>Low-income homeowners are now able to fix those household problems thanks to a low interest loan offered through COCAAN.
Low-income homeowners spruce up
   COCAAN's home improvement loans can have a real impact on area homeowners who wouldn't be able to maintain or improve their living circumstances otherwise.
   Due to a medical situation, Lawrence Christian exhausted the family's retirement savings, forcing the couple to rely on social security. Living on a very tight budget didn't allow for keeping up the maintenance on their modest home located on Willowdale Drive in Prineville. Things soon began to fall apart. "You don't do a lot of home improvements living on that sort of income," he said. Christian heard about the COCAAN loan program in 1996 and applied immediately. After a short wait followed by a home inspection, repairs, and improvements began.
    "COCAAN's loan was a real God-send to me. The house was deteriorating pretty badly," he said. "The thing that I was most concerned about was the roof, it was leaking. That's where it actually started, when I applied for a loan I was hoping to just get the roof fixed. But they went through the whole house."
   In addition to getting a new roof they also got a new furnace to replace an improperly installed wood stove, new floor covering, and insulation in the walls, ceiling and floors. Contractors also fixed several plumbing problems and wrapped the pipes to protect against freezing, and installed new counter tops in the kitchen. COCAAN furnished the paint to refinish the cabinets in the kitchen.
   COCAAN in cooperation with Crook County is once again able to offer low interest loans to homeowners for home improvements.
   The agency administers these loans, assists in providing needed repairs and upgrades for low income homeowners in the tri-county area. Since loan payments are deferred until sale or transfer of the property homeowners don't have to worry about how to fit loan payments into an already tight budget.
   "Every couple of years we're able to offer this program, and we're hoping to keep continuing with that," explained Luanna Dennis, Rehabilitation Coordinator. "We need applicants."
   At the top of the list for consideration are home improvements based on health and safety issues, including making a home handicap accessible.
   "I currently have 10 applications in consideration, and we're hoping to do 30 homes that have to be completed before August of next year," Dennis said. Maximum loan limits are for a single person $15,000 and $20,000 for a couple.
   "Basically we look at making improvement to everything that makes a home. If the home is overcrowded by HUD standards, we are even able to offer add-ons. We don't do garages though, we only consider the living space."
   "The person has to meet eligibility requirements. It's primarily for those who really need it," Dennis said. "About 40 percent of homeowners taking advantage are elderly or disabled."
   The whole process moves along fairly quickly although for qualifying homeowners, the application process generally takes the longest. Inspectors view the home making sure that it is suitable for the program, and that it's not a historic property. Once a contractor has been notified, they have 90 days to complete the work.
   The homeowner is required to repay the loan if the house is sold or transferred. As loans are repaid, proceeds are returned to the program to provide for future loans to other homeowners. Between 25 and 30 homes are rehabilitated annually.
   Home improvement loans are also available to those who have been in the program previously. For more information about the COCAAN home improvement loan program or to obtain an application call Dennis at 548-2380, ext 109.
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