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Chambersburg program warms home and heart

January 23, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A cold draft pushed its way through an old single-pane bedroom window at the South Federal Street home of Harold and Kim Kriner Friday, making the heating system work harder against sub-freezing temperatures.

"There was a lot of air coming through," Kim Kriner said. It was a lot cozier in the living room, where old windows had already been replaced.

Eighty-three houses have been made warmer and safer since 1992, according to Chambersburg Housing Rehabilitation Coordinator Kathy Rockwell. For low- and moderate-income homeowners, it provides a chance to make needed repairs without having to choose between a mortgage payment, or paying for food and medicine.

Earlier this month, Borough Planner Gary Norris told the Borough Council he would recommend dedicating $150,000 from federal 2000 Community Development Block Grant funds to the program, up from $50,000 in 1999. A public hearing for that and other programs will be held Wednesday, Feb. 9.

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Last week Dave Binkley, owner of HomeTech Home Improvements Inc., of Greencastle, Pa., and his crew were replacing windows, upgrading electrical work, putting in a new bathroom floor and repairing an outside staircase at the Kriner home.

Kim found out about the program while looking to help a relative with a housing problem and found her own home was eligible for assistance.

A family of four like the Kriners qualifies if it has a gross income of less than $33,450, according to Rockwell.

"Some of these homeowners are really struggling. ... These people need major repairs and there's no way they can pay for them," Rockwell said.

Qualified homeowners can receive grants of $7,500, followed by no-interest loans of $5,000 and another $5,000 at 10 percent interest. Kim Kriner said the repairs to their home would cost about $7,400.

Kim Kriner works with migrant workers for Rural Opportunities Inc. in the fall and attends college. Harold has been on medical disability for two years after working 27 years at Chambersburg Hospital.

Last year Rockwell said 15 homes were renovated and Norris told the council earlier this month that nine renovations are under way and three are pending. The borough spent about $135,000 on the program in 1999, according to administration figures.

In addition to federal funding, the programs draws on money paid back by homeowners who borrowed above the grant limits. Rockwell said homeowners have seven years to pay back loans.

"All the homes are brought up to BOCA code," said Rockwell, referring to the Building Officials Code Administration standards. Renovations help homeowners avoid violations for substandard housing, she said.

Required legal and appraisal fees are paid by the borough, and the homeowners select the contractor from a list of licensed and bonded companies, according to Rockwell.

Binkley said his company has renovated several homes since he first submitted bids last year. "It's a good program and we enjoy going around and helping people," he said.

"When I first started, it was a job, but now it's become very important to me," Rockwell said.

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