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Programs help keep Butler County homes functional for those in need

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Butler County Housing Authority expects to begin awarding grants within the next few weeks for projects designed to make it easier for the physically disabled to stay in their homes.

“What we run into more often is that people need ramps to their homes, or grab bars, or they need to widen doorways so wheelchairs can get through,” said Perry O'Malley, executive director of the authority. “This is everything from a lifesaver to eliminating major inconveniences.”

Grants of up to $5,000 will be available for work, including kitchen renovations, installing bathrooms on the first floor of homes and exterior renovations, such as constructing ramps. The authority works with about a dozen contractors and will pay them directly for the work.

County Commission Chairman Bill McCarrier said the grants are important to keep people from being forced to leave their homes and enter nursing homes.

“If you can help the handicapped stay in their homes, it gives them more pride and they're healthier when they're in their own homes, instead of being displaced and moved into a nursing home or an assisted-living home,” he said.

The state Department of Community & Economic Development gave $100,000 this year toward the program. Butler County Commissioners matched that with another $100,000 from fees collected by the recorder of deeds.

“This goes a long way to maintaining independence, dignity and being self-sufficient,” O'Malley said.

Housing authority officials are looking at applications, O'Malley said, to see who is eligible and what kind of work people need. The county has about 17 families identified, O'Malley said, adding that the grants could pay for work at 25 to 30 homes.

Rental properties are eligible for the program, O'Malley said, and the housing authority is working with landlords.

A similar program ended four years ago when the state withdrew the funding, O'Malley said.

“We are constantly seeking funding sources for problems we've been made aware of,” O'Malley said.

The authority has other home rehab programs. For example, income-eligible homeowners can receive up to $12,500 in grants for rehabilitation to their owner-occupied homes, including electrical, heating, roofs, window replacement and plumbing work. Another $2,500 is available for those making improvements to make the home more accessible.

The authority has about $400,000 available for homes in the southwest portion of the county, and another $300,000 in the northern portion. O'Malley said the program is structured so that if the homeowner sells the property within five or seven years of making the improvements, he or she has to pay that money back.

That program is funded through state money and a 10-percent match from the county.

For additional information about other homeownership programs, go to www.housingauthority.com.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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