By Kristophere’ Owens
Gazette staff writer
The Gazette, June 25, 1999
A half-million-dollar grant announced Thursday will help build 120 moderately priced homes in rural Iowa.
The grant to MidAmerica Housing Partnership (MAHP) of Cedar Rapids comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The grant is a perfect opportunity to build homes in rural areas that haven’t seen new housing starts in more than 10 years, according to MidAmerica representative Joan Blackmon.
The program, she said, is geared toward communities, not individuals, that want to build affordable homes in their towns. Communities must match 25 percent of MAHP funds to be eligible for help.
About $350,000 of the HUD grant will go into a pool fund to buy property and materials and cover infrastructure costs such as water and sewers and other items necessary to prepare a rural site for construction.
While MidAmerica pays for preparation costs, private banks will fund home construction. After the homes are built, people who qualify for the program will be able to buy the homes after attending a homebuying education class and applying for financing from the bank.
To be eligible for the program, families cannot earn more than 110 percent of their county’s median income, Blackmon said. In Linn County, for example, the income for a family of four could not exceed $52,150.
Many of those who qualify will be young families looking for their first home, Blackmon said.
Median incomes vary among the counties MidAmerica serves — Benton, Buchanan, Cedar, Delaware, Iowa, Jones, Keokuk, Linn, Washington, Clinton, Jasper, Mahaska, Marion, Van Buren, Lee and Louisa.
In all, Blackmon expects the $350,000 pool will help MidAmerica to build 120 affordable single-family homes over the next three years.
The remaining $150,000 of the grant will be used to build two model homes, employing post-and-beam, straw-bale designs. The homes are to be energy-efficient and replace traditional insulation with straw.
The grant was announced in Washington, D.C., by Andrew Cuomo, the secretary of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Cuomo said there is a real need for affordable housing in rural America, and that Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, chairman of the House Banking Committee, had made certain he was aware of the demand.
“It is actually a lesson driven home for me in one of the first times I spoke to Chairman Leach,” Cuomo said. “There is a real housing crisis in rural America, and in some places in the country, it is more acute than it is in urban America.”
Cuomo said HUD received 700 applications for $25 million in grants. MidAmerica and the Iowa Finance Authority in Des Moines received $1.1 million of that total.
According to U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the funds will help Iowa families buy homes that were “just out of reach” in the past.
“Hardworking families and business people deserve equal access to funding for homes and economic development,” Harkin said. “These grants will help many Iowa families realize the American dream of home ownership.”
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