NE community leaders promoting home improvement program

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December 26, 2012
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

Northeast neighborhood organizations are trying to raise awareness for their home improvement programs as Minnesota continues to recover from the housing mortgage crisis.

“The loans have been slowing down the last few years,” said Michael Rainville, a board member for St. Anthony West Neighborhood Organization (STAWNO).

According to Rainville, 115 homes have utilized STAWNO’s home improvement loan program since its first loan in 1997, which would constitute as 15 percent of the housing stock in the neighborhood. After the program saw tremendous growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, demand has petered off due to the housing crash and market saturation.

“We’ve impacted so many of the houses we’ve kinda hit critical mass, so now we’re trying to do another marketing campaign to get the word out,” said Rainville. Recently STAWNO cut the interest rate in half for their loan program, lowering it from 4 percent to 2 percent.

Most neighborhood organizations in Northeast Minneapolis offer some sort of home improvement loan program, with varying terms and conditions. They receive funding from the Neighborhood Revitalization Program and the loans are administered through either the Greater Minneapolis Housing Corporation (GMHC) (Sheridan, St. Anthony East and West, Waite Park, Columbia Park) or the Center for Energy and Environment (Logan Park, Audubon, Marshall Terrace, Northeast Park, Windom Park).

One of the biggest public home improvement loan programs in Minneapolis is the Minneapolis Home Improvement Loan Program. This program is available to every household in Minneapolis but it has over 200 households on its waiting list — the wait is well over a year — and a small amount of funds left in its budget, according to Suzanne Snyder, Program Director for the GMHC.

With a waiting list so long, many have turned to local neighborhood organizations to find low-interest home improvement loans.

“My house has a huge, beautiful wraparound front porch, and I borrowed money from the neighborhood to do that,” said Chris Linde, who used STAWNO’s home improvement loan program in 2003 to build his porch.

This year Linde took advantage of the Energy Audit Rebate Program, another of STAWNO’s home improvement programs. This program allowed him to have a professional from CenterPoint Energy come to his house and conduct a thorough review of his home’s energy efficiency.

“The house I live in is 100 years old,” said Linde. “Some of these houses are so inefficient, and to have the neighborhood organization come in and help out with that is a great connection to the neighborhood.”

After paying $100 for the service on his CenterPoint Energy utility bill, Linde and others who use the program will be reimbursed in full by STAWNO. In addition to recommendations made by the energy auditor in person, Linde was given a nine-page report detailing 15 different improvements he could do to make his home more energy efficient.

For more information, go to gmchhousing.org and mncee.org.