Housing authority takes on new role in accessibility program

Residents can apply for home modification loans of up to $50,000

  • Gina Govoni is executive director of the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority in Turners Falls. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 1/22/2023 1:37:10 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Through a reconfiguration of the state’s Home Modification Loan Program, the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority is now better positioned to serve residents who need help making their homes more accessible.

The Home Modification Loan Program, which is overseen by the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), helps people with disabilities or elders modify their homes with accessibility improvements. CEDAC is a public-private community development institution that provides financing and technical expertise for nonprofits and other community organizations in Massachusetts.

After serving as a construction monitor for the last decade, the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority is now taking on the role of a provider agency, meaning residents can apply for their home modification loans through the local organization, which Executive Director Gina Govoni said will open up the program to more people.

“Basically, what you’re looking at is an up to $50,000 loan for most people in traditional homes at zero interest and no monthly payment required to do basic accessibility modifications to their home,” Govoni explained. “This is a nice way for us to build on the role we have in the community and increase the use of this program.”

The program was established by the Legislature in 1999 and provides no-interest loans from $1,000 to $50,000 to allow folks make modifications to their residence for elders, adults with disabilities and families with children with disabilities. Payment is required upon sale of the property. The program is also available for landlords with fewer than 10 units, however, landlords are only eligible for loans with a 3% interest rate.

The income requirements are generous, too, as a household of two people earning less than $224,400 are eligible to participate in the program.

Examples of projects that have been funded through the program are ramps and lifts, bathroom and counter adaptations or sensory-integration rooms. Improvements can even go as far as the creation of additional living space, including accessory dwellings or in-law apartments, according to CEDAC’s website.

Govoni noted the housing authority usually processes between 35 and 55 loans annually through its home rehabilitation programs, but the home modification loans are “underutilized.” Only about five loans are processed each year.

“That’s, I think, part of the reason why CEDAC thought they should get another partner,” Govoni said. “This is just another tool we’ll be able to easily coordinate with, depending on what the need is.”

CEDAC Executive Director Roger Herzog said his organization shifted the housing authority to become a provider agency due to its familiarity with Franklin County.

“CEDAC and the Home Modification Loan Program selected these partners because of their deep roots and depth of knowledge of these communities,” Herzog said in a statement. “We know there is a significant need for this resource, and these new agencies will allow consumers to more easily reach (the Home Modification Loan Program) and connect with someone local, at an organization closer to home and their community.”

The change of role has already seen increased use of the program, as the housing authority is processing three applications, Govoni said.

For more information about the program or the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, visit fcrhra.org. Residents can also contact Housing Programs Assistant Grafton Brown at 413-223-5228 or gbrown@fcrhra.org with questions. Alternatively, visit the housing authority’s office at 241 Millers Falls Road in Turners Falls from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for assistance.

“The program exists everywhere in the state and I just think we’re going to make it more accessible. We have a good rapport with local contractors and other nonprofit providers,” Govoni said. “I think it’s a win-win for the community.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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