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Emmet residents to benefit from housing program

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

SHELDON – Emmet County residents, along with those in other northwest Iowa counties, will benefit as soon as early next year from a new housing trust fund.

The Northwest Iowa Regional Housing Trust Fund board of directors learned in a meeting Thursday in Sheldon that $278,211 was allocated for the trust which includes Emmet, Lyon, Osceola, O’Brien, and Sioux counties. Under the program, households earning 80 percent or less of the county average would be eligible for housing rehabilitation financing. Priority would be given to those who earn 30 percent or below of the area median income who would be eligible for outright grants.

In Emmet County, financing eligibility would be as follows: one person, $31,700; two, $36,250; three, $40,750; four, $45,300; five, $48,900; six, $52,550; seven, $56,150 and eight, $59,800.

Emmet County grant eligibility guidelines for those earning 30 percent or less of average income are: one person, $11,900; two, $13,600; three, $15,300; four, $17,000; five, $18,350; six, $19,700; seven, $21,100 and eight, $22,450.

Low to moderate income households will be awarded a combination of loans up to $10,000 and forgivable grants up to $5,000. Moderate income households with incomes between 80 percent and 10 percent of the area median income would be only awarded loans up to $10,000. The trust fund board will later determine a rating scale for applicants and funding will be given when available.

“We’re doing about as well as anyone can as far as being allocated,” said Carol Keizer, planner with Northwest Iowa Planning & Development Commission which is handling trust management and operations. Keizer said funding was given on the fact that the trust is regionally based and on per capita data.

Participating counties and cities will allocate funds to the trust to help leverage grant dollars at a rate of return of $5 for every $1 invested. Any money raised in a county will remain in that county.

Local governments are currently being asked for letters and resolutions of support for the trust which will in no way obligate them later financially. The trust will need letters of support from 80 percent of local governments to qualify when it applies for certification in July.

Funding priorities will go to owner-occupied housing and emergency housing repairs which would include lead-based paint abatement or furnace or plumbing repairs. Iowa’s Time of Transfer law which takes effect July 1 requires that septic systems be updated to adequate standards at the time of sale, and that’s another area that would fall under emergency repair. Funds for both rehabilitation and emergency repairs would be limited to owner-occupants which include 79-80 percent of the housing in the region served by the trust, Keizer said.

Unlike the federally funded housing rehabilitation program that the City of Estherville is currently undertaking, the regional housing trust would have more leeway as to how it wants the funds distributed.

“We can do anything we want with our money,” Keizer said, noting that the trust fund board will ultimately set the guidelines for giving housing loans and grants.

At its next meeting July 23 the board will act on approving the operating agreement with Northwest Iowa Planning and Development Commission and the housing assistance plan.