WILLMAR—Homes located on the northside of downtown Willmar and businesses within the downtown business district will soon be able to apply for no-interest, deferred loans for eligible rehabilitation projects.
The city’s application for a Small Cities block grant of $1,205,177 was approved earlier this summer by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
“This project is for assisting homeowners and business in the downtown area on district heat, to help them with funding with that,” Mayor Marv Calvin said at Monday’s Willmar City Council meeting.
While the shutting down of the Municipal Utilities’ district heating program was one of the main reasons the city applied for a Small Cities grant—to help those affected pay for a new heating system—a variety of residential and commercial rehabilitation projects are eligible for funds, as long as the property is within the program focus area.
Jill Bengtson, Kandiyohi County Housing and Redevelopment Authority director, discussed the approved program at the council meeting and explained the next steps, which include council approval of several program policies.
The block grant will provide $253,837 for approximately 13 downtown business owners to receive 0 percent, seven-year deferred loans not to exceed $40,000 to help fund rehabilitation projects. The grant also has $286,000 for an estimated 13 loans not to exceed $25,000 for homeowners in the area north of downtown to assist with eligible rehabilitation projects. Those loans also are 0 percent, seven-year deferred.
The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership was awarded $600,000 of the block grant in a 0 percent, 30-year deferred forgivable loan to help the organization purchase and rehabilitate the Hanson Apartments located along Lakeland Drive Southeast.
A waiting list of interested commercial and residential property owners was started last fall. Forty-three homeowners and 38 businesses were put on the list.
“People are still welcome to get on the wait list by contacting our agency,” Bengtson said.
However, the approved grant will not fund everyone and there will be more people turned down for funding than approved.
“Our wait lists are real long. We are going to have a lot of disappointed people,” Bengtson said.
Despite the long odds, Calvin supports the program.
“Had we not applied for this, no one would have gotten this. It is a very good program,” Calvin said.
Prior to the grant money being released, several steps are required. The council unanimously approved the adoption of several program start-up policies mandated by the federal government at Monday’s meeting.
The policies included such things as fair housing plan, a displacement minimization plan, and plans that outline how the funding can be used and who will receive assistance.
Other steps that need to be completed before money will be available include a contract between the state Department of Employment and Economic Development and Willmar; execution of an administrative contract between the city and the HRA, who will be administering the project on behalf of Willmar; and the approval of the environmental review by DEED.
Once the funds are in hand, the HRA will accept applications from parties who are on the waiting list.
“It is probably going to be September or October before we begin taking applications,” Bengtson said.
The loan funds can be used to help pay for window and door replacement, roof replacement, siding replacement, foundation repairs, repairs or replacements of electrical, plumbing or heating systems, insulation, handicap accessibility and corrections for building code violations.
“We look forward to the good work to happen with this grant,” Calvin said. “The recipients will be very pleased.”
West Central Tribune by Shelby Lindrud