Low-income seniors in Grant County who need financial help to make home repairs have a little-known resource to tap — the USDA Rural Development.
District 38 state Rep. Rebecca Dow realized the resource was little known when she looked at the state and federal funding available for rural communities and noticed that almost none of it was flowing to her district, which includes most of Grant and Sierra counties and a portion of Hidalgo County.
When she asked why, she said she was told there was no USDA office in her district, and no outreach, so she decided to change that last part.
On Grant County Day on Jan. 24 at the Legislature this year, Kim Clark, association executive for the Silver City Regional Association of Realtors, was visiting with Rep. Dow, when Dow shared that she had just learned about the senior repair program.
“And she said, ‘We have to tell people about this,’” Clark said.
So, Clark organized the Grant County Housing Expo, held Thursday at the Grant County Business and Conference Center, where 19 different vendors helped educate residents about mortgages, options for first-time home buyers, low money down loans, agricultural loans for land, ranches, hobby farms, and the senior repair program.
“A lot of times people are afraid to walk into a bank and ask,” Clark said. “This is an informal way to get information.”
Vendors included HMS, ReMax, Allstate Insurance, Southwest Home Inspections, the New Mexico Homebuilders Association, Western New Mexico Title, Ag New Mexico Country Mortgage, the town of Silver City Community Development, and more.
Rosalina Sedillos and Laura Breed, both of Hanover, came to the Expo together to find out about options for repairing their homes. Sedillos said she was interested in selling her home several years ago, but it needed repairs that she couldn’t afford.
“The front and back deck is kind of falling apart,” Sedillos said. “My husband built it 20 years ago and he passed away six years ago, so my carpenter is in heaven.”
“We are both in the same situation,” said Breed.
Both stopped at the USDA table to talk with Patricia Villalobos about options for them.
Villalobos, who is the rural development specialist, said the USDA offers a senior repair grant program for low-income seniors 62 and older, that will pay for repairs to fix health and safety hazards. The $7,500 grant is a one-time opportunity, meaning a senior may only apply and receive the grant once in their lifetime. The money can be used to repair a leaky roof, install a wheelchair ramp, remodel a bathroom to make it ADA compliant, or repair a floor that could cause a trip and fall, and more.
Villalobos said interest was heavy at her table and she had run out of applications about an hour into the event, but folks can go online and learn more about the program here, and download an application under the forms tab.
In addition to the grant, USDA also offers low-interest loans for repairs, as well as low-interest loans for first-time homebuyers.
“This makes it affordable and accessible for seniors and stimulates business for our contractors, so Realtors can sell the house, the lenders can finance the loan, and people can have safe and secure housing,” said Rep. Dow.
For more information, visit, www.rd.usda.gov or call 1-800-670-6553.
Christine Steele may be reached at christine@sc dailypress.com.