FILLMORE : City Loans Bring Houses Up to Code

When Alice Villa-Gomez moved into her house on Fillmore's 3rd Street in 1982, she and her husband planned to fix things little by little. The roof leaked, the floors sagged, the plumbing and wiring needed repair, and the house had neither heat nor insulation.

But as the couple's five children grew, so did their monthly bills, and the family despaired of accomplishing its goals.

"We could see we weren't getting anywhere," Villa-Gomez said.

Today, thanks to Fillmore's housing rehabilitation program, which provides low-interest loans to bring houses up to health and safety codes, the remodeling is scheduled to be complete by October.

"It's going to be like getting a whole new house," Villa-Gomez said.

Fillmore's Redevelopment Agency initiated the program in April, 1989.

The Villa-Gomez house in North Fillmore is in one of three target areas that include about 500 houses.

City Manager Roy Payne said loans of $15,000 at 5% interest are available to families of four with a gross income of under $54,250 or couples with incomes under $43,000. The city has budgeted $675,000 for the project.

Recipients of the loans may also qualify for a grant of up to $5,000 for cosmetic improvements, including paint and landscaping, Payne said.

"We want to see people take pride in their neighborhoods," he said.

In some cases, larger loans have been given and there are a variety of repayment schemes, including deferred payment of interest. "We try to tailor it to the individual," Payne said.

Only six homeowners have applied for funding. Payne said that rehabilitation programs are typically slow for the first 18 months, but that the city will follow up notices sent to homeowners last year with reminders about the loans.

Chris Ellsworth was enthusiastic about work recently completed on her house. Her loan paid for insulation, double-paned windows, new plumbing and electrical wiring, a driveway and vinyl siding.

"I got everything I asked for," Ellsworth said. "It's the best thing that ever happened to me."

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