Getting Federal Help With That Fixer-Upper

Federal funds help homeowners in need of financial help rehabilitate their homes

The city of Plano is using federal money to help homeowners fix dilapidated homes and even, in some cases, build new ones.

Most cities receive funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development like the money that helped Pamela Monday fix up the 1953 cottage her parents had left her.

The house was a 661-square foot money pit with significant problems from foundation to roof.

"There was not hardly any insulation in the house, the wiring was really bad, and the plumbing was always messing up," said Monday. "I was paying like 350 a month for electricity."

Monday moved into the house after she went from being employed to being disabled on a fixed income. She has a "whole drawer full" of medications she takes twice a day since suffering a stroke.

"It's depressing; you don't really know what to do which way to turn next," Monday said.

A friend told her to contact Plano's City Hall, and the city determined she qualified for assistance.

Inspectors took a look at her home and determined that Monday qualified for the federal money because of her fixed income and disability and the safety conditions of the house.

But the house was in such poor condition that it would have been a waste of money to fix it. Instead, Plano decided to demolish it and build her a new one.

"I was like, 'You're what?'" Monday said. "And they repeated it, and I said, 'You are?' and they said, 'Would you mind?' I said, 'No!'"

Demolition immediately began. In six months, Monday had a new, energy-efficient, 1,000-square-foot home with an attached garage for a total cost of $70,000, a loan she helps to partially repay at 3 ½ percent interest.

"Sometimes the notes are fully forgivable; sometimes they're partially forgivable," said Grisenia Matos, of the Plano Community Services Division.

Monday owes a slightly more than $7,000, about 1/10th the cost of construction

"My payments are like $80 dollars a month for 10 years," Monday said.

Monday said her house isn't a castle and may not be anyone's ideal dream home, but it has allowed her to stop worrying and focus on living.

"This program gives you hope," Monday said.

Matos said there are probably more people who qualify for assistance than the program can help. But it has funds available, because most people don't know that such home-building or rehabilitation programs exist.

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