Housing rehab program will make a difference

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Drive down the streets of McCook. Take it slow, looking at the houses along the way. What you will find -- if you cover all parts of town -- is more than 3,300 occupied housing units.

On your journey, you will realize that the vast majority of the homes and apartments have been around for many years. The statistics show that, too. In the 2000 census, it was revealed that 41 percent of the houses in the community are more than 50 years old.

For the most part, the older homes in McCook are well maintained and still occupied. But time is taking its toll on some of the residences, and action is needed to keep them from falling into disuse and disrepair.

That's where a program called Purchase, Rehab and Resale comes in. For the first time, McCook has been awarded a $200,000 grant to participate in the state-funded program to buy and fix up older homes for first time homebuyers.

During the course of the next two years -- starting in January 2006 -- six homebuyers will be selected on a first come, first served basis. These buyers will then be ready to purchase one of six houses which will be bought by the McCook Economic Development Corp. and fixed up to meet code.

It will be a good deal for the first time homebuyers. They'll get $3,000 to help with their down payment, and they will also have the assurance of knowing that the home they are purchasing meets code standards for such essentials as plumbing, heating and electrical service. The home buyers also may receive an assist from USDA and Federal Home Loan programs.

But it won't be a free ride. Buyers must sign on the dotted line for a loan and meet all the responsibilities of home ownership, including taking a Homebuyers Education course.

But, as McCook's first participants in the Purchase, Rehab, Resale programs, the homebuyers could be trendsetters, leading the community in a continuing effort to improve older homes.

"I hope this program goes on forever," said Denise Ringenberg, the Housing Director for the McCook Economic Development Corp. "Although this will be McCook's first Purchase, Rehab, Resale effort, the program has been going on for up to 20 years in other Nebraska communities."

The effect in McCook -- over the years -- could be dramatic. Not only will the homes selected be upgraded, but the improvements should inspire pride and projects throughout the community's neighborhoods.

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