North Stonington goes after grant to help homeowners with repairs

North Stonington - As part of an application for a Community Development Block Grant from the state, the town is seeking eligible homeowners interested in obtaining loans for housing rehabilitation projects.

The $400,000 grant would be used for loans on home repairs for income-qualified individuals or families. In exchange - depending on the amount awarded - a deed restriction would be implemented on the property for a minimum of five years, allowing these homes to be counted among the town's affordable housing stock.

Applying for this grant is one of the town's housing plan strategies that was incorporated into its latest Plan of Conservation and development, said Mary Ann Ricker, co-chairwoman of the Affordable Housing Committee.

"This is the first time that North Stonington has ever ventured into this Community Development Block Grant, and I think it has great potential for the town," she said.

The funding can be put toward home improvements including replacing failed furnaces, roofs and windows, as well as septic system repairs and accessibility modifications such as entrance ramps. The money will be loaned with no interest, which the homeowner - or the next owner when the home changes title - must repay to the town.

The maximum annual income for qualified single homeowners is $44,750 and $51,150 for a two-person household. This year's Department of Housing and Urban Development income limits apply to households with three or more people.

Along with limiting the rehabilitation loans to income-qualified homeowners, the deed restriction would allow the homes to be sold or rented only to buyers or renters in the same income category. The restriction allows these homes to be officially counted among the town's affordable housing stock.

Interested property owners must fill out the Housing Rehabilitation Program Needs Assessment Survey, available on the town's website and at Wheeler Library and Town Hall, by March 31. If at least 10 people express interest, the town will submit the application the first week of April.

If the town receives the grant, it will have three years to spend it.

North Stonington's affordable housing stock stands at less than 1 percent. Though a handful of additional deed restrictions won't build much on this number, it's a first step, Ricker said.

"I'm hopeful that we would not only learn from this process but get awarded some money, and then we can begin to think creatively about submitting a grant for next year," she said.

a.isaacs@theday.com

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