THDA offers low-income home repair

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency is making it easier for low-income homeowners to qualify for its Emergency Repair Program (ERP) in rural areas.

Under the program, low-income homeowners who are either over the age of 59 or have a disability can apply for up to $10,000 in grant funding for health and safety repairs to their homes. Starting July 1, 2018, Tennessee will increase the maximum household income for ERP applicants in as many as 74 of the state’s 95 counties.

“The average age of single-family housing in rural counties is considerably higher than elsewhere in the state, which makes serious health and safety issues more likely to occur,” said Don Watt, director of Community Programs for THDA. “Too often, we see low-income homeowners ignoring these issues for months or even years at a time, because they simply don’t have the resources to address them properly.”

Currently, homeowners can only qualify if they earned less than 60 percent of their county’s median income, which is as low as $28,780 for a family of four in some areas. Under the new rules approved by THDA’s Board of Directors, THDA will begin using the state’s median income in all counties where the statewide number is higher.

Sixty percent of the state’s median income for a family of four is currently $34,380, which is higher than the current ERP maximum in 74 counties. The lowest income areas will see an increase in ERP income limits of nearly 20 percent.

“We want to get the word out quickly to homeowners who are aging or have disabilities and let them know that the income limits for the Emergency Repair Program are going up, which means they may qualify for assistance that wasn’t available to them before,” said Watt.

Currently, approved homeowners must provide a match for their ERP grant funding from other sources, meaning the grant can cover no more than 50 percent of the total home repair costs. But starting in July 2018, homeowners will only need to cover 25 percent of home repair costs with other sources.

Under the new rules, the cost of home repairs completed within 18 months prior to receiving the ERP grant will count toward the homeowner’s 25-percent share, an increase from the 12 months allowed under current rules.

THDA’s Board approved these and other changes to ERP rules at its May 22 meeting in Nashville. Also starting in July 2018, applicants must have lived in the home to be repaired as their primary residence for a minimum of one year to qualify. All rule changes will be effective for applications received on or after July 1.

THDA awards $2.7 million in ERP funding each year from the Tennessee

Housing Trust Fund, which receives no state tax dollars but is instead replenished each year with revenue from THDA’s Great Choice Home Loan program.

THDA has established partnerships with nine regional agencies throughout the state to manage the ERP application, selection, and home repair processes in their areas. Homeowners interested in applying for ERP assistance should contact their regional agency.