Will new ordinance inspire residents to fix homes?

Options available for low income, elderly residents

Farmington has an ordinance to encourage homeowners to clean up a property’s exterior.

If homeowners of blighted properties will fix them is another story.

The updated ordinance was passed during a City Council meeting in October with the intent to address the city’s blighted properties.

The complaint-driven ordinance has a trigger point of 25 percent of missing siding, roofing and unpainted exteriors. If a homeowner fails to meet a city-imposed deadline, the case is turned over the courts.

During a public hearing in October, several citizens praised the efforts of city staff, but showed concern noting several homeowners of homes in disrepair either can’t afford to fix their exteriors or they’re in poor health.

There are several area programs to help those in need.

The Dakota County Community Development Agency has a home improvement loan program that assists low- and moderate-income homeowners with making repairs and improvements.

The CDA offers zero-interest loans with no payment plans until a home is sold, refinanced or becomes rental property. It’s for homeowners with sufficient equity, up-to-date on property tax payments and good credit.

The program caters to larger projects with a minimum price tag of $15,000 and up to $25,000.

“It won’t help the people who solely just want to paint, maybe, but it could if they needed new siding or roof,” said Lisa Henning, assistant director of community and economic development. “But I think it could help a good number of people in Farmington.”

It’s a popular program that often has a significant waiting list, but at this time the line is short.

“It’s good timing,” Henning said. “We wanted to start actively promoting the program.”

Although winter is coming, which makes it more difficult to repair home exteriors, people can still apply and receive bids.

The CDA program has been around since 1974. It’s part of the Community Development Block Grant Program.

“It’s really helped people with low to moderate income levels stay in their home and improve their property,” Henning said. “It’s improved the community as a whole.”

When the loan is repaid, 100 percent of the money goes back into the program to help others. More information can be found at www.dakotacda.org.

There are other options.

Habitat for Humanity Twin Cities’ Brush with Kindness works with low-income senior, disabled or single-parent homeowners with minor repairs and painting.

The volunteer organization does both exterior and interior restorations projects and installs hand rails and  handicap ramps.

It serves about 140 families a year in the Twin Cities metro area and surrounding counties. It receives about 350 applications a year. Priority projects are those with the biggest need, lowest income and least ability to do it themselves.

To volunteer or apply, visit www.tchabitat.org or call 612-788-8169.

Metro Paint-A-Thon, which is part of the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches, coordinates volunteer teams to paint homes of low-income seniors and the physically disabled every August, including homes in Dakota County. A group of 10-40 volunteers will scrape, prime and paint a needy homeowner’s house.

Applications are accepted from January to April for next season.

The organization doesn’t have any teams that work in Farmington, but it’s always looking for volunteers.

“It’s OK for a team to request to work with a specific homeowner,” senior services director Molly Chandler said. “Sometimes teams just want to help out someone they know.”