Los Alamos County Home Renewal Program Assists Residents In Improving Local Houses

Los Alamos Housing Partnership Executive Director Steve Brugger, center, inspects a local roof Wednesday morning along with homeowners Jess and John Cullinan. The Cullinans are among the residents who have participated in Los Alamos County’s Home Renewal Program. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos Daily Post

Homeownership is a dream many people possess but even when that dream is achieved a whole new set of issues can arrive: a broken furnace, a leaking roof or a faulty electrical system.

Los Alamos County and Los Alamos Housing Partnership, Inc. offer two programs to help residents. The Homebuyer Assistance Program helps people reach their dream to own a home and the Home Renewal Program makes sure that the dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare trying to fix and maintain the house.

Cycle four of the Home Renewal Program opened Aug. 1 and will continue through Sept. 13. The Homebuyer Assistance Program is open year round.

Los Alamos Housing Partnership Executive Director Steve Brugger said the Home Renewal Program has been a success. So far, 23 projects worth approximately $500,000 have been completed. He added this year it is expected that eight to 10 additional projects will be initiated, which could total about $200,000.

These projects run the gamut, Brugger said.

“It’s a wide range,” he said. “Everything to do with a home’s building envelope, which would include roof, walls, insulation, windows, doors as well as electrical, and furnaces.”

Siding, stucco, porches and decks also can be covered through the program.

He explained the program provides subsidized loans for home improvement projects. The bulk of the money comes from the County but the Housing Partnership also does provide some funds.

A scope of work is prepared and an estimate on the needed funds to do the work is made.

“We secure a loan for the income qualified homeowners,” Brugger said. “It’s a loan, not a grant. It’s a very favorable kind of loan; it’s a deferred payment that is due on the sale (of the home) vacating the property or transfer of title.”

Besides securing funds for the improvement projects, Brugger said, “We assist clients in finding properly licensed contractors to do the work.”

The maximum amount for a loan is $45,000. It can be used for a variety of eligible improvements.

“We don’t want them to go under water,” he said.

The program serves a dual purpose. It contributes to the effort to maintain housing affordability and helps with efforts to revitalize neighborhoods, Brugger said.

He explained the majority of houses that have received loans have been valued under $200,000. The program covers houses both in Los Alamos and White Rock and has primarily benefited those who work in professions such as teaching, healthcare, social services, retail, transportation as well as retired individuals on fixed incomes.

Plus, the program can create a spinoff effect. If someone sees their neighbor’s house improving it encourages them to make changes to their home, Brugger said.

“It encourages others to do more with their homes,” he said.

To be eligible for a loan Brugger said applicants need to be the homeowner and the home’s occupant. Additionally, the total combined amount of the mortgage and the loan cannot be more than the value of the house.

Homeowners need to have a minimum credit score of 620 and their monthly debt from their mortgage, credit cards and other things can’t be greater than 45 precent of their gross monthly income.

Interested applicants should visit the LAHP website at www.losalamoshousingpartnership.org to download an informational brochure, an application and checklist.

According to a County press release, interested applicants must arrange to meet with Brugger before filling out the application form. Housing Partnership staff will review applications and contact applicants to discuss whether or not they qualify based on income, property and project eligibility criteria, and loan underwriting standards.

The Home Renewal Program is not the only successful program; Brugger said the Home Buyer Assistance Program has closed on 12 loans to help people purchase a home just in the last 18 months.

The loans typically range from $15,000 to $18,000 and have been used to purchase homes priced from $117,000 to $228,000.

Again, Brugger said this helps the support structure of the community – the teachers, government workers, grocery store employees – own a home.

“It’s been a really successful program. It has been an effective way to provide affordable housing because it utilizes existing housing stock that have been in the rental inventory or has been vacant,” he said.

The Homebuyer Assistance Program works similarly to the Home Renewal Program, it also offers deferred payment loans, which are due on sale, vacating the property or transfer of title.

“By not requiring monthly payments, both programs leverage resources and create value without additional stress being placed on the clients’ monthly budgets. This can be a smart decision from a livability and investment perspective,” Brugger said.

For more information on either program or to arrange to meet with Brugger, call 505.662.8918.