For Monterey residents with housing repair needs, grant money still available

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MONTEREY — State grant money is still available to town residents who need to make critical home repairs but can't afford it.

About $300,000 is left in what started as an $825,000 Community Development Block Grant issued by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, according to Alice Boyd, a community development consultant who helped secure the funds last year.

It's a first-come, first-served program run by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to both help people stay comfortably in their homes, and improve the housing stock. The grant money originates with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

So far, Boyd said, around 17 homeowners have applied, most of them seniors, for what can be an up to $40,000 grant for vital repairs. It's a great deal for those who qualify, Boyd said. It's a loan at a zero-percent interest rate that amortizes down over 15 years, unless the home is sold earlier.

"Most people never pay a penny," she added.

But she said this can also frighten people away from considering applying.

"It sounds too good to be true," she said. "People say it's 'free money,' but it is a government program that's terrific."

The home has to be a primary residence, and homeowners have to meet income level criteria. Two-person households are eligible if they earn less than $51,200; $44,800 for one person; $64,000 for four people.

The applications are taken on a rolling basis as long as there's money left.

"We will run out of money this year, so if people are interested, they should get their applications in," Boyd said.

So far the applications show a need for work to septic systems and wells. Windows and old furnaces are another big need, Boyd said, adding that the money is meant for work that will fix a vital part of the structure like a roof, bring a house up to code, or weatherize and cut heating costs by changing out windows and doors.

"We just don't do anything fancy, like granite counter tops, and we don't do additions," she said.

Boyd said she's seeing so many applications from seniors because Berkshire County is aging overall.

"It follows the demographics — we have seniors on fixed incomes, but we're happy to work with seniors and young people alike."

Boyd, a Sandisfield resident, has also applied to the state for another $1.3 million housing grant to be shared by Sandisfield, Monterey and Egremont.

She said pulling this money into the area is long overdue.

"The Berkshires has been underfunded for years," Boyd said. "The money is going to go somewhere else in the state — I'd like to see it come to the Berkshires."

Applications and information can be found on the Monterey town website, Monterey.gov. or by calling Boyd at 413-258-7055.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871


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