City of Columbus Launches HARP to Aid Low-Income Homeowners with Accessibility Improvements

City of Columbus Launches HARP to Aid Low-Income Homeowners with Accessibility Improvements

By Kirsten J. Barnes

Low-income residents of Columbus will have an opportunity to receive free repairs and renovations to their homes if they can meet the requirements, thanks to a $3 million grant through the American Rescue Act of 2021. 

Rob Scott, director of Columbus’ Community Reinvestment Department said applications already are available for the Homeowner Accessibility Rehabilitation Program (HARP) to receive up to $30,000 in repairs and can be accessed by visiting https://www.columbusga.gov/communityreinvestment/ARP/HARP.

According to the program guidelines, to qualify, the household’s income must be less than or equal to 80 percent of the Columbus area median income, which means that a one-person household can make no more than $40,050 and a household of 10 can make no more than $84,750.

When the program was discussed at a public meeting at the end of May, some residents expressed concerns about the inclusion of military benefits, the requirement that you have a valid homeowners insurance policy, and the restrictions of the types of repairs.

“When grant programs become available there are requirements from the funders of which the participants must adhere to and as unfortunate as this may sound if you cannot meet the requirements, you won’t be able to move forward with the program,” Scott said. “It is not meant to be an exclusionary process.”

Mary Garcia is the program coordinator who worked with Scott to develop a program that will meet the needs of the most needy homeowners.

“This program is for necessary and critically needed repairs to help people remain in their homes,” said Garcia. 

Approved repairs and mostly those that help the home remain functional and inhabitable. These include roof repairs, HVAC, water heaters, water pumps, doors, windows, wiring upgrades, and plumbing. No painting or landscaping will be permitted. 

In addition to those types of renovations, the program can also fund renovations for those with disabilities to help them remain in their homes. 

These can include things like the installation of ramps, grab bars, non-slip flooring, and roll-in showers, the widening of doorways and hallways, the lowering of cabinets, counters and sinks, etc. 

Garcia said the plumbing will include limited in-home plumbing repairs but will include “fixing leaks, unclogging drains, toilet repairs, replacing faucets and fixtures, water heater and water pressure repairs.”

Although the program will repair the problems now, Scott said it will be important that the residents have homeowners’ insurance to protect the repairs and new appliances for the future.

“If we are going to be making a $30,000 investment into a home, we want to ensure that this future investment will be covered. This is why we require homeowners’ insurance,” Scott said. “Unfortunately, there will be some people who will not be able to partake in the program, but I want to focus on the ones that can be helped.”

If approved, each resident will receive a repair plan tailored to their individual needs. 

“You are not guaranteed $30,000 in home modification. Some people will need less,” Garcia said. 

The program includes income for everyone in the household who is 18 years of age or older. 

“If someone in the home is 18 and does not have a job, they will have to complete an affidavit explaining why they do not have an income,” Garcia said, adding that some reasons to explain this could be they are full-time students or actively seeking employment. 

Also, the house must be in Muscogee County and within the Columbus city limits, and all homes must be owner-occupied. No rent-to-own or rental properties will be repaired.

If there is a mortgage, it must be paid up to date, and have no tax liens or other deficiencies on the property. 

Homeowner accessibility rehabilitation program (HARP)

How this project is intended to help low-income residents of Muscogee County

 Ada improvements or immediately necessary repairs. To help those most in need stay in their homes.

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 $3,000,000

For more details on the Homeowner Accessibility Rehabilitation Program and to access the application form, residents can visit the official City of Columbus website or contact the Community Reinvestment Department directly.

Contact Information: Community Reinvestment Department

Phone: (706) 225-4647

Website: www.columbusga.gov/HARP

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