Housing division asking city council to endorse policy changes

Housing division asking city council to endorse policy changes

LAWTON, OK (TNN) - Homeowners needing financial help repairing their homes might soon be able to receive more help than they could in the past from the City of Lawton through a federal grant. The Housing and Community Development Division is now asking the city council to endorse some changes to their policies at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The updated policy will allow them to provide more money helping low-income homeowners do necessary home repairs. The Exterior Housing Improvement Program (EHIP) and the Homeowner Rehabilitation Program (REHAB) help low-income homeowners make repairs to their home through a contract to replace siding, windows, roofs, flooring, walls, kitchen and bathroom fixtures and ceilings for those who qualify.

"There is a house that is getting so warn, old, and unsound that it's almost not fit to live in,” Richard Rogalski with the City of Lawton said. “So, we can bring this program, that's why it's community development block grant. It comes in and we can make that house, not like new, but we can make it sealed and liveable. We can make it cozy."

Rogalski said in return, it helps the neighborhood. He said they hadn't updated the amount they provide in more than 15 years which is why they're increasing how much they can provide for the EHIP and REHAB projects. It will go from $5,000 to $10,000 for EHIP and from $25,000 to $35,000 for REHAB projects.

"Basically, it's the increase of the construction cost make it so that it's an artificial limit,” he said. “Right now, everybody is bumping up against it and it's causing the projects to be pulled down a little bit or limited a little bit."

The homeowner has to pay what the federal grant doesn't cover, or the amount of work is scaled back to fit the budget. He said people have trouble coming up with the money needed.

"So, generally what we end up doing is just limiting the scope of the project,” Rogalski said. “We feel that's just not what the purpose of the project. We think the purpose of that project is to make that house whole."

Those who get help with exterior improvements don't have to pay anything back, but those who receive help through REHAB have to pay a percentage back depending on their income. Rogalski said they normally do 12 projects through EHIP and REHAB each year.

"There is some concern that you end up having to do a little less, a little fewer projects in the long run, but I don't think that is nearly the issue as being able to complete the projects,” he said.

The policy isn’t in effect yet because they’re waiting to see what the council says before putting it into place. If the council likes the policy change, the administration can change it immediately.

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