Community Block Grants help homeowners repair houses

While much has been made of the Tax Incremental Districts and other economic tools the City of Merrill has at its disposal to help renovate existing business properties and encourage businesses to relocate into the city, another economic tool the city has aids low income home owners repair and renovate their homes.

Shari P. Wicke, Community Development Program Administrator said the Community Development Block Grants are another way that the city can help improve the appearance of neighborhoods. In addition, there is a program to help low and moderate income families buy houses.

In 2010, Wicke said that 47 homeowners applied for the Community Development Loans, which are specifically used to improve homes with replacing siding, roofs, windows, adding insulations, doors, drywall repairs, furnace and water heater replacement and plumbing repairs. Of those applicants, 20 homeowners and 1 homebuyer were granted the zero percent interest deferred loans. The total lent to these 21 families was just over $180,000.

Payments on the loans are deferred as long as the borrower owns the home. It is repaid after they sell the house.

“It is a loan, it isn’t a grant,” Wicke said. “But we are able to help beautify some homes in the community with this program.”

Once a borrower repays the loan, it is lent to another person on the waiting list.

In addition, the CDBG Program has assisted 32 landlords who rent to low to moderate income tenants in the City of Merrill with loans totaling $690,627.

In all, 568 homeowners have been helped by the CDBG Program to help purchase their homes. The city currently has $5,222,728 in the housing mortgages.
“This is a lot of money going into these homes to beautify the city and the neighborhoods,” Wicke said.
The amount of money that can be lent for the repair loans varies in the type of work being done and does the owner have enough equity in the building to qualify for a loan.
Wicke said there are currently 40 people on the waiting list for the loans, and it takes about seven months to work their way to the top.
“It’s first come, first serve,” she said.
Additional information about the programs as well as income limits and the application can be found on the city’s website. Go to and then click on the department tag and go to “community development.”

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