The $500,000 state housing grant that Oak Ridge received Wednesday will be used to renovate more than 60 homes, officials said.
The HOME Program grant is from the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, or THDA. It’s funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered in part by the THDA in Tennessee.
“The HOME dollars will be of good use in making these homes safe, sound, and affordable,” said Ralph M. Perrey, THDA executive director.
The city plans to use the money to renovate 63 owner-occupied, single-family homes in the Manhattan District Overlay zone. Oak Ridge created the zone, which includes so-called “legacy homes,” mostly in the center of the city, to improve the development that is carried out in its oldest neighborhoods, a press release said.
The HOME grant money will allow Oak Ridge to replace electrical wiring systems and wall insulation, and install double-paned windows for the targeted homes, which date back to the World War II era, when the city was involved in the Manhattan Project. The city’s work under the HOME grant will be carried out in conjunction with Make Oak Ridge Energy Efficient, or MORE2, a project that is performing energy retrofits for 229 homes in the designated neighborhoods, the press release said.
The HOME program will be run under policies and procedures established by the city. Financial assistance for home repairs will be provided to qualified families who apply and are selected for the program in the form of five-year loans, forgivable at 20 percent per year if families remains in compliance, the release said.
Officials described the grant as a significant next step in improving housing in Oak Ridge, particularly when combined with a $2.9 million grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority Extreme Energy Makeover Program announced in September 2015. That program is modifying homes with high electrical consumption, with a goal of saving energy.
“The HOME grant from THDA allows an even more comprehensive approach to the MORE2 project,” Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said. “This new program has enabled the City of Oak Ridge to substantially address the issue of large numbers of homes that are exactly the same 70-year-old vintage.
“With some homes built as temporary structures, they are still used today, but unable to accommodate modern electrical loads while maintaining energy efficiency. HOME funding will allow us to demonstrate that these homes are capable of being renovated and rejuvenated.”
The TVA and HOME Program grants, combined with another $100,000 used for wiring upgrades for heating and cooling systems, combine to give a total of about $3.5 million that is available for housing improvements in Oak Ridge.
“It’s a big step,” Perrey said during a Wednesday afternoon check presentation ceremony for the HOME Program grant at a new home at the intersection of South Purdue and Northwestern avenues, on property purchased last year from the Oak Ridge Land Bank.
“I appreciate THDA’s recognition that Oak Ridge is a community worthy of this significant investment,” said Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch. “We are especially grateful to Congressman Chuck Fleischmann for his efforts to promote the HOME Program, as this grant will improve the quality of life for many families in our city.”
In the press release, Fleischmann said he has, as a House appropriator, continuously taken an active role in securing funding for this project and other important programs throughout the Third District, which includes Oak Ridge and Chattanooga.
“I am proud to join THDA in creating safe, affordable housing for hard-working families in Oak Ridge,” Fleischmann said. “I will continue to advocate for improvements in housing and other important necessities in Oak Ridge.”
The $500,000 HOME grant for Oak Ridge was part of $9 million awarded statewide.
Oak Ridge officials are still working out how residents will apply for HOME Program grant funding, but the initial plan is to have them apply through the MORE2 program.
Oak Ridge was built quickly during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret program to build the world’s first atomic weapons, and many of the homes built as temporary structures then, 70 years ago, remain today.
Asked how Oak Ridge was selected for the HOME grant, Perrey said state officials looked at the city’s work, its plans, and its leverage. Among other things, he cited the TVA grant awarded to Oak Ridge last year.
“Oak Ridge had an excellent set of partners on this,” Perrey said. “It was just a very strong application.”
Perry said the state is working on other programs with federal officials that could also help Oak Ridge.
Oak Ridge established the Manhattan District Overlay zone to help maintain the general quality and appearance of targeted neighborhoods, while also renovating and rehabilitating deteriorated and blighted housing.
HOME grants must be used for the production, preservation, or rehabilitation of affordable housing for low- and very-low income families and individuals.
See the MORE2 website here. To learn more about the HOME grant, call Oak Ridge Senior Planner Sherith Colverson in the Community Development Department at (865) 425-3581.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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