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Helping hand for home repairs

Sagging roofs, rotting floors and leaking plumbing generally carry expensive price tags to replace, but some King County residents are eligible to obtain the repairs without any out-of-pocket costs.

The King County Housing Repair program offers low- and moderate-income King County residents an affordable way to pay for home improvements. Those who qualify can receive an interest-free, deferred payment loan to be applied toward necessary home repairs.

"Through the equity of their home, (applicants) are able to borrow money at zero (percent) interest," said Clark Fulmer, King County Housing Repair acting coordinator.

One must meet income and home equity requirements as well as own and live in the structure that needs repairs to qualify for the loan, Fulmer said.

Income guidelines are based on the number of people in the household and the total household income. If qualified, applicants will receive a loan, not to exceed $5,000 for mobile homes and $25,000 for all other homes. Homeowners are not expected to repay the loan until they sell or refinance their home, use it as a rental property or die, Fulmer said.

The money is not given to the homeowner directly. Instead, the housing repair program sets money aside to pay for repairs completed by a contractor on the resident's home.

"We ask the homeowner to take an active part in sourcing a contractor," Fulmer said.

Homeowners receive a detailed list of contractors qualified to perform the repairs, Fulmer said. The companies have been screened and their backgrounds checked by the county through the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, he said. They are required to carry insurance. The homeowner then has the responsibility of arranging a day and time for the repairs to be completed.

Three major categories of repairs — health and safety, building preservation and energy efficiency — are offered. For example, a sparking electrical panel would be categorized as a safety issue. A leaky roof or rotting floor would qualify for a building preservation repair. Insulation and indoor structures, such as walls and doors, are energy efficiency repairs, Fulmer said.

Plumbing, appliances, decks, stairs, wheelchair ramps, furnaces and interior walls, among other things, are improvements the county program will address. Generally, the repairs are started within 30 days — and the process, paperwork and repairs are finished within 120 days, Fulmer said.

"We tend to keep moving whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall," Fulmer said.

The program is utilized often in Federal Way.

In the first quarter of 2007, a total of $95,390 was spent in Federal Way. Following Federal Way ranks Lake Forest Park, utilizing $49,867 in the same time period. For some homeowners, the flexibility of the loan can be life-altering. Such was the case for Federal Way resident Donna Timlick.

A little over a year ago, Timlick, a single mom of five children, decided she could no longer afford to live in her home of 13 years in Federal Way. She put it up for sale. Her real estate agent told her the house was worth $350,000, but nobody would buy it because of all the repairs it needed — including a roof, paint, windows and plumbing, she said.

Timlick went through a divorce in 2001, and had since taken out an equity line of credit to purchase a car. Unable to qualify for another loan to pay for the repairs needed on her home, Timlick did not know where to turn.

"I did feel pretty desperate," she said.

Then she heard about the King County Housing Repair program. Timlick applied for a loan and qualified with no holdups, she said. Through the program, Timlick's home received a new roof, shower stall and flooring in the master bathroom, a toilet in another bathroom, faucet repairs, a new refrigerator and a tankless water heater, she said.

After about two months, the repairs on her home have been completed. She is grateful for the program and thankful she can continue to reside in Federal Way.

"They (King County Housing Repair program) are the best thing that ever happened to folks who qualify," Timlick said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Learn more

The King County Housing Repair program loans are available, in part, through federal government funding such as community development block grants and home investment partnership funds. To learn more, visit www.metrokc.gov/dchs/csd/Housing/Repair.htm or call (206) 263-9095.

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