Government grants real, but watch for scams
When it comes to costly
home improvements, who wouldn't want to use
somebody else's money? For a select few who
fit stringent criteria, there are indeed government
grants to fund some home improvements. But,
for the vast majority, grabbing for government
cash will likely end in being duped by a scam.
"Billions of dollars go
out our doors to cities and larger urban counties
and to states to do all kinds of things, and
among those things people can use that money
for is for rehab activities," says Brian
Sullivan, a spokesman for the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Some
of this money is in the form of loans, but
some goes out as grants, Sullivan says.
Of course, there's a catch:
Most of the money is designated for low-income families. By definition, Sullivan
says, the recipient cannot earn more than 80 percent of the area's median income.
If you meet those qualifications, the best way to find such sources of money is
to contact your local public housing agency or city hall and ask whether there
are any federal, state or locally funded programs for rehabilitation.
You may be able to get your hands on funds
if you're in a community that's been designated
for revitalization, for instance. Among the
types of funding distributed by HUD are block-grant
funds, which go to communities to promote
development. Local officials and nonprofit
organizations award these grants through programs
designed to improve neighborhoods. The Bush
administration's propsed 2008 budget includes
some $3 billion for the Community Development
Block Grant Program (CDBG) adminstered by
state and local governments. Your local housing
agency should be able to tell you about such
programs or you can check HUD's Web site for
a list of programs organized by state.
HUD is not the only government
agency that offers money for home improvements.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development
offers grants of up to $7,500 to low-income
individuals over age 62 who live in areas
defined as rural by the federal government.
"Generally, small towns of about 10,000
or less," says Jay Fletcher, public affairs
specialist for USDA Rural Development.
this instance, the money cannot be used for luxuries, such as adding a deck or
upgrading the kitchen, but rather must be designated for repairs that are necessary
for the safety or health of the homeowner, like renovations to accommodate a wheelchair,
or upgrades to the home's electrical wiring necessary for safety.
Apply through a housing office,
because the money is disbursed through local
governments rather than the USDA. When someone
applies for these grants, a home inspection
is ordered, Fletcher says. "An applicant
will go to his or her local county office
of rural development and talk to a counselor,
who will then send an adviser to the home
to inspect it," he says. It is this inspector
who determines whether the repairs are needed
for health or safety.