$200K in HOME Grants Up For Grabs

Contributed by: Ann Hinch knoxnews.com on 1/10/2007

Just under $200,000 will soon be parceled out to a few eligible homeowners in Lenoir City to fix up or replace their houses in low-income neighborhoods.

Last summer, the city received a $215,000 HOME grant through Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) from the federal Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. Of this, $15,050 is Knoxville firm Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon's (BWSC) fee to administer the grant; the firm is also allotted up to $1,800 for each smaller individual award to conduct a house inspection.

Such inspections will follow on the heels of a selection process, according to Lenoir City Administrator Dale Hurst. BWSC will sort applications according to income, individual circumstances and other relevant criteria as set out in policies and procedures approved by city council at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Is there a predetermined number of how many homeowners the $200,000 will help? "Not really, until they start inspections," Hurst explained.

Based on past experience, however, BWSC Vice President Gwen Brown estimated there will probably be three or four recipients. There does not seem to be a cap beyond repairs or replacement "necessary to make the dwelling unit conform to the housing standards adopted by the City of Lenoir City and THDA," but Brown's estimate suggests perhaps no more than $50,000 per recipient.

"I wouldn't want to discourage anybody from applying," Hurst said, asked if he would offer any advice for successful application. In his decade with the city, it has received the HOME grant a few other times - the last time was $500,000 in 2004.

Those who receive the grant for rehabilitation will get the money free and clear so long as they don't sell their improved home for at least five years upon completion of the work. Recipients who qualify instead for a new home must live there 15 years or pay back a portion of the loan based on an amortization schedule, depending on how long after reconstruction they sell the house.

Hurst said work may begin by summer, and the city must exhaust this HOME grant before it can apply again.

Applications and guidelines are available at city hall as of Jan. 12. Brown recommends interested parties pick one up soon and bring any questions to a public hearing BWSC is holding at Lenoir City hall Jan. 30. The hearing will begin at 4 p.m. and run as long as need be.

The application deadline is Feb. 16. Anyone with questions should stop by city hall during business hours or call 986-2715.

BWSC is also administering a $215,000 HOME grant for the city of Loudon, and will hold a similar public hearing for those residents Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. in city hall. Those residents should contact Sam Kidd with BWSC, at 637-2810; applications are now available at city hall.