LINCOLN, Maine — Town officials are applying for a $250,000 federal Community Development Block Grant that would be used to upgrade as many as 15 houses occupied by senior citizens or low-income residents, Code Enforcement Supervisor Ruth Birtz said Tuesday.
The idea, Birtz said, is to partner with a local social service agency to administer the grant. Town officials would help identify the single-family houses in need of repair and the agency would handle the bidding of repair contracts and the administration of work.
“We are hopeful we will be successful because it will make these homes more affordable to live in as well as stabilize their property values,” Birtz said. “What happens when you don’t upgrade those components is, the housing prices go down. They sell for less and that can affect many nearby house values.”
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant program is administered through the state government. It pays for large components most senior citizens or low-income families cannot pay for themselves — typically new heating systems, windows, insulation and other items that can reduce heating costs.
Millinocket received a $250,000 grant more than a year ago. Other municipalities that received $250,000 in February 2011 included Calais, Camden, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Farmington, Gouldsboro, Mars Hill and Parkman. The program typically disburses grants to eight to 10 communities annually.
Howland is among the communities that plan to apply for the grant this year, Birtz said. Howland Town Manager Jane Jones did not immediately return messages left Tuesday.
Lincoln is seeking requests for proposals from several social service agencies looking to help administer the grant. As the town’s code enforcement supervisor and assessor, Birtz said she could probably identify as many as 30 homes in Lincoln that would benefit from a grant. In Millinocket, town officials identified 37 single-family homes that could have received aid.
“This is something that we identified as needed a long time ago,” Birtz said, “but because of the staff commitment involved, it would amount to a lot of administrative work, a lot of hours.”
Partnering with a social service agency would correct that problem, Birtz said. Interested agencies have until March 14 to give their proposals to town officials. Grant applications are due May 1. Grant winners will oversee the start of housing repairs this summer, Birtz said.