July 20, 1995 in Washington Voices

Better Homes Strapped Homeowners Get Help Making Improvements Through A Federal Loan Program

Bruce Krasnow Staff writer
 
Tags:housing

For Michelle Wacker of West Indiana Avenue, having a full contingent of kitchen cabinets - all of them working - is the closest thing to heaven.

For Nevada Lidgerwood’s Julie Roberts, an enlarged basement window that would allow her 13-year-old son to escape in case of fire means peaceful nights.

For Cathy and Richard Lewis on West Boone, being able to replace the wiring in their 1911 home makes them feel safer than if a COPS shop opened next door.

The projects are examples of thousands done each year under the single-family home rehabilitation program funded by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, but administered by the city of Spokane.

The program provides low-interest loans to homeowners who otherwise would be forced to move or watch their homes deteriorate.

“We didn’t dare turn on a switch or else we’d go up in flames,” said Cathy Lewis, who lives in a two-story home at 3530 W. Boone.

“I was in dire need of a roof and if it wasn’t for the program I wouldn’t have done it all,” said Emma Nuckles of 3212 N. Lee. a disabled owner who borrowed $7,000 for the roof, plumbing, new doors, dead-bolt locks, a kitchen counter and bathroom flooring.

Since 1978, more than 3,000 Spokane homeowners have received some $20 million for housing improvements under the program, now administered by the real estate firm of Kiemle & Hagood under a contract with the city.

In some North Side areas, where homes are older and people have less income, the program has become vital to maintaining the housing stock and neighborhood stability.

From roof to siding, windows to wiring, the repairs are often overdue and geared to making a home safer, warmer, drier and structurally sound.

The money doesn’t pay for appliances, and when Wacker wanted a bay window installed in her kitchen for plants, she had to pay the contractor separately for the job. Such amenities aren’t allowed under federal guidelines.

All projects are bid out weekly by Kiemle & Hagood, which awards jobs only to approved contractors. Work is inspected by their construction managers before payment is approved.

“It’s not just for the family in the house now, but for the family that will live there in the future,” said Allen Schmelzer, a city development officer who oversees the program.

Some of the improvements might never be made without the loans.

The Lewises started putting on a new roof last year, but only completed half the job because they ran out of money.

Richard Lewis is disabled and the couple tried to borrow money from banks, with no luck. Under the federal rehabilitation program, their loan can be deferred for five years and they don’t have to pay anything until they refinance or sell. The current interest rate is 3 percent.

With the money, they were able to repair the basement steps so they met code, install new electrical outlets, a porcelain kitchen sink and new carpeting. They also had their decrepit chimney removed.

They installed a privacy window in their living room so they could see out, but others couldn’t see inside.

“We needed everything we got badly,” Cathy Lewis said. “Now I don’t have to worry about the roof or the wiring. Believe me, that’s a big worry off your brain.”

With the improvements made, the Lewises plan to stay put.

“We’re gonna die here.”

Like many in the program, Julie Roberts, 35, purchased her home when times were better. Since then, a back injury forced her onto disability and she filed for bankruptcy. Now back in school at Eastern Washington University, she’s trying to become a teacher.

“I had my income cut in half when I hurt my back,” she said.

Under the housing program, she was able to borrow $18,000 to make her 55-year-old house feel new.

One of the more annoying things, she said, was that basement lights still turned on with pull cords.

“There was no switch, I had to go like this and this and this,” she said flailing her arms like a stranded motorist.

Windows leaked, wires hung from the electrical box and her hot-water heater was still on a fuse.

She had to rotate a bathroom light bulb by hand to turn it on and off.

She now has air-tight doors and thermal-pane windows, a railing alongside the basement stairs, closet doors, new linoleum and flooring, a basement bathroom, and, best of all, a new window in the basement that her son uses as a bedroom.

In the case of Wacker, her husband, three kids and a grandson, the only reason they even have a home is because they were able to assume a mortgage after a divorce. But the home would probably not have passed inspections given by lending institutions - especially the roof.

“We didn’t plan on waiting another year - if the program wasn’t available we would have shingled ourself,” said Wacker, a Deaconess Medical Center housekeeper.

Her home was going through final inspection last week and what made her proudest was the modern kitchen. The loan enabled her to replace two small cupboards with real cabinets and replace an old table she used to prepare food with real counters.

“To prepare the meals for that many people, I just couldn’t do it,” said Wacker.

“Now it’s like a dream kitchen, I’ve never had this much light in my life - I can see what I’m cooking.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos (1 color)

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. LOAN QUALIFICATION GUIDELINES Qualification guidelines for homeowners who want to apply for loans under the single-family home rehabilitation program vary. For people living inside defined community development neighborhoods, the disabled and minorities, maximum income levels are 65 percent ($23,725 for a family of four) of the Spokane-area median income. Others can qualify if they earn half the median income ($18,250 for a family of four). Additionally, those who receive loans cannot have assets greater than $15,000, not including their home and a vehicle; must be current on mortgage and property taxes; and must show pride of ownership. The home must also be structurally sound and there can be no unsafe conditions for workers. For more information or an application, contact the housing rehabilitation division at Kiemle & Hagood Co., 510 W. Riverside, suite 701, Spokane, Wash., 99201-0515, or call 459-6770. Bruce Krasnow

2. PROGRAM WAITING LIST Here is the number of North Side homeowners, by neighborhoods, on the waiting list for the single-family rehabilitation program: Garry Park, 53 Emerson-Garfield, 36 Hillyard, 87 Logan, 16 Nevada-Lidgerwood, 56 West Central, 36

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. LOAN QUALIFICATION GUIDELINES Qualification guidelines for homeowners who want to apply for loans under the single-family home rehabilitation program vary. For people living inside defined community development neighborhoods, the disabled and minorities, maximum income levels are 65 percent ($23,725 for a family of four) of the Spokane-area median income. Others can qualify if they earn half the median income ($18,250 for a family of four). Additionally, those who receive loans cannot have assets greater than $15,000, not including their home and a vehicle; must be current on mortgage and property taxes; and must show pride of ownership. The home must also be structurally sound and there can be no unsafe conditions for workers. For more information or an application, contact the housing rehabilitation division at Kiemle & Hagood Co., 510 W. Riverside, suite 701, Spokane, Wash., 99201-0515, or call 459-6770. Bruce Krasnow

2. PROGRAM WAITING LIST Here is the number of North Side homeowners, by neighborhoods, on the waiting list for the single-family rehabilitation program: Garry Park, 53 Emerson-Garfield, 36 Hillyard, 87 Logan, 16 Nevada-Lidgerwood, 56 West Central, 36


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