Federal block grant dollars would rehabilitate homes

Margaret Davidson

There is a good chance that Baker and Wallowa counties, and possibly Grant County as well, will receive from $300,000 to $500,000 to rehabilitate private homes through the federal Community Development Block Grant program.

The program being administered by Community Connection would provide low interest loans of up to $20,000 for homeowners who meet income criteria. The program is similar to a loan program implemented in the city of Wallowa in 1990.

Margaret Davidson of Community Connection in La Grande said that 70 homes in Wallowa County met the criteria by returning a questionnaire last year. She said the loans are basically awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

When the loan money is paid back it serves as a revolving fund to keep the program going.

County commissioner Mike Hayward told Davidson that this county would like to have a set amount of the grant money given to Wallowa County instead of simply going on a need basis for the regional program. He suggested that possibly $100,000 be given to the counties with the balance determined by population. Baker County has about twice the population as Wallowa County.

"No matter how you split the pie up they (Baker County) will get a bigger chunk," said Hayward.

Davidson addressed the county commissioners Monday about the possibility of creating a regional loan committee comprised of persons from the county, cities and Community Connection.

The local commissioners were of the opinion that Baker County take the lead role in securing the grant. Applications for the grant must be in by May.

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