Financial boost for Coon Rapids’ Home for Generations

Phase two of the city of Coon Rapids’ Home for Generations (H4G II) program, unveiled at the North Suburban Home Improvement Show Saturday, has received a financial boost from the Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistant Foundation (CRMAF).

The Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA), which comprises the seven members of the Coon Rapids City Council, gave approval Feb. 19 to a series of program guidelines as well as a 2013 budget of $20,000 to come from the HRA account.

Through H4G II, eligible homeowners will be given financial incentives and technical assistance to undertake home remodeling projects totaling $35,000 or more.

The financial help from the HRA will include an incentive grant as well as a 50 percent rebate on the building permit.

The CRMF, whose mission is to improve the housing stock in Coon Rapids, met March 8 and approved a $500,000 revolving loan fund, which residents signed up for the H4G II program could tap into for financial assistance for their remodeling projects.

The Coon Rapids City Council March 19 signed off on the CRMAF action.

Technical help will come in the form of architectural and landscaping assistance, to which the homeowners would only be required to put down a $25 co-pay with the HRA and the CRMAF picking up the rest of the cost up to $250 per participant.

The program, like the original Home for Generations project, is targeted at older Coon Rapids homes.

There will be no limit on the property tax value of the home, but under the HRA guidelines the home has to have been built before 1990.

But the CRMAF guidelines for loan eligibility has a different criteria, which was approved by the council.

According to Cheryl Bennett, city housing and zoning coordinator, the CRMAF board set a specific age of the home, 20 years or older, as being eligible for the loan, not the year it was built, to make additional homes eligible for the program each year.

In addition, the CRMAF guidelines provide for loans up to $50,000 at a fixed 4.5 percent interest rate for 20 years with a 100 percent loan to value instead of the typical 80 percent, Bennett said.

Homeowners will also be allowed to hire an independent appraiser to establish value on their property in lieu of the estimated market value, she said.

The HRA will be asked at its next meeting, April 2, to change the age of the home standard to match that of the CRMAF, according to Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator.

At the Home Improvement Show Saturday, DeGrande was at the city of Coon Rapids booth and talked with residents about the program, as well as letting contractors taking part in the show know about H4G II.

“The show was very well attended and residents were very excited to learn about program,” DeGrande said.

“Some residents were farther along than others with their remodeling plans and they were interested to find out about the H4G II program.”

And for the contractors she spoke with, DeGrande said H4G II would be a “helpful selling tool for them.”

Since the HRA action in February, DeGrande has talked with the professional associations for architects and landscapers to gauge their interest in being part of the project, she said.

She has been pleased with the positive reaction and has developed requests for qualification (RFQ) which were sent to area landscapers and architects this week, DeGrande said.

“It will be open-ended,” DeGrande said.

“Participation in the program will be available to any architect and landscaper that meets the qualifications in the RFQ. We want residents to have choices.”

Application packets for the H4G II program have not yet been completed, according to DeGrande.

Marketing of the program will continue and the CRMAF has approved $4,000 to help pay for that work, Bennett said.

The CRMAF is planning a special event/open house, possibly in late May, to promote not only the H4G II program, but other housing improvement projects in Coon Rapids for which it provides funding, she said.

“Home for Generations phase II will provide a needed incentive to encourage large investments in the city’s housing, which will in turn, inspire other homeowners to consider the same,” DeGrande wrote in a memo to the HRA in February.

Through the original Home for Generations program, the HRA purchased older vacant and/or foreclosed properties, remodeled them to more modern standards and then sold them.

The council decided last year to end the Homes for Generations program in its original form and at a work session in September 2012, it began consideration of a second phase.

The goal of H4G II is to 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, aging housing stock, according to DeGrande.

Under the H4G II program, participants must be a current Coon Rapids homeowner, must reside at the home to be remodeled as their primary residence and the remodeled home must maintain homestead status.

To qualify for the program, the project scope must include at least one of following project types:

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

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

According to the guidelines, other types of projects that would be eligible are siding, windows, mechanical updates and roofs, but only in conjunction with the other eligible improvements.

Applicants would first be encouraged to schedule a free remodeling adviser visit with the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) to gain some insight for remodeling ideas and/or setting priorities.

Then they would be required to take part in architectural/design consultation to assist in developing the scope of work and encouraging good design.

This would likely be a two-hour consultation and would not including the drawing of blueprints.

The applicant would contribute a $25 co-pay; the same would apply to a consultation with a landscape architect if that’s part of the remodeling project, according to the guidelines developed by DeGrande.

But DeGrande said that homeowners who sign up for the architectural/design consultations are under no obligation to move on to the construction phase.

Under the building permit process spelled out in the guidelines, 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.

There would be a streamlined plan review process for each program applicant and a dedicated building inspector would be assigned to each project; that inspector would be the applicant’s point of contact for any construction or building code related questions.

The proposed incentive grant options are up to 10 percent of the project cost but not to exceed $5,000 if the project includes two more eligible exterior upgrades or 5 percent of the project cost not to exceed $2,500 if the project does not meet those criteria.

“The incentive would stress improvement in our housing stock and the likely domino effect exterior improvements have on our neighborhoods,” DeGrande wrote.

Eligible exterior improvements include altering front elevation roofline; building columns in front of the house or making existing columns more substantial; constructing a covered front porch; adding shakes, brick or stone on the front of the house; replacing or upgrading the front door; and landscaping.

Applications would be accepted on a first-come, first served basis until funds are depleted, according to DeGrande.

Until the program gets under way and word gets out, staff is not anticipating a big demand from eligible homeowners this year, according to Community Development Director Marc Nevinski.

The Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation was established in 1979 to allow the city to issue low interest housing bonds to boost new housing construction at a time of high interest rates.

The $45 million housing revenue bond issue was paid off in March 2003.

Mortgage payments from homeowners who benefited from the bond issue paid off the bonds.

And the money that has built up in the foundation coffers over the years has been allocated, for the most part, to housing and rehabilitation projects in Coon Rapids.

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

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