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Non-profit housing may get boost

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

CHARLESTON -- Area nonprofit housing organizations that face a high demand for their services will have a chance to apply for a share of $800,000 allocated to the West Virginia Housing Development Fund.

Gov. Cecil Underwood announced the allocation Feb. 9, saying in a prepared statement that nonprofit housing agencies need help in developing sites for low-cost housing.

"The West Virginia Housing Development Fund understands the costs associated with economic development and saw fit to provide assistance to nonprofit housing organizations where it is crucially needed," Underwood said in the statement.

Several nonprofit organizations in North Central West Virginia assist eligible applicants with home construction and repairs through low interest loans based on applicant incomes. One advantage of the loans for new home construction: They have substantially lower down payments than standard bank loans. The disadvantage is that non-profit housing organizations do not have the resources to help many of the people who apply for services, said Linda Linville, executive director of the Central West Virginia Community Action Association, which serves Lewis and Harrison counties.

"We get something around 50 applications a year but we only take applications twice a year and have to put a cap on how many we can take," Linville said. "The need is greater than the available dollars."

Linville and Kelley Tenney, executive director of Mountain Cap, Inc., which serves Upshur, Braxton, Webster and Nicholas counties, said applicants are often young couples who are just starting out, single working mothers, and senior citizens who choose not to live in high-rise retirement complexes.

"We built about 12 homes last year," Tenney said. "There's always more need and the money will improve our capacity to help people get low-cost housing."

Tenney added that the Housing Development Fund money has a distinct advantage over federal grants -- fewer bureaucratic hurdles.

"When we're using money from the (U.S.) Department of Housing and Urban Development, it takes three to four inches of paperwork to put one family in a home," Tenney said. "One of the reasons the money was put into the Housing Development fund was to give us more flexibility.

"Working families truly do benefit," she added. "These programs allow them to move into a home, usually for less than they would pay to rent. It's worth the wait."

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