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A dropcloth lined a path to the hallway where two men tore out the heating and air conditioning unit in Cheryl Knollman’s Columbus home on DeSoto Way.

The unit was the same one that was in her house June 7, 2008, when floodwaters from nearby Haw Creek rose 2½ feet into her home.

This day, Knollman’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit was being replaced through a city program that aids income-eligible owners of homes that were damaged in the flood.

The Columbus Housing Improvement Flood Program, funded by a grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is intended to help those homeowners and neighborhoods, said Mary Ferdon, Columbus’ director of community development.

The program’s intent is to help homeowners stay in homes that were damaged so they don’t have to leave them, adversely affecting the neighborhood.

The city began awarding bids for repair work this summer. Fifteen homes are under contract for repairs and four more are in the bidding and inspection process, Ferdon said. Most of the homes approved for the program are near Haw Creek, floodwaters from which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage in the city.

Knollman is receiving nearly $20,000 in home improvements through the program that she said she otherwise would not be able to afford for her one-story, three-bedroom, one-bathroom house built in 1959.

“I’m thrilled with the opportunity. I feel blessed, especially four years since the flood. I’m very excited there are still resources out there to help,” said Knollman, a 33-year-old, single mother of three who is director of Christian education at St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Besides a new HVAC unit, she’s getting new siding for the house, new roof shingles, a new front door, replacement for rotted woodwork around the front door, a storm door rehung, a new electrical box and insulation. Total cost of the work is $19,736.

“I’m amazed I’m getting as much for the money as I am,” Knollman said.

The help is monumental, she said, considering how the house was damaged four years ago.

Her then-husband was on his way home from work when Knollman — pregnant with their third child — noticed water coming into the house through the small cat-door entrance. By the time he arrived home, water had risen about 2 feet in the house. Her husband had to carry their then-4-month-old daughter above his head to his sport utility vehicle.

They drove to St. Paul Lutheran Church for shelter.

When the water receded, they saw the wreckage. Everything was waterlogged. Mud was everywhere, filling the bathtub, toilet and freezer. Her SUV was ruined. All the carpet had to be pulled up, and drywall 4½ feet high on all walls needed to be replaced.

“It was very overwhelming at first, because how do you cope?” said Knollman, whose birthday was a week after the flood.

But she eventually realized that what was damaged were material items that could be replaced.

A family from church let the Knollmans stay in their basement for four months while they worked to make the house livable.

Knollman said she learned about the CHIP program this year in a letter. She went on the city’s website, printed an application form and sent it in. After the paperwork was approved, an inspector came to her house to see what improvements would be best.

Columbus received $477,598 for the home-improvement program, with $150,000 targeted specifically for the Northbrook subdivision in northern Columbus.

“We know we had a lot of impacted homes in that area,” Ferdon said.

CHIP provides forgivable loans up to $20,000.

“This will help people continue to live in the houses and restore them so they are not abandoned,” Ferdon said.

Homeowners must meet income requirements to be eligible for the program and must live in the homes for three years after the repairs for the loan to be forgiven, Ferdon said.

Knollman said her fiancee will move into the house after they are married. Five people will be a tighter squeeze, but they’ll make it work for three years, she said.

Homeowners do not need to have lived in the homes when the 2008 flood hit. Repairs to the home do not necessarily have to be a result of flood damage.

The city has less than $195,000 remaining to repair houses, so applications are still being accepted, Ferdon said. The city would like to finish the bid process by the end of December, she added.

For help

Call Columbus Community Development Office 376-2520, or go online at and click on the Community Development page for a copy of the brochure and application.

CHIP requirements

Applicants must:

  • Own their home and be a single-family, owner-occupied home
  • Have home insurance for the entire affordability period (up to three years)
  • Have homes that are on a permanent foundation
  • Be current in property taxes
  • Be income eligible
  • Homes in the flood plain and contract sales are not eligible.


A household’s income has to be under 80 percent of the area’s median income limit:

$38,200: One person

$43,650: Two people

$49,100: Three people

$54,550: Four people

$58,950: Five people

$63,300: Six people

$67,650: Seven people

$72,050: Eight people

Qualifying repairs

Qualifying repairs for the Columbus Housing Improvement Flood Program include:

  • Roofs
  • Heating, cooling and plumbing
  • Electric upgrades
  • Windows and doors
  • Siding
  • Floors
  • Lead-based paint hazards

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