By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
A nonprofit housing group plans to help make major improvements to two homes in Shenandoah County.
People Inc. on Tuesday received the go-ahead from the Board of Supervisors to move forward on another effort to improve the quality of living for low-income residents. Supervisors authorized the county administrator to sign agreements through the Scattered Site Housing Rehabilitation Project through the federal Community Development Block Grant program..
People Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Goldsmith gave a report to supervisors regarding the two projects.
Virginia allocated federal community development block grant funds to its indoor plumbing improvement program which had seen reductions in recent years, according to Goldsmith. The state would award funds through its Department of Housing and Community Development directly to designated local nonprofit organizations. With the CDBG funds, the state sends money to local governments which then pass the grants on to the nonprofit.
Under this grant system the state addressed residences served by outdoor privies. People Inc. identified three properties the organization determined could benefit from the program. The state approved funding for two of the properties, though Goldsmith noted the organization may have enough money to service a third home.
An elderly couple who receive income from Social Security benefits lives in a home where a rain barrel and downspout serve as their water source and an outdoor privy. The house has an assessed value of $11,000. Under the grant, People Inc. would make $62,000 worth of improvements to the home. Much of the cost of the improvements would come with the installation of a well and septic system. Improvements also include rehabilitation of the house to bring the structure up to the quality standards set forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"It's not to make it nicer cosmetically, but to make sure that its basic systems - electrical, plumbing, structural - are all solved," Goldsmith said. "We think it will upgrade the entire community and a minor increase to the county's taxbase and a much better living environment for those who live there."
The house needs improvements to its electrical system, which Goldsmith described as unsafe for the occupants.
The second home - a single-room building - would receive similar treatment under the project. The resident is a 46-year-old disabled military veteran, according to Goldsmith. The resident receives water via a rainbarrel and downspout, Goldsmith said.
The man's bathroom consists of "a chair with a bucket under it," Goldsmith said. The site cannot accommodate a standard septic system so it would need an engineered system approved by the health department, according to Goldsmith.
The project would include the installation of a well and the construction of bathroom, kitchen and a bedroom. The existing home has structural issues and so People plans to install vinyl siding and perform other work to improve the building.
But the residents still must pay for some of the cost of the projects. In both cases the financing for the homeowners would be structured with a combination of payable and forgivable loans, according to Goldsmith. The state agency calculates repayment of the loans as a figure up to 40 percent of the residents' income. The money repaid goes back into the funds used to further projects aimed to improve housing in the county, according to Goldsmith. The remaining amount deemed unpayable would be forgiven after the person has lived in the home for 10 years. If the owner decides to sell the house before the end of the 10 years then the resident would need to repay the amount beyond the 40 percent of their income.
"We think the whole community will benefit, not just from knowing that there's two fewer households struggling from this kind of thing in the county but upgrading both the communities that they live in," Goldsmith said.