Councilors agree to team up with other cities to support housing block grant application

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council agreed last week to sponsor an application for a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for housing rehabilitation projects in Linn County.

Liza Newcomb, housing rehabilitation manager with Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, requested the council’s sponsorship during the council’s regular meeting on Nov. 13.

Sweet Home is part of WNHS’s Linn County Housing Rehabilitation Partnership. The partnership includes Brownsville, Halsey, Harrisburg, Lebanon, unincorporated Linn County, Scio, Sodaville, Sweet Home, Tangent and Waterloo. Albany, Millersburg, Idanha, Mill City, Lyons and Gates are not part of the partnership.

The partnership was established in 2001, combining the rehabilitation loan programs of the member cities.

Cities use federal funds, provided through state Community Development Block Grants, to provide loans to homeowners to repair their homes. The loans are no-interest and no-payment silent second mortgages to qualified homeowners.

Incomes must be below 80 percent of the area median income where a credit score or income precludes a bank loan. The home must be owner-occupied and equity must be available to support the loan amount. The dollar amount of the work must not exceed 50 percent of the market value.

The loan is paid when the homeowner dies or the property sells. Funds return to the lending agency, Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services. Previous to 2001, it returned to the member cities. Those funds may be lent again minus administration costs.

“I love that we can take money and help people, help more people and then help more people,” Newcomb said.

Newcomb has been running the program for three years, she said. The program has been operating off a grant sponsored by Harrisburg for the past year, assisting 19 property owners.

Sweet Home was the previous sponsor, in 2013.

Newcomb said she wants to ensure the program is funded regularly, and this new grant will pick up where the Harrisburg grant ends. That grant will continue to fund projects through next fall. The next grant will be awarded in January and funds released around May.

Of the funds, $305,000 are lent to property owners, while $95,000 covers administrative and environmental review costs.

The program is frequently repaid, but some loans have been long term.

Sweet Home still has at least four outstanding loans from a local 1997 grant, Newcomb said.

To apply for a loan visit Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services on the web at w-nhs.org and click on Home Ownership Center for information or call (541) 752-7220, extension 300.

The council voted 6-0 to sponsor the grant.

Present at the meeting were councilors Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Dave Trask, James Goble and Diane Gerson. Bob Briana was absent.

In other business, the council:

n Approved a renewal of an intergovernmental agreement with the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments for technology services. The city uses the service when its contracted information technology service cannot meet the city’s needs.

The last time the city engaged the COG’s service was in 2016 during a ransomware incident.

n By consensus, agreed to cancel the meeting that would fall on Christmas day.

n Held the first reading of an ordinance to rezone portions of the new City Hall property, 3225 Main St., from residential to commercial.

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