BH homeowners may qualify for help fixing their houses

Updated: Mar 9, 2018

By: Louise Wrege (Herald Palladium Staff Writer)

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — Qualified Benton Harbor homeowners whose houses need repair will soon be able to apply for help through the Benton Harbor Home Rehabilitation Loan Program. 

Applications will start being accepted at informational meetings at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. March 27 at the Benton Harbor Library, 213 E. Wall St., said Stephanie Scott-Sims, director of community and economic development for the city. 

She said residents must own their homes and have a household income of no more than 80 percent of the area median income. In Benton Harbor, she said that means a single person can make no more than $34,200 a year. For a family of four, the household income can be no more than $48,800 a year. 

In addition, she said applicants can’t have more than $20,000 in liquid assets, which includes cash and life insurance policies. 

Scott-Sims said there are two types of loans available – an emergency repair loan for between $500 and $5,000 and a whole house loan for up to $25,000. 

She said the emergency repair loans go towards things like fixing or replacing broken water heaters and furnaces. She said a lot of the whole house repair loans are used to replace roofs. 

“There are a lot of roof issues out there,” she said. 

Scott-Sims said the loans don’t have to be repaid if the homeowner lives in the house for five years after receiving an emergency repair loan and for 10 years after receiving a whole house loan. 

City commissioners recently approved entering into an agreement with the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (SMCAA) to be a third-party administrator for the program. 

“What that means is that the city will be handling all of the eligibility issues,” Scott-Sims said. “Whenever someone applies for the program, they’ll come (to City Hall) and submit their application here. We’ll determine whether they are eligible for the program. Then, once we determine they are eligible, we’ll hand them off to (SMCAA), and they will work with them throughout the project. They’ll manage the actual repair.” 

She said that $170,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money has been set aside for the program through June 30, 2019. She said the city has $360,000 in CDBG money that can be used for the program. The money has been accumulating since 2014. 

“The reason we’re not using more of our money is because this is our first time partnering with” SMCAA, she said. “We want to take it slow and move in baby steps and develop that partnership and make sure that it’s working well for both of us.” 

She said SMCAA handles similar housing programs for Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties. 

“They do this all the time,” she said. “... They’re very familiar with what (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) requires. They have a construction management background.” 

She said part of the program will include lead and asbestos abatement in houses built before 1978. 

“Whenever you disturb any painted surface, and you’re spending more than $5,000 ... then you are required by federal guidelines to do lead-based paint testing,” she said. 

For more information, call the Benton Harbor Community and Economic Development Department at 927-8420. 

Contact Information

185 E Main St, Ste 303

Benton Harbor, MI 49022

(269) 925-9077

Office Hours

Monday - Friday

8:00am to 4:30pm

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