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Homeowners can qualify for home-improvement loans

Calling all low-income homeowners in need of money to fix a leaky roof, clogged plumbing or faulty wiring — especially in the Gold Hill area.

The Jackson County Housing Authority has a loan program which can provide as much as $25,000 in zero-interest, deferred-payment loans for home repairs to qualified homeowners throughout Jackson and Josephine counties.

Steven Kraft, of the housing authority, said the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program is funded through a federal Community Development Block Grant and Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state's housing finance agency.

Kraft said the agency is urging owner/occupants in and around Gold Hill to apply, as well as those who live outside the city limits of Phoenix and Medford, because census figures and market analysis indicate many people in those areas would qualify for loans.

"We get the money in the form of grants and we give it out in interest-free loans," Kraft said. "We need to show there is still a continued interest in what we do."

Most homeowners get the money to replace a failed heating system or leaking roof, update electrical service, remove dry rot, provide handicap accessibility, or for other repairs deemed reasonable or necessary by the housing authority, said Jeff Fish, a Medford contractor who has made repairs for homeowners under the program's guidelines for 17 years.

From replacing carpets to counter tops, to fixing floors and doors, Fish has worked on some 40 projects for the agency over the years. Dry rot and electrical concerns are common, he said.

"We've come across wiring issues that are just frightening," Kraft said.

Another area the money can be used is to make a home handicapped-accessible to comply the Americans with Disability Act, he said.

"We can get ramps built and doors widened," Kraft said.

To qualify, applicants must provide proof of ownership, inhabit the property, and meet income guidelines. Annual income limits are determined by the US Department of Housing of Urban Development and are adjusted on a yearly basis.

"Typically these are low-income people, often they are older individuals with health problems," said Fish.

Some homeowners pay the money back quickly, which returns it to the program for someone else to use. Others may take as long as 15 or 20 years to repay the loan. The homeowner must have enough equity in the property to cover the amount of the loan, and the entire amount must be repaid if the borrower sells, transfers, or refinances, Kraft said.

"We use the equity in the home to secure the loan," he said.

Applicants will be placed on a waiting list according to the date of application. Priority may be given in some circumstances, he said.

Some homeowners who already have large mortgages on their property might have a problem qualifying due to falling property values, but Fish had high praise for the program.

"Where else can you get free money like that?" Fish said.

For more information on the low-income, zero-interest loans, contact the Housing Rehabilitation Specialists at (541) 779-5785 ext. 1009 for an application.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.