Brewer News

Brewer receives $300,000 housing grant

5.26.2011 – City officials heard last week that $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds will be heading to town in August to help low- to moderate-income residents improve their homes.

“Brewer was one of only six communities statewide to get the funds,” Ron Harriman, a consultant for the grant program, said on Thursday.

The city applied for the CDBG funds through the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development, which gets the funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Economic and Community Development originally set aside $2.3 million for the housing improvement program this year but that figure was reduced to just $1.8 million, making the application process even more competitive, Harriman said.

“It was a big cut,” he said. “Brewer had a strong application.”

The grant funds are available to homeowners and landlords who rent their buildings to low- to moderate-income tenants and can be used for improving the efficiency of heating systems; fixing electrical or plumbing problems; repairing a roof; installing replacement windows, doors or siding; adding a wheelchair ramp; or other projects, James Smith, assistant Brewer city manager, has said.

A single homeowner in Brewer can make up to $34,550 and still qualify for the housing improvement program, and a family of four can make up to $49,350.

“It’s open to anyone interested in applying,” Harriman said.

The CDBG applications are available at City Hall and soon will be posted on the city’s website, Those who filled out a pre-application, designed to gather information about need, are being encouraged to apply, Harriman said.

“The application process is easy” and will be reviewed privately by a selection committee, he said.

Landlords interested in applying must rent more than half of their units to low- or moderate-income tenants in order to qualify and are required to match any funds used to improve their properties, Smith said. Homeowners must provide “work equity” as a contribution, he said.

Landlords cannot increase rents and homeowners must agree not to sell the home for five years. If they do sell, they must pay back the CDBG account for the repairs based on a sliding scale so it can be used to help others make home improvements, Smith said.

Brewer’s first round of CDBG funding, issued in 2004, helped a total of 121 Brewer residents through 22 single-family home projects and renovations at 16 apartment buildings, Harriman said. The second grant was issued in 2008 and assisted a similar number of residents, he said.

“It really does do a lot of good things,” Harriman has said of the grant program.

As with the last round of CDBG funding, Brewer city leaders will partner with a number of local agencies to stretch the money, Smith said.

Those interested in more information, can call Smith at 989-7500 or the Community Development Office at 947-8595.

A copyright story from the Bangor Daily News, Thursday, May 26, 2011, by Nok-Noi Ricker.