Loans to fix rural homes offered

The goal is to help repair homes before they become unsafe.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:09 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development office is offering grants and low-interest loans for residents of Boone and Howard counties for home repair.

The idea is to provide rural residents who cannot afford to fix their houses an opportunity to do just that before the houses become a health or safety hazard.

“The golden point is that it allows people to stay in their homes when they ordinarily wouldn’t be able to,” said Jan Bonnes, manager for the Rural Development office in Columbia.

According to the 2005 report on the status of seniors in Boone County, released by the Boone County Council on Aging, 2,900 households led by people over the age of 65 have an annual income of less than $25,000.

To be eligible in Boone County, a one-person household has to earn less than $21,700 a year and be in a city with a population of 20,000 or less.

The grants will provide up to $7,500 to homeowners who are 62 or older and have assets worth less than $10,000. With the low-interest loans, people of any age can borrow a maximum of $20,000 at 1 percent interest and repay it within 20 years.

Previous recipients of loans and grants have most commonly used the funds to repair roofs, modernize heating and wiring systems, improve accessibility for people with disabilities, and install storm windows and septic tanks, Bonnes said in a news release.

Applications can be picked up at the USDA’s office, 601 Business Loop 70 W., Suite E. People who cannot go to the office may call 875-5540 ext. 4 to arrange mailing of the application.

Applications are processed within 30 days. Once eligibility is confirmed, the Columbia office sends out a description of the repairs to contractors and selects the most competitive bid. Project completion takes 30 to 90 days.

In 2006, the Missouri USDA distributed $2.6 million to 571 families.

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