New look for Home for Generations project

A new phase of the Home for Generations program is being considered by the Coon Rapids City Council.

Through the Home for Generations program, the city, via the Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), has purchased older vacant and/or foreclosed properties, remodeled them to more modern standards and then sold them.

In the past three and a half years, five older vacant/foreclosed homes in the city have been purchased, remodeled and sold, the most recent earlier this year.

And in doing so, the homes have been showcased to some 8,000 residents through open houses before, during and after the remodeling work.

But with the housing market stabilizing in Coon Rapids – there are fewer homes on the market, the average sale price is increasing and it’s taking less time to sell properties that are on the market – Neighborhood Coordinator Kristin DeGrande unveiled a second Home for Generations phase at a recent Coon Rapids City Council work session.

This would provide both technical and financial assistance to individual homeowners to encourage large projects to remodel their homes.

Technical assistance would be offered to homeowners to promote good design and a dedicated city building inspector would be assigned to each project, according to DeGrande.

Financial incentives would include a portion of the building permit costs being refunded once the project is completed, plus a city financial contribution each year over a five-year period, DeGrande said.

“This program is intended to spur private investment at a time when the housing economy is starting to rebuild and stabilize,” she said.

The council was supportive, but directed DeGrande to make some tweaks before bringing it back to a regular council meeting for approval in January or February 2013 so that staff could promote the new program at the North Suburban Home Improvement Show in March 2013 and residents could start taking advantage of it in the spring.

Once approved by the council, a request for proposal (RFP) will be sent to architectural/landscape design firms to provide the technical services to the city, according to DeGrande said.

But she said that homeowners who take the first step in the process, the design consultation, are under no obligation to move on to the construction phase.

Under the proposal, participants must be a current Coon Rapids homeowner, must reside at the home to be remodeled as their primary residence, the remodeled home must maintain homestead status, the eligible home must have been built before 1990 and the property will no longer be part of the program if it is sold, is no longer the applicant’s primary residence, becomes non-homestead or is rented out.

To qualify for the program, the total project cost must exceed $35,000 and the project scope must include at least one of following project types:

• Addition of living space such as three-season porch, finishing unfinished space in the basement or attic, building a covered front porch and/or enclosed entry (decks are not eligible) and conversion of garage space into living space with replacement by a new garage is eligible.

• Major remodeling, including kitchen, bathrooms or basement, addition of a new bathroom or moving wall around in existing room.

There would be other types of projects that would be eligible – siding, windows, mechanical updates, roof – but only in conjunction with the other eligible improvements.

Applicants would be required to take part in architectural/design consultation, but the city would recover the majority of that cost (about $250) with the applicant contributing a $25 co-pay; the same would apply to the consultation with a landscape architect, according to DeGrande’s presentation to the council.

The minimum project value of $35,000 must be verified by the city building official and 50 percent of the building permit fees will be rebated once the project is finished with the goal that most program participants will use this money for project upgrades, appliances or carpeting, DeGrande told the council.

The other financial incentive will be a city contribution of up to $1,000 a year for five years to the property owner, who must enter into an agreement with the city on program participation, eligibility and expectations, while the property must maintain homestead status for the homeowner to receive the annual contribution.

According to DeGrande, a $30,000 annual budget is proposed for the city’s costs, including $5,000 each for architectural/landscaping assistance and building permit process and $20,000 for the city’s contribution to the homeowner.

The goal is to work with 20 to 25 homeowners a year, DeGrande said.

Proposed funding sources are either the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), the Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation or the donation from DDRC, which developed the Riverdale Village Shopping Center, for housing-related projects.

According to DeGrande, the goals of the Home for Generations II program are:

• Encourage private, major improvements to single-family homes to make them more functional for contemporary households.

• Promote reinvestment in other homes in the surrounding neighborhood and revitalize the city’s existing neighborhoods.

• Encourage high-quality, highly aesthetic construction that increases the value of homes and neighborhoods.

• Retain city residents and attract new residents, particularly young families, to Coon Rapids.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

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