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County receives $500,000 grant for housing improvements

By Paula Walter

Johnson County was recently the recipient of a $500,000 HOME Program grant from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) that will be used to bring over a dozen homes back up to code. These federal monies are received from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development for Tennesseans who meet specific criteria. This state-run program provides fixed-rate mortgages for first-time home buyers, provides funding for housing for those with very low to moderate income, along with preserving and rehabilitating existing homes for those locations that meet the agency’s qualifications.
“There are many people in places like Johnson County that would like to stay in their homes, but just can’t afford to do so,” THDA Executive Director Ralph M. Perrey said. “With this HOME funding, the county will be able to make an impact on the quality of life of its residents.” HOME grants must be used for the production, preservation, or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low and very low-income families and individuals
According to a press release from THDA, Johnson County plans to use the funds to renovate up to 16 single-family homes. The homes are occupied by very-low and low-income individuals and families that do not have the financial resources to make much needed improvements to their residences. “We’re excited to receive this grant funding from THDA,” Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter said. “The need for this kind of work is here, and we want to make sure the funds get to the people that need it the most.”
According to the press release, the county plans to advertise the rehabilitation opportunity in each community and will hold a public meeting to outline application procedures and grant guidelines. The city will form its priority list from accepted applications based on the level of rehabilitation work required, as well as each applicant’s socioeconomic factors. Homeowners selected for the program will be required to complete a financial fitness workshop to ensure homeowners will be equipped with the tools to make sound financial decisions going forward.
The county government will work with the First Tennessee Development District to administer the program. Each home selected under the program will receive up to a $40,000 subsidy for rehabilitation that will bring it up to code. Financial assistance for home repairs will be provided to those selected for the program in the form of a deferred grant that is forgivable at 20 percent per year if the family remains in compliance.
According to Bill Forrester, director of housing and industrial programs for the First Tennessee Development District, the organization additionally has an emergency repair program that will extend up to $10,000 to be used to fix roofs, build ramps, among other approved projects.  This program requires that one-third of the cost of the project will be matched by the homeowner. “We administer nine federal programs.  We use HOME money across the entire state to renovate owner-occupied homes,” said Katie Moore, East Tennessee liaison for the THDA. “It’s such a sustainable thing for communities because it enables folks to stay home.  It safeguards communities.”