Council gets review of local home rehab program

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Linn County Rehabilitation Partnership has helped 17 families in the Sweet Home area to repair and rehabilitate their homes using Community Development Block Grant funds passed through the city of Sweet Home, City Council members learned Nov. 25 during a hearing on the program.

Local participants in the program included 46 persons in low- to moderate-income families within District 55 for a total of $500,000 provided by the Oregon Economic Development Department in CDBG funds.

Prior to 2005, the city of Sweet Home ran its own housing rehab program, taking CDBG money and lending it to city homeowners at no interest. The loan is repaid when the house is sold or the owner dies. The loans cannot be used for rentals or investment properties.

When the money is repaid, it can be used again for new loans.

In 2005, the city joined a regional housing partnership, pooling the funding to leverage more grants and create some flexibility to address special needs in different communities throughout the county, City Manager Craig Martin said. The money is sent through the city to Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, which was previously known as Linn County Affordable Housing and Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services, and then sub-granted to the Linn County Rehabilitation Partnership, which includes Sweet Home, Lebanon, Harrisburg, Halsey, Scio and Linn County.

Joining the partnership improved the likelihood of getting the grant, Martin said. Probably 85 to 90 percent was spent directly inside Sweet Home, while the remainder was spent in the area. Up to 20 percent is used to cover administrative costs.

Martin represents Sweet Home with Linn County Rehabilitation Partnership.

The City Council held a public hearing to review the results of the program during its Nov. 25 meeting.

Representing Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, Douglas McRae, director of housing, and Charmain Kleint, a housing rehab specialist, reported to the council.

Willamette hosts a plethora of programs, McRae said. Among them are programs for homebuyers, financial fitness and the rehab program.

“All of these are targeted for families who are making less than 80 percent of median income,” he said. “This is my favorite program. It’s a particularly difficult program.”

But the rewards to residents are invaluable, McRae said. The partnership has spent $1.6 million in its member communities.

“They’ve done a great job,” Martin said of the partnership. In the past, Sweet Home has had as many as 200 applications. “The need outweighs the money.”

The program has a waiting list of about 100 right now, McRae said. The program continues to grow, and Willamette is seeking additional grants.

Asked about how the economy will affect the program, “I’m starting to bake cookies,” McRae said. “If anyone wants to help me, great.”

More seriously, he told the council that every program is at risk. They’re not necessarily going away, but public agencies using state funds will have to look at cuts.

Present at the council meeting were councilors Greg Mahler, Erick Markell, Mayor Craig Fentiman, Scott McKee Jr., Rich Rowley and Jim Bean. Councilor Jim Gourley was absent.

In other business, the council:

– Heard a report from Public Works Director Mike Adams that he is applying for an extension on a deal with the state to complete the new water treatment plant. The city broke ground on the new plant last summer, but it was operating under a requirement to complete it by Dec. 31. He is seeking an extension to Dec. 31, 2009.

– Agreed to initiate a vacation of a portion of Grape Street west of 12th Avenue at the request of Kenneth Reid. The area is 95.5 feet long by 50 feet wide and is undeveloped. It has public infrastructure in place and will require a public easement.

After a street vacation, the property returns to the lot from where it originally came.

In the vacation process, the Planning Commission holds a public hearing recommending a decision to the City Council, which holds an additional public hearing before rendering a final decision.

– Agreed to initiate a vacation of portions of 54th and 55th avenues, adjacent to Foster Lake Mobile Home and RV Community. The areas are unimproved and have no public infrastructure.

– Imposed a no-parking zone for 100 feet along the east side of 18th Avenue south of the Police Department’s staff driveway.

There have been a few occasions when vehicles parked in the area have created a sight restriction for emergency vehicles exiting the Police Department, Police Chief Bob Burford said. It is already blocked off during the Oregon Jamboree in August so police cars can safely enter the roadway.

At other times of the year, vehicles park there and create a hazard, Burford said. There are currently no businesses that use this area for staff or customers.

– Adopted an ordinance vacating an undeveloped portion of 23rd Avenue south of the end of 23rd Avenue and north of Mountain View Road.

– Adopted an ordinance amending the city’s zoning map for two properties. The rezones included property located east of 1425 24th from industrial to highway commercial and 1226 47th Ave. and 1230 47th Ave. from low-density residential to medium-density residential.

– Heard that the Youth Advisory Council still has three openings at the junior high level. Call 367-8969 for more information or visit City Hall for an application.