Fund to help homeowners with repairs may be expanded

By Joe Lambe

The city council public safety committee on Wednesday advanced a measure for money to help repair houses and expand who can get it.

The funding for the $150,000 program for city housing court now goes to the full city council.

Fines collected by the housing court provide more than enough to fund a program that seeks to “balance the scales of justice,” said Todd Wilcher, city housing judge.

“These are residents who may be elderly, ill, disabled,” he said.

The program was revived for eight months last year after being suspended for some years. The funding would be the same as last year but more people would be eligible.

They would go from those making 30 percent of the federal poverty level to those making 40 percent. Also money would be available for a new category of hazardous trees.

People with all taxes paid that meet the income criteria can get up to $12,000 from the fund for materials and labor.

Councilman John Sharp asked if making more people eligible would “be spreading a very small fund too much.”

Last year, Judge Wilcher said, not all the fund was used. A single person at the 30 percent poverty level made too much if he made about $16,000 a year.

Under the 40 percent standard, that person could qualify if he made about $20,000 a year.

Often the fund money they get, typically about $10,000, is not enough to do all the work that must be done, he said.

Then he asks them if they can raise enough to do the other work, and if convinced they can, he sends them through the fund process.

“The theme of housing court is that along with the rights that come with owning property there are responsibilities,” Wilcher said. “This fund reached a category of cases where equity cries out for deviation from the theme.”


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