Oct 23

Loans: Helping Seniors Stay in Their Homes

by Renata Birkenbuel

For seniors seeking to stay in their homes while also securing much-needed repairs, NeighborWorks Great Falls offers a snappy loan program that helps strengthen the core of a neighborhood.

The aptly-named Aging in Place Loan program is a subset of the Home Improvement Program Loan administered by NeighborWorks in Great Falls, a virtual powerhouse nonprofit that has dutifully, consistently provided affordable housing to lower-income families and revitalized declining neighborhoods since 1980.

While an estimated 25 percent of NeighborWorks loans go to individuals or heads of households age 55 or older, the specific Aging in Place Loan is open to anyone of any age, stresses executive director Sheila Rice. There is no age minimum requirement to apply.

“HIP Loans help senior citizens make the changes to their homes that allow them to stay in their home and live out their years in a familiar place,” says Rice, a longtime community leader and activist.

“Sometimes, just a small change, like adding bathroom grab bars, makes a big difference,” she added.

“Other times, a bathroom on the main floor will allow a senior to stay at home longer. These loans are a great way for NeighborWorks to help seniors stay in their homes, so we offer not only loan funds, but assistance in drawing up work specifications and finding a contractor to do the work.“

The HIP loan is an amortizing loan repayable in affordable monthly payments, which means that the loan, spread out over time, may eventually be written off. However, eligible homeowners must be able to pay off the loan per a qualifi cation formula that NeighborWorks uses. For more information, see http://www.nwgreatfalls.org/aiploans.html.  To apply, contact Karen Nebel, manager of the HomeOwnership Center and 16-year veteran of NeighborWorks, at 406-761-5861 and knebel@nwgf.org.

“All home improvement loans include a visit from our rehab specialist to assist in determining the most-needed repairs, draw up work specifications, choosing a contractor and a post-repair visit to assure the work was completed to the homeowner’s satisfaction,” Rice details.

With 10 years at the helm, Rice brings an impressive resume to NeighborWorks, which partners with NeighborWorks America, funder of the local loan capital pool.  She completed the NeighborWorks Achieving Excellence Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, plus she holds a master’s in business administration from the University of Montana.

Residents persistently benefit from Rice’s leadership in providing a host of other services, including homebuyer education and counseling, new construction of affordable homes, high school house construction in which local students partner to gain hands-on construction experience, mutual self-help construction and neighborhood revitalization projects.

NeighborWorks Great Falls has offered the HIP Loans since 1980, when the organization was founded.

The NeighborWorks American business model is undeniably successful, having passed along funding to 234 local NeighborWorks organizations located in all 50 states.

Other senior home repair programs are available through the city of Great Falls, in Kalispell (Community Action Program), Bozeman (Human Resources Development Council), Billings and in Shelby. As for rural Montana, Rural Development Housing Services – a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture – offers a home improvement loan program.

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