City to seek $350,000 in home improvement funds

Citywide interest in a new grant funding opportunity is enabling the Columbus community development department to apply for $350,000 in home improvement dollars for elderly and disabled residents.

Last month, the community development department began soliciting applications for the Homeowner Repair and Improvement Program Grant, a funding program meant to help residents who are either disabled or at least 55 years old make improvements to their homes that meet the needs of their disabilities.

The process for applying for the grant, which is also known as an aging in place grant, was the opposite of how most grant applications work, said Mary Ferdon, city executive director of administration and community development.

Rather than applying for the funds and then distributing the money to residents, the aging in place grant required the city to first seek out residents interested in using the grant money and then apply for a certain amount of funding based on the level of interest.

Ferdon said 20 residents submitted applications for the aging in place grant, which enabled her department to apply for the full $350,000 that was available.

Trena Carter with the Administrative Resources Association, which is helping the city administer the grant, said about half of the applicants who applied for funding have some sort of disability. The money can be used to make improvements such as widening doors for wheelchairs or installing accessibility ramps.

The grant also requires the city match the funding by 10 percent — in this case, $35,000. The Columbus City Council unanimously approved that match at its June 21 meeting when councilors approved an additional appropriation of $75,000 to the city’s unsafe building fund. The city’s match to the grant will be used for construction costs, Carter said.

In the past, Carter said the city has received about 75 percent of the money it applied for through similar grants, but another grant opportunity can be used to supplement any funds the city does not receive through the aging in place grant.

Columbus was recently awarded nearly $240,000 through the federal Community Development Block Grant program. About $44,000 from that pool of money will be distributed to the community development department for rehabilitation of single-family, owner-occupied housing, similar to the purpose of the aging in place grant.

Funds from the Community Development Block Grant can be used to supplement funds from the aging in place grant, which will enable the city to help more local residents make improvements to their homes, Carter said.

The Administrative Resources Association will be paid about $81,000 to serve as the grant administrator, unanimously approved at last week’s Board of Works meeting.

Carter said the organization will use those funds to dedicate about $15,000 in rehabilitation money to each of the homes that will be serviced through the aging in place grant.

The city’s grant application was due July 1 and a final funding announcement likely will be made Aug. 28, Carter said.

About the grant

Applicants who applied for funding through the aging in place grant were required to meet certain living qualifications, including:

  • Be 55 years old or a disabled household
  • Live within the Columbus city limits
  • Live in single-family, owner-occupied homes
  • Live in a home that is insured
  • Live in a home that is on a permanent foundation
  • Not live in a flood plain
  • Be in need of modifications based on a referral and/or home assessment

Applicants also had to meet income guidelines, which include:

  • One-person household, gross income less than $37,950
  • Two-person household, gross income less than $43,350
  • Three-person household, gross income less than $48,750
  • Four-person household, gross income less than $54,150
  • Five-person household, gross income less than $58,500
  • Six-person household, gross income less than $62,850
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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.