MILLERSBURG -- More than anything, Mary Hoxworth said she's looking to get rid of $120,000.
Hoxworth, the Community Housing Impact and Preservation Program coordinator for the Holmes County Planning Commission, said the county was awarded $400,000 from the Ohio Development Services Agency for fiscal year 2016, funding for which has just been released.
Of that, $120,000 is designated for home repairs, $44,000 is earmarked for Habitat for Humanity and $188,000 is designated for owner rehab.
Ohio's CHIP program provides funding to local governments to improve and provide affordable housing for low- and moderate-income citizens.
Because all funds must be spent by Oct. 31, 2018, and the county is penalized for any unspent money, Hoxworth said she's eager to promote the program and start reviewing applications.
With winter weather in full swing, the timing couldn't be better, considering some of the potential uses for home repair dollars, she said, pointing specifically to new furnaces and hot water tanks.
Eligible participants can receive up to $8,000 total to fund typically two projects, which also can include roof repair and replacement, installation of air conditioning, wheelchair ramps and bathroom modifications to allow for handicap accessibility. Working with the Holmes County General Health District, Hoxworth said, she also can use available funding for well and septic repairs, which "is a big one."
Referrals come from not only the health district, but the Kno-Ho-Co-Ashland Community Action Commission, Holmes County Job and Family Services, counseling agencies and the Darb Snyder Senior Center.
"We all try to network and work together. If I can't help someone, I have a list of places I can send them," said Hoxworth, noting restrictions are not limited to income eligibility, but the type of property. CHIP funds cannot be used to support improvements to rentals or mobile homes.
To qualify, a single person must gross $31,050 or less annually. A family of two can earn no more than $35,450. A family of three must gross $39,900 or less, and a family of four can bring in gross earnings of no more than $44,300 a year.
"This is just a wonderful program. It's helping even low-moderate families get their homes fixed up and save money so they don't have to get a conventional loan. We're putting more equity in their homes," said Hoxworth, noting the benefits extend beyond the property itself.
Not only does it make a home better, it improves the value of neighboring properties. It can reduce utility expenses, freeing up a family's resources for other necessities. Additionally, it helps to promote healthier living and better lifestyles for adults and children.
The program, she said, is perfect for homeowners living on a fixed income, including those who survive on Social Security and disability checks. "Those are the ones I really like to help the most," she said.
Participants, she said, are often average median-income families, who maybe own homes that are older and in need of updates.
"That can affect a lot of families in Holmes County," Hoxworth said, noting, "It's a good feeling to know your helping young families with children. Right now we have quite a few families with young children in the home. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping them as well."
With private owner rehab funds of $188,000, CHIP provides up to $35,000-$40,000 to between five and seven families to "bring the whole house up to safety and health standards," said Hoxworth, noting improvements can address electrical systems, plumbing, windows and siding.
On completion, an interest-free mortgage is placed on the home for 85 percent of the total improvement costs. The mortgage is reduced by 20 percent annually over the course of five years. The 15 percent balance is payable to the Holmes County commissioners only at the time of sale, when the owner vacates the building, or dies. Typical payback on such mortgages is $3,000-$5,000, said Hoxworth.
As with the home repair program, Hoxworth is seeking applicants for the owner rehab program.
"I would just encourage anyone and everyone, especially if they need a new furnace or hot water tank, to reach out to us and let us help. This is a really good program and it helps a lot, especially at this time of year," said Hoxworth.
"A lot of these (eligible) individuals have worked their whole life, and sometimes it's ok to ask for assistance and let someone else give back. Some people are too proud and they need to not be. We have to use it or lose it, so they're helping this county by applying."
For more information about the programs or to get an application, call Hoxworth at 330-674-8625.
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or email@example.com.