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Letter to the editor

 To the editor,

I would like to respond to the letter from Diane Baum concerning the HRA rehab program funded through the Dept. of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The HRA applies for these funds on behalf of a City and therefore the City must make some decisions based on the information gathered by the HRA. I understand her frustration in the recent decision. However, the best decision was made based on the requirements of the program and the response of the community.

Diane brought up many good questions; some I can answer, some I cannot.

• Why didn't homeowners jump at the chance for $25,000 to fix up their home? I can't answer that for the homeowners in the area. The program does specify that a homeowner must remain in the home for 10 years and keep up their insurance in order for the loan to be forgiven at the end of the 10-year term.

• Why couldn't the City agree that those homeowners who applied be given the opportunity for rehab... even if it was just a small percentage? It is important to remember the City (and HRA) are applying for the funds in a very competitive process. Applications for the funds are scored, in large part, based on the level of interest for each program area. The process requires that the City apply for each different category separately. They consider homeowner property and landlord property as two separate categories. In order to be competitive, the City must narrow the area to that which shows high need and high interest.

• What would be the point if three rentals had awesome updates paired with an owned home that looks crappy on the outside? The theory is that once someone in the neighborhood begins to update their home, the desire to do the same spreads to others in the area. This is the reason DEED requires small targeted areas - to see high impact. That is why we originally proposed to do both categories of housing in the same general area. However, if we can't do both categories, one is better than none. Hopefully, the HRA would be able to go back and target the area for homeowners in the future if we can demonstrate interest.

• The writer expressed concern that landlords would: receive rehab money; do a few simple repairs and then pocket the remaining funds. At the same time, she is concerned that the rent would continue to increase. Funds from this program never go directly to the landlord or homeowner. The HRA determines the repairs needed and assures that they comply with current codes; writes the scope of work and manages the construction process. Payment for the rehab work goes directly to the contractors after the work is completed and inspected.

In addition, landlords will be required to keep rents below the Fair Market Rents set by HUD and the tenants in those properties must meet HUD determined income guidelines.

 The City and HRA will continue to work on pursuing opportunities for funding that can assist homeowners with rehabilitation needs. The HRA is dedicated to their mission of serving the communities in the county and fostering better neighborhoods.

Melanie Fohl,

Stevens County HRA executive director