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EDA OKs home improvement loan program

NEW ULM — The New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA) voted Tuesday to establish a new rehab loan programs for single-family homes.

The loan program is called “The Get It Ready” program and provides loans with less-than-market rates to homeowners who have significant, necessary and expensive rehabilitation needs on their homes which may impact the home’s livability and attractiveness when selling.

The program using EDA funds intends to stimulate needed investments in homes that need additional work to “get it ready” for the market. Other programs of this variety are available in the region.

City Manager Chris Dalton said constructing new houses is not possible for new families and first-time homebuyers. He said this loan would help homeowners fix up the bones of a house.

The program assists homeowners with loans for eligible permanent home improvements and could include: roofing, electrical, heating, structural, driveway repair, sewer and water line replacement and window and door replacement.

Dalton said this loan could also be used for the senior population who are trying to sell a home but can’t get the price they want because additional work is needed.

Dalton said the loan program would need $120,000 to get started. The minimum loan amount for The Get It Ready program is $5,000. The maximum amount is $40,000.

Loans would be at 2% interest for 10 years.

For applicants that are 65 or older, there would be no monthly payments or interest accrued. The principal amount would be due at the time of sale. The applicant will be responsible for a credit report fee of $60 and a title search fee of $50.

Applications require one written bid from a contractor (must include materials and labor costs). There is no consideration of sweat equity or material-only loans. Payments are made directly to the homeowner after notifying city staff of completed projects.

Homes must be within the City of New Ulm limits and have no judgments or liens recorded against the property. Applicants must have at least a third title interest in the property, be current on mortgage and property tax payments, and provide proof of current homeowner’s insurance.

The board questioned if the loan amounts needed to be adjusted. Board member Les Schultz said if all the loans were for the maximum of $40,000 the EDA would only be able to fund three projects.

Dalton said it was a pilot program to determine the need. The program could be adjusted at a later time.

Board member Susan Fix made the motion to approve the EDA loan program, describing it as a beautifying New Ulm project.

The program was unanimously approved by the board.

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The EDA approved the revised utility allowance schedules for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program provides rental assistance to low-income households. Program participants pay about 30% of their adjusted monthly income toward rent and utility costs. The New Ulm Economic Development Authority pays the remaining portion of the rent directly to the landlord.

The utility allowance schedule is an estimate of what the household will pay for utilities based on the bedroom size, type of unit and location. HUD requires utility rate schedules be reviewed annually and adjusted based on current rates, weather adjustment factors and other pertinent information that affect the cost of utilities.

Utility allowances have remained fairly flat compared to the 2020 rates. The notable changes were slight increases in the water and sewer rates for Sleepy Eye and Springfield and LP gas and heating oil for all communities.

Schultz asked if the dramatic rise in natural gas prices in February is being addressed by this schedule. Schultz was concerned tenants would still see incredibly high bills.

Housing coordinator Heather Bregel said the utility schedule was calculated in December before gas prices spiked. The schedule would likely not reflect the increase until next year. The schedule approved by the board would not go into effect until May 1.

Bregel was uncertain if the February increase would impact next year’s rates. Since rates are determined in December, the February utility increase might not be a factor.

Board member Daniel Braam asked if this utility allowance could be adjusted later in the year if the board saw a need.

Bregel said the board is required to review the allowances annually, but nothing is limiting the board from making special adjustments.

Braam asked Bregel to bring the allowance back for further review if the gas price is having a significant impact on the voucher program participants.

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The EDA approved a Broadway Haus site improvement project and authorized staff to solicit bids.

The project includes the replacement of three landscaping block planters and landscaping block edging around one patio area. The existing landscaping block planters near the main entrance on the 3rd North side of the building need replacement.

In some areas, the bottom row of the block deteriorated from sidewalk salt and several blocks have come loose and had to be removed. In other areas, the tree roots are pushing against the block, causing them to shift, creating large gaps and loose blocks.

The project will include removing the existing block and replacing it with poured concrete. The poured concrete planters will be stronger and better able to resist the roots from pushing it apart over time because there would be no joints/seams.

There is also a patio area on the Broadway side of the building with a border made of landscaping blocks. Some of the blocks have come loose over time, resulting in areas where the border has fallen apart. The landscaping block border will be removed and replaced with a poured concrete edging.

The existing planters and patio border were constructed in 2003. Staff consulted with a local vendor in November 2020 about replacing the planters. The vendor recommended removing the mature locust trees and planting new younger trees. Staff consulted with engineering staff who inspected the trees and found them to be in good health and did not recommend removal.

The main reasons for changing to a poured concrete planter. This would save the trees currently in place.

Bregel said the project was estimated at $10,000. Alternative bids will also be requested to possibly add color and texture to the concrete.

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