The federal government provides a number of programs designed to assist citizens with home and house repairs. One of the programs administered through the US Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development offers grants and loans to owner-occupants of very low-income housing for home improvement and repairs. Known as Section 504 loans and grants the program was authorized by the Housing Act of 1949.
The program provides loans for general repairs to the owner’s property and the funds primarily directed at alleviation of health and safety issues. Home Improvement Grants are also awarded for the removal of safety hazards and for remodeling projects that make the dwellings more accessible to those with disabilities. The loan or grant funds can also be used for general modernization of the property.
Generally the grants and loans are made for infrastructure improvements to the property’s heating, electrical or plumbing systems. Particularly given the current emphasis on energy conservation and green projects, many of the awards are focused on weatherization of the low-income properties.
Since these grants and loans are administered by the Department of Agriculture the program is primarily aimed at rural low-income areas. To be eligible for this program the dwelling must be in an rural area with a population of less than 10,000. In some cases the eligibility expands to areas with up to 25,000 people when the community is not included in a Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Loans range up to $20,000 for eligible individuals and carry an interest rate of one percent with up to a 20 year term for repayment. Grants can go as high as $7,500 and as the term implies do not have to be repaid.
To be eligible for grant funding the home owner must be over 62 and not have the capability to repay a loan.
The Department of Agriculture Website provides access to maps and income calculators to help determine dwelling and income eligibility for the Very Low-Income Housing Repair Loans and Grants program.