Housing incentive program big hit

A city of Coon Rapids incentive program to encourage residents to undertake large remodeling projects at their homes has proved a lot more popular than anyone expected.

“The interest level has been extremely high,” said Kristin DeGrande, city neighborhood coordinator.

“We have been overwhelmed by the level of interest.”

As a result the Coon Rapids Housing and Redevelopment Authority has approved more funding for the Home for Generations II program.

The program, which provides both financial incentives and resources for homeowners’ remodeling projects, was launched May 1 on a $20,000 budget approved by the authority plus $5,000 from the Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation.

But already three large remodeling projects, ranging in value from $82,000 to over $100,000, have been approved as part of the program and are under construction.

“We have been very impressed by the scope and quality of these projects,” DeGrande said.

Another 26 applications are in the pipeline now being considered for grants and rebates, while some 100 homeowners have expressed interest in the program, according to DeGrande, who is spearheading the Home for Generations II program.

And at a kickoff event May 30 with architectural firms and contractors present, more than 100 people attended.

Under the program, a maximum city grant of $5,000 is awarded to approved projects, $2,500 for interior improvements plus another $2,500 if there are exterior improvements with curb appeal that change the look of the exterior, DeGrande said.

“The whole neighborhood benefits,” she said.

There is also a building permit rebate of 50 percent of the total value of building permit fees paid for the project, she said.

In addition, the $5,000 from the foundation is applied to the required architectural design consultation with one of the participating 12 architects brought on board by the city. This consultation carries a $250 value of which the homeowner pays $25 and is a requirement for each applicant as part of the process.

Residents are free to hire the contractor of their choice for their project once it has been approved.

With the three projects already under way, $15,128.50 worth of incentive grants and building permit rebates have been approved, DeGrande said.

DeGrande recommended another $80,000 be approved for the Home for Generations II program for the incentive grants and rebates.

The housing and redevelopment authority, which comprises the seven members of the Coon Rapids City Council, unanimously approved the request July 2.

According to DeGrande, the mortgage assistance foundation will be asked to put more money into the architectural design consultation pot.

As part of the program, the foundation has also created a $500,000 loan fund specifically as an option for homeowners applying to the Home for Generations II program with the financing secured by a mortgage filed as a lien against the property.

The foundation loan of up to $50,000 carries a 4.5 percent fixed interest rate with a maximum loan term of 20 years and with no closing or loan origination fees.

“Home for Generations II is structured to provide resources and financial incentives to homeowners to complete large remodels at their own home,” DeGrande said.

“It is intended that this program will spur private investment to update the city’s aging housing stock at a time when the housing economy is starting to rebuild and stabilize.”

Program eligibility includes homes older than 20 years and there are no income limits with a remodeling project totaling at least $35,000 that either add living space or include a major remodel to the home.

Major interior remodeling projects that are eligible include building an addition, finishing previously unfinished space in the basement or attic, converting the garage into livable space, major kitchen, bathroom or basement remodeling, adding a new bathroom and changing the home layout by moving walls.

Eligible exterior upgrades include altering the roof line in front of the house, constructing columns at the front entrance, constructing a covered front porch, adding shakes, brick or stone to the front of the home, replacing and upgrading the front door or garage door if they face the street and landscaping (a landscape design consultation is required).

Housing and redevelopment authority members were delighted by the response to the Home for Generations II program as a follow up to the original Home for Generations program, through which the authority purchased older homes in the city that were vacant/foreclosed, remodeled them to modern standards and then sold them.

“This was exactly what we were looking to do,” said Mayor Tim Howe.

Howe wants to approach the Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation for more money for the program, as well as possibly recoup some of the authority’s costs, he said.

“This program fits exactly the goals and mission of the foundation to improve the city’s housing stock,” said Howe, who is a member of the foundation’s board of directors.

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