
The repairs include standard housing essentials that people cannot do without, Guerria said.
“By improving the conditions of the homes in the neighborhoods, we are rehabilitating the city,” he said.
After the Kelleys found they were eligible for a rebate through the Rosemead program, they gathered $2,400 to pay contractors, then got 50% of it back from the city after the work was completed and the contractors were paid. The procedure, which includes filing the application, selecting a contractor, having the work done and receiving the rebate, took three weeks.
Aside from home improvement rebates, Rosemead offers eligible homeowners Handyman Grants of up to $1,500 to residents age 62 and older, a no-interest loan of up to $35,000 payable only after the home is sold or the title is transferred, and low-interest loans at 6% or 8% depending on income level.
But the rebate program has been the most popular, Guerria said.
“Because families must qualify for a bank loan, have a complete inspection of their property by the city and worry about loan interest rates, most of them opt for the rebate program,” Guerria said.
Under the rebate program, homes must be inspected to certify the need for repairs and applicants must get bids from three licensed contractors. Program officials help homeowners select a contractor.
“We like to help the homeowners pick contractors because there have been stories over the years of disreputable contractors taking advantage of people,” Guerria said. “We don’t want that to happen here.”
To date, the Kelleys are the only Rosemead family to complete home repairs under the program, which was allotted $50,000 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in January. Repairs are under way on the homes of four other families and several others have applied, Guerria said.
Funds for the program come from the Community Development Block Grant program under a federal grant through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD administers community block grants nationwide. Cities qualify for HUD funds on the basis of population and median income. Qualifications are reviewed annually.
More Than 400 Participants
Glendora offers home improvement rebates ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on income level. More than 400 Glendora residents have participated in the program, which is similar to Rosemead’s.
“Most of the people we see just don’t have the money to fix up their homes,” said Joann Atler, home improvement coordinator for Glendora. “Consequently by the time they come to us they have no choice. The repairs must be made.”
Most of the repairs involve leaky roofs, inadequate wiring and outdated plumbing, Atler said.
Although the rebate program has been “extremely popular,” Glendora may add a home improvement loan program in July, Atler said. The change would enable more people to receive funds, she said.
“Right now the money we are getting is not revolving,” she said. “We are giving money away and not getting any back. Unfortunately, programs without any financial returns are the ones that are cut by the federal government,” she said.
Arcadia to Begin One
The Arcadia City Council has approved a plan to develop such a program for the city next year, Planning Director Bill Woolard said.
Duarte has had its own program, a maximum $500 rebate that covers the cost of materials only, since 1979. The funds come out of the Duarte general fund and are available to all Duarte residents.
Although West Covina started a rebate program in 1974, the city discontinued it in 1977.
“The rebate program didn’t work for us,” said Gus Salazar, director of human resources for West Covina. “We couldn’t keep up with it because we ran out of funds.”
Because the city lost most of its block grants in 1977, a deferred no-interest loan program was created. No repayment is required until the house is sold. Through this program, residents have borrowed up to $5,000 per household since 1977.
“We average about 35 loans a year,” Salazar said.
Five Different Plans
El Monte has five home improvement plans which include a $3,000 grant for senior citizens and handicapped people and low-interest and deferred-payment loans. It also offers a 10% rental rehabilitation loan to landlords for upgrading apartments.
During the seven years El Monte has offered such plans, 400 senior citizens and handicapped people have received grants and more than 300 residents have received $15,000 deferred loans. That plan will be expanded during the next fiscal year to include a variable interest rate loan, said Tim Esparza, housing program coordinator for El Monte.
Pasadena offers homeowners 3.5% to 4.5% loans of up to $15,000, rental rehabilitation loans and $10,000 deferred loans.
However, because of federal budget cuts, the amount of money to Pasadena residents will be reduced at the end of the fiscal year in June, said Sandra Florentino, housing rehabilitation specialist.
The $10,000 deferred loan will be cut by $2,500 and the low-interest loan by $5,000.
“Things have been pretty stable so far,” Florentino said. “I don’t foresee any problems.”