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Housing program helps homeowners, contractors

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF DAYLE SHULDA, COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM - PHOTO COURTESY OF DAYLE SHULDA, COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM Contractor Scott Stills, of Scott Stills Home Remodeling based in Astoria, added a residential ramp and deck to this house for a client who qualified for the Housing Rehabilitation Program organized through the Community Action Team. CAT operates in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties. A housing rehabilitation program for low-income homeowners doesn’t just benefit the people living in the house. It also gives local contractors peace of mind.

St. Helens-based general contractor Mark Comfort of Comfort Construction is on Community Action Team housing rehabilitation specialist Dayle Shulda’s list of trusted contractors in the area. He has worked on many CAT projects over the years, repairing a seemingly unending number of roofs, decks and bathrooms.

When he’s worked with banks or on repossessed houses, “it’s a headache,” he said. He’s waited as long as six months to be paid for a completed job in those situations.

Through the CAT Housing Rehabilitation Program, “you know you’re going to get a check at the end of the deal,” he said. Thirty days after Shulda has confirmed that all the work is completed, Comfort gets a check for his work.

The Housing Rehabilitation Program, offered through the Community Action Team (CAT), is designed to help low-income homeowners with repairs to “almost anything existing to the home,” Shulda said.

“A lot of it’s deferred maintenance,” Comfort said, although just as many repairs are to give people better access to their home as they age.

He recently completed a bathroom for a couple where the husband had a back injury and the wife had multiple sclerosis.

The loan amount CAT provides is based on the equity in the property, the extent of the needed repairs and funds available, Shulda said.

The loans are divided among various needs in the three counties where CAT operates, Tillamook, Clatsop and Columbia.

This year, Shulda is striving to put the focus on Columbia County and St. Helens, but she’s run into an all-too familiar problem: more and more homeowners are underwater, meaning the debt on a property far outweighs its worth in the current housing market.

An underwater homeowner is ineligible for the program.

Shulda walks homeowners through the repair process, from initial screening, to examining the property, to putting out bids for contractors.

This work might also lead to further work down the road.

Out of curiosity, Shulda has driven by homes the team worked on years ago. More often than not, she’ll notice new improvements.

Comfort says the program builds trust between homeowners and contractors. Long after a homeowner is done with the rehabilitation program, he or she still might call up Comfort and other program contractors when new work needs to be done.

“They know us and they trust us,” Comfort said. “You hear the horror stories about other contractors sometimes. This program protects (the homeowner).”

He added that he and other contractors would like to see a similar program for people who live in mobile homes. Currently, the mobile home owners are only eligible for the rehabilitation program if they also own the land under their mobile home.

This year, Shulda has had to cross off a number of people from her wait list after doing further investigation and finding that they are underwater and ineligible. Now, she’s hoping to fill her list back up again with eligible low-income homeowners.

“The more people we can help, the better off I think we are as a community,” she said.

For more information, contact Dayle Shulda of the Community Action Team by calling 503-366-6552, or e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .