Coon Rapids residents taking advantage of new home program

Phase two of the city of Coon Rapids’ Home for Generations program was showcased to the public at an open house May 30 at the Coon Rapids Civic Center.

Dan and Mary Sullivan pore over design ideas with Sylvia Frank (left), a partner in Carlsen Frank Architects LLC at the city of Coon Rapids’ Home for Generations phase two open house May 30.
Dan and Mary Sullivan pore over design ideas with Sylvia Frank (left), a partner in Carlsen Frank Architects LLC at the city of Coon Rapids’ Home for Generations phase two open house May 30.

But already residents are taking advantage of the city’s program, which provides financial incentives to homeowners who take on large remodeling projects, $35,000 or more, at their residences.

The financial incentives include a grant of up to $5,000, a rebate of 50 percent on building fees well as the Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation offering a financing option from a $500,000 revolving loan fund, which it has created for the project.

Since the program officially began May 1, more than 100 application forms have been requested, including those at the open house May 30, and 20 have been returned seeking approval to be part of the program.

Indeed, according to Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator, two have reached the point where the residents are ready to sign participation agreements with the city.

At that time, the incentive funds provided by the Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority will be set aside, DeGrande said.

Once the agreement has been signed, the homeowners can schedule the contractor they have hired to begin work on the project, which must be completed within 180 days of signing the participation agreement.

DeGrande was “very pleased” by the turnout at the open house, which she estimated at more than 100.

Residents were able to browse table displays of architects and contractors. There were nine architects, eight contractors and one landscape architect represented.

“The feedback from contractors was overwhelmingly positive, stating that all of their expectations were exceeded and they talked with more serious leads than they typically get from other home show events,” DeGrande said.

A requirement of the program is that an applicant consult with an architect from a pool of 12 that have been brought on board by the city for the program.

As well as the architects and contractors, DeGrande and Cheryl Bennett, city housing and zoning coordinator, talked with residents informally about the remodeling program and the mortgage assistance foundation funding option.

In addition, Interim Chief Building Official Brian Vinkemeier was on hand to speak with residents about the building permit process, while Planner Scott Harlicker discussed zoning, setback and variance requirements.

According to DeGrande, the residents she spoke with at the open house reacted “very favorably” and were surprised and pleased that the city was involved in a program of this type.

“There was a lot of energy, and I am very excited and encouraged that residents are interested in taking on large remodeling projects,” DeGrande said.

Not only does it show promise for the continued recovery of the housing economy, but these remodeling projects will also give a boost to the city’s housing stock, she said. Homes will be upgraded and neighborhoods “spruced up,” according to DeGrande.

One of the residents at the open house, Noella Fath-Cutter is interested in remodeling her kitchen.

She received the mailing the city sent to 15,000 homes promoting the open house and came to get some remodeling ideas, Fath-Cutter said.

“I am also interested to learn how the city program works,” she said.

Dan and Mary Sullivan have lived in their split-level home for 27 years and are looking to remodel it.

According to Sullivan, they were at the open house to talk with architects and contractors about remodeling their home to include the bathrooms and main living area to open up the space.

Coming to the open house “is a good first step” to deciding if we will remodel or move, Sullivan said.

Rich and Sarah Bullock are thinking of remodeling the kitchen and living room of their home, but while they might not qualify for the program because of the $35,000 minimum, they came to learn about design and construction options.

Longtime Coon Rapids residents Bob and Kathy Knutson have lived in their home for 35 years and are interested in remodeling their kitchen.

Seeing the various design ideas from the architects at the open house has given them a chance to “think outside the box,” Kathy Knutson said.

Both are retired, so the $35,000 minimum qualification for the city project might be an issue, according to Bob Knutson.

“That amount is a little scary,” he said.

Tom and Janene Martin, who have been Coon Rapids residents for 50 years, picked up an application form after chatting with both Harlicker and DeGrande on their project, which would encompass both interior and exterior work.

“We need to update our house,” Tom Martin said.

Interior work the Martins have in mind include the kitchen and bathrooms, he said.

They very much want to be part of the city program, he said.

Technical help for residents 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 mortgage assistance foundation picking up the rest of the cost up to $250 per participant.

While a resident is required to consult with an architect as the first step in participating in the program, they don’t have to continue with the remodeling project if they don’t find it feasible or if they cannot line up financing, according to DeGrande.

Under the program guidelines, there is no limit on the property tax value of the home, but it has to be 20 years old or more.

In addition, the mortgage assistance foundation guidelines for the loan option 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, according to Bennett, city housing and zoning coordinator.

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.

In 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 program in its original form and directed staff to begin work on a second phase, the result of which is phase two.

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.

Eligible projects, which must add living space or be a major remodel, include:

• Building an addition to the home.

• Building a sun roof.

• Finishing previously unfinished space in the basement or attic.

• Constructing a covered front porch.

• Converting a garage into livable space.

• Major kitchen, bathroom or basement remodeling.

• Adding a new bathroom.

• Moving walls of existing rooms.

Eligible exterior upgrades include altering the roofline on the front of the home; constructing columns at the front door; building a covered front porch; adding shakes, brick or stone on the front of the home; replacing or upgrading the front door and/or garage if it faces the street; landscaping (design assistance is required) and other elements.

A grant of up to $5,000 will be provided based on the type of project completed, and if the project includes two or more exterior upgrades, then the grant is up to 10 percent of the project cost, not to exceed $5,000. But if the project does not include exterior upgrades, the eligible grant would be up to 5 percent of the project cost, not to exceed $2,500.

According to DeGrande, the program has a streamlined plan review process for each program applicant and a dedicated building inspector assigned to each project; that inspector is the applicant’s point of contact for any construction or building code related questions.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]