By Joe Belden and Michael Feinberg: For Complete Post, Click Here…
One USDA program has given out over $1 billion in rural home repair grants since its inception, and could be inspiration for similar programs in urban and suburban communities as well.
Betty Lunce is in her 70s and walks with a cane. A homeowner in Hazard, Kentucky, she found it difficult to leave her house. As Scott McReynolds, the executive director of the nonprofit Housing Development Alliance (HDA) explains, the back door led to three uneven, precarious steps with no handrail, and her long gravel driveway was near impassable due to deep ruts that had formed. Even though she no longer drove, the damaged driveway prevented any cars from pulling up to the home unless they had four-wheel drive. She and her family were unsure if an ambulance would be able to reach her home in an emergency. Even more concerning was her roof, which leaked in several spots including the kitchen and could lead to structural issues such as drywall damage or wood rot, and health issues such as the spread of mold.
All of that changed in December 2021, however, when Lunce received a new roof, an entry ramp, and a rebuilt driveway, for a total cost of $12,300, as part of a relatively unknown federal resource known as Section 504, and described as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) home repair loan and grant program for very low-income rural homeowners.
Lunce is one of many Americans living in rural communities who may own a home but have difficulty affording maintenance and repairs. The HDA worked with Lunce to qualify her for aid and link her to financing using Section 504. In addition to the loan and grant provided by the USDA program, HDA used its own supplemental repair funds to finance the work on Lunce’s home.