State revamps home accessibility program to make it easier for residents to apply for loans of up to $50K

  • Valley Community Development Executive Director Alexis Breiteneicher. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/23/2023 5:29:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Valley residents looking to secure no-interest loans from the state to make accessibility improvements to their homes now have an easier way to do so after the state reconfigured its coverage area for western Massachusetts.

The Home Modification Loan Program, overseen by the Community Economic Development Assistance Corp., is a state-funded initiative that provides financing to older adults, people with disabilities and small landlords who want to make necessary home modifications such as ramps and lifts, widening of doorways, fencing, renovating flooring, adding handrails, bathroom and kitchen counter adaptations and more.

The Community Economic Development Assistance Corp. recently revamped its western Massachusetts area into four sub-regions overseen by distinct regional provider agencies where people can apply for home modification loans. Officials believe the changes will enable them to better reach and serve homeowners in those communities.

For Hampshire and Hampden counties, the program previously included a partnership with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and Way Finders Inc., which serves residents in Northampton, Amherst, South Hadley, Holyoke, Agawam, Chicopee, Springfield, Westfield and West Springfield.

Now, Valley Community Development, which serves all of Hampden and Hampshire county towns not served by Way Finders, is taking over for the PVPC, according to Alexis Breiteneicher, executive director of Valley Community Development.

The Northampton nonprofit has an existing homebuyers program and works with a lot of households with low and moderate incomes who might benefit from this program, she said.

“We have hundreds of first-time homebuyers take our workshops each year — many of them buy a home eventually. Having that extensive contract list already will hopefully increase utilization of the program,” Breiteneicher said.

As part of the partnership, the new regional partners will work directly with potential new loan applicants.

Donna Cabana, home ownership manager for Valley CDC, said the program is effective and flexible and helps people stay in their homes as they get older or those who may have to take care of someone with a disability.

“The Housing Modification Loan Program has 20 years of helping people make necessary modifications to their homes, like adding ramps and lifts, or creating sensory integration spaces,” Cabana said.

The Home Modification Loan Program is a collaborative initiative of the CEDAC, the Massachusetts Rehab Commission, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Roger Herzog, executive director of the Community Economic Development Assistance Corp., said the regional partners were selected due to their deep roots and depth of knowledge.

“We know there is a significant need for this resource, and these new agencies will allow consumers to more easily reach HMLP and connect with someone local, at an organization closer to home and their community,” Herzog said.

Established by the Legislature in 1999, the program provides no-interest deferred loans ranging from $1,000 to $50,000 to homeowners to make renovations. Owners of manufactured or mobile homes may borrow between $1,000 and $30,000.

A landlord with less than 10 housing units may apply to the program at 3% interest.

There are no monthly payments. Instead, loans are paid back when the property is sold or transferred.

General home repair and projects that don’t directly relate to the beneficiary’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis and would benefit anyone living in the home are not eligible for financing.

Individuals who have a gross income of up to $196,000 are eligible. Two-person households with a combined gross income of up to $224,400 are also eligible.

Interested applicants in Hampshire and Hampden counties served by Way Finders should contact Amneris Moreno at 413-233-1615 or amoreno@wayfinders.org. Other residents in Hampshire and Hampden counties should contact Cabana at 413-586-5855, ext. 180 or email hmlp@valleycdc.org.

Franklin County residents can now apply for the program through the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority.

The authority typically processes between 35 and 55 loans annually through its home rehabilitation programs, according to Executive Director Gina Govoni. However, she said the home modification loans are “underutilized” with only about five loans processed each year.

“That’s, I think, part of the reason why CEDAC thought they should get another partner,” Govoni said. “This is just another tool we’ll be able to easily coordinate with, depending on what the need is.”

Franklin County residents with questions should call Grafton Brown at 413-223-5228 or gbrown@fcrhra.org.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

Chris Larabee contributed to this report.


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