County contributes to AHEAD fund

Jan. 24—OTTUMWA — Whenever the Wapello County Board of Supervisors sees a way to make its residents' quality of life better, it will do that.

The board committed did again with its latest act, which literally help put a roof over people's heads.

The board donated $7,087 to the Area 15 Regional Planning Commission as part of the group's regional housing trust fund. That money will help citizens improve their homes on the inside and outside by allowing them to not pay a dime until the pass away, or take low low-interest loans for improvements, depending on household income levels.

"For a lot of people, they think it's too good to be true," supervisor Jerry Parker said. "But they just don't know about the program. In the beginning, this wasn't about necessarily improving the homes, but improving neighborhoods. It's a really good program."

The way the program works is fairly simple, but it's based on household income, and a home has to be worth at least $20,000.

The fund itself allows up to $12,000 in loans for fixes, and the program includes Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Van Buren and Wapello counties.

—If the household income is less than $23,000, then nothing is paid back until a death or the the home is sold.

—If the income is between $23,000 and $35,000, zero-interest payments are available over a seven- to 10-year period.

—For incomes between $35,000 and $45,000, the interest is 1% over the same time frame. A 2% loan is available for incomes between $45,000 to $60,000. Even then, a loan on that kind of project can be less than the loan on a mortgage payment.

Eligible projects include roofs, siding, windows, furnaces and sewer lines from inside the home to the street, Parker said. According to the program's guidelines, the funds are to "improve the condition of existing housing through rehabilitation and/or repair." Driveways or sidewalks aren't included.

Parker said in the beginning, the county received about 100 applications, but that number has declined to about a dozen a year. The supervisors can help residents fill out the application, or citizens can do it themselves online through Area 15's website, which has more information regarding the program.

"It's a lengthy application. We do applications, and I think in the last five years, we've only had one that was turned down," he said. "The seniors get concerned because when they pass away, they want something to leave their kids. The kids would have to pay off the loan."

Parker said some of the income thresholds could change in March, but it figures to be incremental.

"This is probably the most beneficial thing we really do to help a person. If someone needs a furnace, it's not too often a government entity can help with that," supervisor Brian Morgan said. "It's not done through us, but Area 15. I think there's definitely a need for it, and it really is about getting people convinced that it's not too good to be true.

"You know, a 75-year-old can get the roof fixed, or a furnace replaced to where they can live comfortably for the last few years of their life," he said. "To me, that's well worth it."

"And the interest on it is (at most) 2%, which is phenomenal for some work like that," supervisor Wayne Huit added.

— Chad Drury can be reached at, and on Twitter @ChadDrury