Grant money aids Lake County emergency home repair

BALDWIN – In troubling economic times in Lake County and the state of Michigan, finding funds for emergency home repairs is often difficult.

Lake County residents now have a place to turn to, as the county has received a $150,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s Community Development Block Grant program.

The program is open to all homeowners of Lake County who are in need of emergency repair or who qualify for home rehabilitation.

The program is designed from low-to-moderate income households, said Sandy Clarke, a Lake County commissioner and the county’s CDBG program coordinator.

“These funds not only improves the livelihood of residents who cannot afford to do the repairs themselves,” she said. “But also improves the value of a homeowner’s property and surrounding businesses.

“For a single person, the income level is about $13,600 and for two people in a home, it’s about $26,500,” she said during the Lake County Housing Committee’s CDBG monthly workshop.

Clarke and County Commissioner John Fairbanks hold open workshops on every second Tuesday of the month in the commissioner’s room on the second floor of the Lake County Courthouse, located at 800 10th St. in Baldwin.

Along with income eligibilty, all applicants for the grant must own the property they live in, have home owners’ insurance and be legal residents of Lake County.

The program is for two kinds of repair, emergency home repair or home rehabilitaion.

Emergency repair qualifies as something essential to the home such as the roof, windows or the foundation. Home rehabilitation is something such an issue with a septic tank, wells, ceiling insulation, or whether a room in the house such as the kitchen or the bathroom is hazardous and needs repair, Clarke said.

For emergency home repair, all applicants must have previously been denied for assistance by the Michigan Department of Human Services, FiveCAP and the Lake-Osceola State Bank.

After a homeowner submits an application, a representative from the Lake County Building Inspector’s office inspects the property and recommends what needs to be repaired.

The county then bids out the job publically and the county must accept the lowest bid.

“It’s about a 30-day process,” Clarke said.

The program allows up to $10,000 in repairs per home but the repairs must be feasible to the overall condition of the house.

The program, which began in 2011 is all already paying off residents that Clarke has dealt with.

“We’ve been able to help several residents in 2011,” she said. “We’ve helped them from doing our home rehabilitation program in with a homeowner in Irons, to being able to get one of our senior residents a handicap accessible ramp which was greatly needed along with fixing several windows in her home this past winter.”

Clarke said that with the warmer weather spring and summer brings, construction will be starting up and by May 5, at least 10 projects will begin and the program has 25 applicants going through the process and finishing by Labor Day weekend

The next workshop that the Lake County Housing Committee will have is from 2 to 4 p.m. on May 8 at the Lake County Courthouse.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the date of the next housing workshop).