BREWER, Maine — City officials say dozens of local low- to moderate-income homeowners have been able to improve their homes thanks to Community Development Block Grants issued to Brewer over the past five years.
The problem is there is a lot more work to do, which is why the city is applying for more CDBG funds, James Smith, assistant Brewer city manager, said Tuesday.
“We have a high need,” he said. “We have a lot of older homes. We put out a pre-application and we’ve been overwhelmed by people who qualify and are interested in this program.”
The grant funds are available to homeowners and landlords who rent their buildings to low- to moderate-income tenants, Smith said.
The city is applying for $300,000 in CDBG funds through the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, which gets the funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The DECD has set aside $2.3 million for the housing improvement program this year, which means only eight or so communities will get funds, consultant Ron Harriman said.
The CDBG housing assistance grants can be used for improving the efficiency of heating systems, fixing electrical or plumbing problems or repairing a roof, and can cover the costs of installing replacement windows, doors or siding, or adding a wheelchair ramp.
Landlords are required to match any funds used to improve their properties and homeowners must provide “work equity” as a contribution.
“Landlords or owners are required to contribute half of the costs,” Smith said.
Homeowners also must agree not to sell the home for five years. If they do sell, they must pay back the CDBG account for the repairs based on a sliding scale so it can be used to help others make home improvements, he said.
Brewer’s first round of CDBG funding, issued in 2004, helped a total of 121 Brewer residents through 22 single-family home projects and renovations at 16 apartment buildings, Harriman said. The second grant was issued in 2008 and assisted a similar number of residents, he said.
“We tried to help the people with the greatest need,” said Smith. “There was a high focus on the elderly and people on fixed incomes.”
The 2008 grant funds paid for upgrading heating systems. He said some people had 40- or 50-year-old boilers. Some of the outdated home heating systems were replaced with newer, more efficient ones while other homes were connected to natural gas lines, Smith said.
He added that other projects included new smoke detectors, new roofs and addressing handicapped-accessibility issues and sewer problems.
“It really does do a lot of good things,” Harriman said.
The income guidelines are regional within the state. In Brewer, a single homeowner can make up to $34,550 and still qualify, and a family of four can make up to $49,350.
With the last round of CDBG funding, Brewer partnered with a number of local agencies to stretch the money, and the plan is to do the same again if the city is awarded 2011 funds, Smith said.
Any homeowner or landlord interested in funding to improve their dwellings is invited to attend a public hearing on the CDBG funding scheduled for the Brewer City Council meeting in March, Smith said.
“We are interested in community feedback,” Smith said. “We’ll also be there to answer any questions they have.”
The meeting date has not been set, but is scheduled tentatively for March 23 or March 29, the city clerk said.
Those interested in the program may fill out a CDBG pre-application, the form for which is posted on the city’s website, brewerme.org, and is available at City Hall. For information, call Smith at 989-7500 or the Community Development Office at 947-8595.