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Housing help from SEMCAC

Mon, Sep 12th, 2011
Posted in Home & Garden

Fall is almost here, and this time of year many people start getting their homes ready for winter. However, many people out there are not able to afford to get their homes ready, or to fix safety and code issues. There are people who are not able to get a loan from a bank to do the necessary work, and SEMCAC Community Action Agency is there to help.

SEMCAC helps people in six counties. In 2010, there were 880 households in Fillmore County alone that received Energy Assistance. With this program, applicants receive grant money that pays for a percentage of their heating bill during the winter. The grant is sent directly the heating company. People can also ask to have 30 percent of it sent to their electric company.

According to Sue Thompson from SEMCAC, qualification is determined by a few different factors. "It depends on the number of people in the household, as well as income for the previous three months before applying." Thompson added that it also depends on the type of heating the house has. The grant pays a percentage of what it cost to heat the house the year before.

Families that qualify for heating assistance are automatically screened for the Weatherization program. This is a federally funded program that helps people do home improvements that will improve the energy efficiency in their homes. Things like exterior wall and attic insulation, as well as windows, are worked on to improve efficiency and therefore help save energy costs during the winter. Priority is given to homes with at least one senior citizen, someone with a disability, or a child in the home.

Another program that helps families in need to keep and improve their homes is the Housing Rehab program. Cindy Vitse of SEMCAC explained the loan is funded through the MN Housing Development. The loan has a few stipulations.

"It's income-based, according to the number of people that live in the household, said Vitse. "They have to own the home and live their six months prior to applying. They have to be current with their payments, be current with their property taxes, and have insurance on the house."

Another stipulation is that people must have less than $25,000 in assets, which does not include the house and one car. They receive a 15-year mortgage against the property, or 10 years for a mobile home in a mobile home park. There are no monthly payments, and the loan is forgiven if they remain in their homes for the time of the mortgage.

"A lot of people use this program," said Vitse. "It's not a remodeling program; it rehabilitates homes that need health, safety and code updates."

Vitse said they do roofs, as it affects the safety of the structure of the building, as well as siding and getting rid of lead-based paint. This program has been very helpful and very successful for many people.

"The majority of people I work with could not get loans at the bank to do these type of repairs," said Vitse.

Another program available through SEMCAC, the Fix-Up fund loan program, give people a loan at 5.99 percent interest to do remodeling to their homes, build a garage, siding and roofs. Applicants must have good credit to receive this loan.

Anyone struggling to keep their home up-to-date, or anyone who needs help getting their home ready for winter should contact SEMCAC. For information or to receive an application for energy assistance, call 1-800-944-3281. Call the SEMCAC central office in Rushford at 507-864-7741 for more information on any of these programs.

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