Programs tout home ownership



June 23, 2010 - 12:00 AM

The Iola office of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development lauded two homeowners for their participation in USDA grant and loan programs that encourage home ownership and maintenance Tuesday.
Randy Snider, area director, noted that the recognition “focus(es) on people who have been kind and unique to work with.”
Helen Hill and Rhett and Janelle Allee received framed certificates noting their “utilization of our programs and” — in the case of Hill — “maintaining home ownership,” Snider said.
Hill received funds through a combination grant/loan program to replace her water line, hot water tank and furnace.
“It felt great to get in the shower and actually get wet,” she said of the work.
About four years ago, Hill re-roofed her home at 123 N. First St. through a similar USDA program. She has lived in the home since June 1, 1959.
“I sure appreciate the help,” the 75-year-old Hill said. “I never could have done it by myself.”
Hill noted she paid off her last loan, which can have interest rates as low as 1 percent, in less than three years, thanks to the reasonable payments the program provides.
Her current funds came through the USDA 504 Program, which calculates repayment “based on age and capacity to repay,” Snider said.
“I think they do wonderful work,” Hill noted of the assistance.

IN RURAL Iola, Rhett and Janelle Allee’s four-year-old son scurried about his living room, with cartoons on the television and cows in a pasture out the window.
The Allees were able to purchase the home at 1700 Mississippi Rd., which sits on five acres, through a USDA 502 Program loan. Rural homes can have acreage, providing the land value does not exceed 30 percent of the total appraised value of the property, Snider said.
The Allees were given a 100 percent loan on the home, requiring no money down.
“It was a lot of paperwork but it was manageable,” Rhett Allee noted of the program.
Without the USDA loan, the Allees were in a bind in their search for affordable housing.
With strict lending requirements limiting them, “the banks can’t loan money right now,” Rhett said, “and we can’t save up 20 percent for a down payment.”
Rhett works at Gates Manufacturing while Janelle is a K-12 music teacher for the Crest school district. Even so, payments on a conventional loan would have been too much for the couple, he said.
Right now, “we have about three years worth of funds to use in one year,” thanks to federal stimulus funds provided through the Obama administration’s Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said Tim Rogers, state housing program director. “The staff is ready to work hard and find some unique ways to get money out the door.”
Contact USDA Rural Development at 365-2901 extension 4, or and click on the housing tab for more information.
In Iola, Area Specialist Randy Woodruff focuses on the guaranteed loan program while Area Technician Shalawnda McVey and Area Specialist Marilyn Dean work primarily with single family direct loan programs, Snider said.
About 100 families statewide have been helped so far in the fiscal 2009-2010 year, Rogers said.