Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Fritz Leighty isn’t wearing a funny green suit with money signs on it, but just like Matthew Lesko on TV, Fritz is helping people in Scioto County find thousands of dollars, for free, that they can use to buy or fix-up a house.
Found in the Scioto County Commissioners’ Office, in the basement of the County Courthouse on Sixth Street, Leighty is a consultant for the Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP). The program will provide low-income applicants with a declining mortgage up to $40,000 toward a new home purchase and $12,000 for home improvements.
The borrower does not need to repay the money, as long as they remain in the home. Each year that the borrow remains in the home, 10 percent of the loan is forgiven, until it is completely forgiven in 10 years. If they leave the home earlier, they are responsible for repaying the remaining loan balance.
To qualify for home-buyer assistance, the property must be in Scioto County, but not in the city of Portsmouth. Houses built after 1978 are preferred and houses with lead-based paint will not be considered. An applicant must obtain at least 51 percent of the purchase price through private financing, such as a bank. The maximum amount available from CHIP is $40,000 and that money is first used to inspect and repair the home’s wiring, roof, furnace, insulation, and more. Whatever money is left can be used toward the purchase price.
A household of just one person cannot have an income more than $28,000; a two-person household limits combined income to $32,900, a three-person household limit is $37,000, a four-person household is $41,100, a five-person household is $44,400, a six-person household is $47,700, a seven-person household is $51,000, and an eight-person is $54,300.
Leighty said there have only been three who have applied for home-buyer assistance this year; two were approved and will be closing on their new homes soon. He said the program has helped fund about 50 houses over the last 15 years, and there’s still funding available for six more homes this year.
“And we’ve got money ($35,000) for one full rehabilitation house. Again, that’s hard to come by. We got lucky last time and found a house built after 1978,” Leighty said. “If the house was built before 1950, it’s got lead. If it’s built 50 to 60, it’s probably got lead. If it’s built 60 to 70, maybe under 50 percent. If it’s built 70 to 78, it probably does not. You have to be real careful about doing that.”
The CHIP program also provides funding, up to $12,000, for home repairs. The program used to limit the number of repairs to two incidents. They have recently increased that number, but not the amount funding.
“We try to stretch it a bit, so if it’s not something somebody really needs to stay in the house — that’s the great thing about this program. We’re doing three roofs, and if you don’t fix those roofs those houses are going to be uninhabitable. I happen to like this program best of all, because it allows people not to be homeless,” Leighty said.
He said the program usually plans for 12 home repair projects, and sometimes finishes with 19 or more. The program avoids projects involving lead-based paint because of the cost involved to re-mediate. Instead they look for things like roofs, furnaces, water heaters septic system, water and sewer lines.
Leighty said that anyone interested in applying for the CHIP program should contact Jenn Smith at the Scioto County Commissioners’ Office, at 740-355-8263. Houses in the city of Portsmouth are not eligible for the county program, but Leighty said the city does have it’s own CHIP home repair program.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.