|Jun 24, 2013 --
USDA Home Loan Program Helps Widowed Senior Afford Safe, Year-Round Home in Breezy Point, Minn.
Beverly Lawyer learned firsthand that there is much more to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) than meat inspection and production agriculture. Now she wants to share her story with others.
When her husband was alive, the couple were snowbirds. They took their RV to a warm locale during the winter and then lived in their three-season cabin in Breezy Point the rest of the year.
But everything changed when her husband passed away in 2011. Lawyer—in her 80’s now—could not handle RV living alone. Unfortunately, the Breezy Point cabin she loved so much was not safe for year-round living.
“With little retirement money remaining and getting by with only one Social Security check, it was a stressful, terrifying time for me,” Lawyer said.
Lucky for her, a friend knew something about local home repair programs for seniors, and Lawyer quickly found her way to USDA Rural Development.
One phone call and an application later, Rural Development specialist Terry Atkinson visited Lawyer’s home to see what needed to be done.
Rural Development’s direct home repair loan and grant programs are designed to help eligible, low-income seniors who own inadequate but repairable housing.
Applicants must be a rural resident or living in a town with population of 20,000 or less. Qualified projects can include repairing or replacing a roof, winterizing, purchasing or repairing a heating system, structural repair, water and sewage connect fees, and similar uses.
In Lawyer’s case, the cabin needed a new roof that met local building codes, a new furnace, and work to submerge the well pipe ten feet into the ground so it would not freeze in the winter.
Applicants work one-on-one with a local Rural Development specialist throughout the application process, which includes an appraisal and review of repayment ability and credit record.
Lawyer worked with Atkinson in Rural Development’s Baxter office, who approved a 20-year loan at 1 percent interest. Grants are available to homeowners over the age of 62 and must be used to remove health or safety hazards.
With her loan approved, Lawyer said she “got busy getting three bids for a rebuilt roof to state requirements, a high performance natural gas furnace, and well pipe repair.”
Atkinson reviewed the bids and gave Lawyer permission to use the service suppliers she preferred. Lawyer was thrilled that she was able to use local contractors that she felt very comfortable working with. “The selected suppliers performed with excellent work ethics and professionalism,” she said.
Lawyer helped with the project as well. “I assisted by priming and painting all the
fascia boards before they were needed by the builder. My neighbors were as impressed as I was watching a summer cabin become a well- constructed, year-around home for a senior widow.”
In addition to helping seniors with home repairs that allow them to stay in their own homes, Rural Development also has loan programs to help lower-income rural residents purchase a home.
All of these programs increase economic development and job creation in rural communities. According to the National Association of Realtors, the sale of an existing median-priced home generates over $58,000 in economic activity.
This includes direct real estate industry supports, home furnishings, appliances and landscaping and other stimulated economic activity.
“Rural housing results in rural jobs,” Colleen Landkamer, USDA Rural Development State Director, said. “By helping seniors keep their homes in good repair and increasing the number of homeowners in rural communities, you’re increasing the number of people that shop at local businesses and contribute to the regional economy.” Rural Development has invested over $2 billion since 2009 to increase homeownership in rural Minnesota.
But all of that success is built one loan at a time. “Thank you is not enough to express my appreciation and gratefulness to the USDA and area specialist, Terry Atkinson, for their concern and caring to solve my personal housing issue,” Lawyer said. She is grateful and happy to have a safe, warm home year round. “My story is nothing less than a beautiful miracle!”
To learn more about Rural Development’s home loan programs, call the Baxter area office at 218-829-5965 or visit www.rurdev.usda.gov/mn.