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Grants for Low Income Home Owners

  • 1.  Grants for Low Income Home Owners

    Posted 05-06-2019 15:38

    Greetings all,


    I have been participating in a community group interested in social equity and a significant issue in our small city is housing inequality and owners without the means to keep up with their aging homes.  We discussed advice and loan programs already available to low income residents but hope the city can do more in outright grants to individual home owners. I realize funding is the big hurdle but our city might actually have access to some seed money from a REC program if they can be convinced. Can any of you point me towards communities or cities that operate competitive grant programs for efficiency updates, emergency repairs, or the like?  Or if not grants, some other program that reduces the bottom line for home owners (but without a ton of intimidating paperwork)?


    Many thanks in advance for any guidance you can provide.


    Liz Schultz



    Elizabeth Schultz

    Executive Director

    Oberlin Heritage Center

    73 1/2 South Professor Street

    P.O. Box 0455

    Oberlin, OH  44074-0455

    (440) 774-1700


  • 2.  RE: Grants for Low Income Home Owners

    Posted 05-07-2019 11:36
    ​Iowa City, Iowa implemented a historic preservation fund July 1, 2017. We have local historic districts and local landmarks that are regulated so that any changes to the exterior of properties are reviewed by staff or the Commission.
    Our City Council gave us a $40,000 pool of money for each fiscal year. We have set it up as follows:
    We provide a grant for 50% of the project cost, up to a $5,000 grant per project (minimum 8 possible projects), for eligible work on a eligible property if the property is owner-occupied and the income is less than 140% of the median income. If the property is a rental or the income is above that threshold, it is a no-interest loan for five years instead of a grant. Eligible properties are basically regulated properties and eligible projects are generally those that we regulate and would review anyway. The applicants submit the application for historic review which they would do anyway for approval. Then they submit our simple, one-page application, with proof of income and household size, and two quotes for the work. We communicate often and freely with our applicants because we don't want Historic Preservation to feel too bureaucratic. Once all is approved, we enter into a contract with the  owner for the fund. At the end of the project, they submit final invoices (because scope and costs change on historic properties), we review the work and then pay the owner the grant money.
    So far we have not had extraordinary competition because the applications tend to roll in throughout the year. We did develop a project score sheet that we have been using throughout in case competition does become an issue. We have had some difficulty sometimes with owners being able to get two quotes but so far they have all been successful. We put a year deadline on the projects in case we get owners doing the work and using the grant for materials. We have been very flexible on that.
    Generally I think it works well for us especially to help enforce our goals for repair over replacement with historic windows. We have also had some wood shingle roofs replaced in-kind, missing porches reconstructed, synthetic siding removed and original siding repaired, and similar projects. Even though we are perilously short on staff time, our historic preservation staffing is very committed to problem-solving, hand-holding when necessary, and generally being a good resource in our community so I don't think that the red-tape for the program has been an issue. It does add to staff responsibility quite a bit. Several of the homeowners in our community have been able to use a GRIP loan through our neighborhood services department for the match-portion too.
    When developing our historic preservation fund, we looked at the only other similar funds we could find at the time. They were in Normal, IL, Dubuque, IA, Tampa, FL, and Riverside, CA.

    Jessica Bristow
    Historic Preservation Planner
    City of Iowa City
    Iowa City IA

  • 3.  RE: Grants for Low Income Home Owners

    Posted 05-07-2019 14:21

    Hi Liz,

    Our Energy Savers program at the Chicago Bungalow Association is a good example of what you're describing! The program covers free energy efficiency retrofits for low-income homeowners living in homes built at least 50 years ago in Chicago. We've completed about 7,500 retrofits in Chicago, an investment of over $27 million in the city's communities and vintage single-family housing stock. The program has gone through changes since it started in 2008, and now each retrofit is valued between $5,000 and $12,000. You can visit our program page at and send me an email if you'd like to learn more! Our Executive Director would be happy to schedule a call with you and answer any questions.

    Angela Pauldine

    Director of Communications
    Chicago Bungalow Association
    52 W Jackson Blvd, Suite 740
    Chicago, IL 60604
    (312) 675-0300 x12

    Angela Pauldine
    Chicago IL

  • 4.  RE: Grants for Low Income Home Owners

    Posted 05-07-2019 17:44
    Liz, check out Fort Collins' zero interest loan program. It sounds like it does exactly what you're looking for.

    Meg Dunn
    Fort Collins CO

  • 5.  RE: Grants for Low Income Home Owners

    Posted 05-08-2019 09:10
    Milwaukee has a partially forgivable $20,000 loan program. It is not dedicated to historic preservation, but historic properties are just as eligible as any other owner-occupied property. If an owner is accepted for the program and the property is designated historic, the scope of work gets routed to the historic preservation staff for review.

    The only downside is that the city bids out the work and hires and pays the contractor directly, so it's not often possible to get people with the proper skillset to get things done correctly.

     $20,000 STRONG Homes Loan Program. 
    Milwaukee remove preview
    $20,000 STRONG Homes Loan Program
    Partially Forgivable Loans for Emergency & Essential Home Repairs The STRONG Homes Loan Program offers partially forgivable loans of up to $20,000 to homeowners throughout the City of Milwaukee. Loans can be used to make emergency and essential home repairs and address building code orders.
    View this on Milwaukee >

    Tim Askin
    City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission
    Milwaukee WI