Home Repair Made Affordable: Zero- or Low-Interest Loan Programs for Fox Cities Homeowners

Cities homeowners zero- or low- interest loans for home repairs

When Keith Bilyeu, a resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, noticed his home needed some critical repairs, he realized that the cost of doing so was beyond his financial reach.

“The state of our roof was alarming,” he recalled. “With creatures making their home in it and numerous holes, a replacement was unavoidable. However, we couldn’t afford it.”

In 2020, feeling cornered by his circumstances, Bilyeu sought assistance from the city of Appleton, Wisconsin. It was then that he became aware of the city’s Homeowner Rehabilitation program. The program was designed to offer homeowners a zero-interest loan earmarked specifically for essential home repairs.

With the loan he received, Bilyeu was able to replace his roof, fix up his front patio and steps, change out windows and front and back doors, and also repair and replace the siding.

“The program is truly a blessing,” he acknowledged. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved – the neighborhood, the city of Appleton through increased tax revenue, and homeowners like me who enjoy an increased home value.”

Established in 1979, the Homeowner Rehabilitation program is Appleton’s long-standing initiative to ensure all homes within the community comply with safety and livability codes.

“Another advantage is that by preserving homes, we’re maintaining or stabilizing the community’s tax base,” explained Laura Bonnet, the housing coordinator for the city of Appleton.

Appleton, along with Neenah and Menasha, offers its residents some form of housing rehabilitation assistance, providing them with loans to carry out necessary repairs or renovations.

Here’s a more detailed look at the home repair loans and their requirements in these three cities.

In Appleton, the Homeowner Rehabilitation Loan Program might pave the way for some homeowners to consider early retirement. Marty Sosnowski, an Appleton resident and beneficiary of the loan, managed to get new windows, doors, a driveway, a central air unit, and a complete garage remodel with the help of the program.

He noted, “The garage, the driveway, and everything else was part of my pre-retirement plan. I didn’t want to deplete my 401(k) fund for that. Then, this program came along.”

The loan program in Appleton provides financial assistance to middle- to low- income households requiring repairs for both the exterior and interior of their homes. The funds are given as a no-interest loan with no monthly payments. Instead, the loan amount is placed as a lien against the property and is paid in full when the property is sold, transferred, leased, or vacated.

Applicants need to meet certain qualifications, which include being a resident of Appleton, owning and occupying a single-family or duplex property, having resided in the property for at least 90 days before applying, and meeting the gross income limit set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As of April 2022, the gross income limits are: $53,600 for a family size of one; $61,250 for two; $68,900 for three, and $76,550 for four. Applicants must also have personal assets amounting to less than $50,000.

Bonnet added that the loan amount for each applicant is determined based on the property’s equity at the time of evaluation. The maximum loan an applicant can receive will either be $25,000, the actual cost of the rehabilitation work, or an amount that when combined with the amount owed on the property does not exceed 100% of the current value.

Upon application approval, applicants can discuss their home improvement list with the city’s housing coordinator. While their preferred renovations may be approved, federal and city regulations mandate that any items not up to code must be repaired first.

Priority is given to repairs on essential components such as roofing, foundation, electrical, plumbing, and heating. Bonnet clarified that funds cannot be used for new construction, land purchase, or purely cosmetic items.

Applications will be open again in the fall, and forms can be accessed on the city’s website or at City Hall. For more information, interested parties can contact the community and economic development department.

In Menasha, homeowners can select between two programs to fund their repairs: the Strong Neighborhood housing initiative and the Curb Appeal program. Both programs are designed to improve the quality of Menasha’s housing stock and bolster homeownership stability.

The Curb Appeal program targets exterior home renovations such as painting and landscaping. The Major Renovation program, on the other hand, concentrates on both exterior and interior projects. The eligibility requirements and details of these programs can be found on Menasha’s city website. For further information, individuals can contact the department of community development.

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