Fix-up funds for homeowners
Older homes in Waupaca eligible for makeovers
By James Card
The city is developing a program to give Waupaca homeowners grants to fix up their homes.
Any home that was built before 1970 is eligible. The goal is to give 60 to 80 homes a makeover.
Of the city’s housing stock, 48% were built before 1970.
This program has a budget of $600,000 for home repair grant allocations.
Projects designated to receive grants include: painting, landscaping, fixing windows, gutters and garage doors, fence repair, roof replacement, front porch and stairway work, siding replacement, foundation work, fixing driveways and excavation and drainage corrections to properly level the grade around the house foundation.
Detached garages are also eligible but garden sheds, tree houses and smaller building structures are not.
The grant amount is up to $10,000 and will be awarded between a 12 to 18-month timeframe. Some repair projects might not be on the list but could be could still be brought up for grant approval.
Ald. Dmitri Martin suggested including insulation work.
“I think the bigger the list the better,” said Mayor Brian Smith.
The grant program is Smith’s brainchild and city staffers further developed it.
First introduced during the Jan. 4. council meeting, it will be discussed in future city council meetings, then put up for potential approval in February.
If approved, the program will be rolled out by April 1, if not earlier.
Elected officials and city staff involved with this program are not eligible for grants.
The grants are for do-it-yourself projects but also contractors can be hired and the grant recipient is strongly encouraged to hire local contractors as a way to keep money in the community.
“How many cities or how many townships are talking about utilizing it in this way? If you’re a resident, this is a real benefit that you can put capital back into your home. That doesn’t exist everywhere. That’s a reason we believe that people will find our city as an attractive area to be,” said Aaron Jensen, city administrator.
This money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) where local governments were given a cut of the federal $130 billion spending package.
There are restrictions on how the money can be spent. It is intended for revenue replacement to provide government services impacted by COVID-19, premium pay for essential workers, and investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
And this is where the city of Waupaca found itself in a bind. To use the funds for revenue replacement, the city was ineligible because of revenue from a high number of building permits.
Spending the money on broadband infrastructure seemed pointless because Waupaca Online is already providing internet service and internet coverage is growing this year. As for water and sewer, the city had already planned ahead to fund those utilities on its own.
However, the ARPA funds can also be used for “assistance to small businesses, households and hard-hit industries, and economic recovery.”
The keyword in that clause is “households” and that is where the idea of this program originated. The city’s legal counsel reviewed the program and confirmed that it would be eligible.
The program has three goals: provide capital to homeowners negatively impacted by COVID-19 for the purposes of fixing up their homes. Help people unable to do repairs as the result of closures, layoffs or other hardships as a result of the pandemic; and provide a program that attracts people to live in the city of Waupaca.
applicants must be owner-occupants of property. Applicants only can get one grant. The house must be within city limits.
Applicants must sign a statement saying they were negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that made home repair projects unfeasible.
Lower-income homeowners are eligible for a full grant, while homeowners with higher incomes can receive 50% of grant money that will match what they spend themselves.
Households with an income that is equal to or less than 80% of the county median income levels will not have a match requirement.
If this program is approved, interested homeowners can get started by enrolling on the city’s website.
There will be a page dedicated to the program. It will be similar to the city’s downtown revitalization incentive program.
The process will be as streamlined as possible with guidelines and contact information.
To handle the workload, $24,766 has been earmarked for program administration and the current plan is to hire paid interns and part-time workers to guide homeowners through the grant process.