Federal funding allows the City of Lawton’s housing and community development division to help low-income residents maintain their homes.

Christine James, division administrator, said funding provided through the Community Development Block Grant and HOME programs finance the Homeowner Emergency Repair, Exterior Housing Improvement and Homeowner Housing Rehabilitation programs. All three are designed to help low-income residents with the repairs or improvements they need to continue living in their homes, with funding provided to those who meet low-income guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

All three are targeted toward those who own the structures and use them as their primary residence.

The Emergency Repair program provides financial assistance for a repair that affects the safety, security, health and well being of the household members. It provides up to $5,000 to cover repairs that could be as varied as a roof repair, replacement of a heating unit, or repairing broken waterlines.

“That’s an emergency,” James said of repairs made on items that would affect the ability to continue living in the structure.

The housing and community development division provides the contractor who does the repair work, in most instances completing the work within a week or two, she said.

“We’ve repaired a lot of broken pipes this year,” James said, of damage that stemmed from the extended freeze in February.

The Exterior Housing program provides up to $10,000 for repairs on a home’s outside: siding, windows, the addition of or repairs to patios and access ramps, adding railings to porches for elderly people. James said the program has added a number of handicapped accessible ramps in the past year, to supplement a program usually handled by local AMBUCS, but which got placed on hold because the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You can get quite a bit done for $10,000,” James said, adding projects have been a little more difficult in recent months because the cost of building materials skyrocketed during the pandemic.

The Housing Rehabilitation program will provide up to $45,000 to qualified residents to restore homes that do not meet standard living conditions, but are still structurally sound.

“The kicker is that they have to move out of the home,” James said, of the provision that allows contractors to complete repairs while the house is empty — a requirement that discourages some residents who can’t afford to move out of their homes.

This assistance is provided as a repayable loan, so home owners “see the value in it,” she said of a program that allow part of the loan to be forgiven. The repayable portion, a zero interest loan, is based on income and total amount of assistance provided.

James said the goal is to help low-income homeowners.

“We want to keep you in your home as long as possible,” she said.

Information, to include the application process, is available through the housing and community development office, 581-3347 or 581-3350. The division is located in the Owens Multipurpose Center, 1405 S. 11th.

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