If you listen to the commercials on late-night television, the government is giving away millions in grants for everything from starting a business to home improvement. Having someone else pay to fix up your house is certainly appealing, but "watch out," says the Federal Trade Commission. The hype is pretty much just that: Hype. While the government does give grants for some home improvements, the money is only for a very select few who meet stringent qualifications.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides housing-repair funding to individuals. Your home must have been damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster to qualify. Low-income families may qualify for a grant, while others will only qualify for low-interest loans.
Because FEMA awards grants, people have made the assumption that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) also award home-improvement grants. It's not true; not even to low-income homeowners. If you're in a community that has received funds for revitalisation through a HUD block grant, local or federal development loan, you might receive some help with cleanup and repairs along with your neighbours. Much of this money will go to repair streets, curbs, signs, parks and such. Portions of the funds may also remove condemned structures and provide some assistance in the form of loans or small grants to homeowners in high-poverty areas to make their homes habitable. Such grants would be available through your local housing authority. You can contact them directly through your city. HUD can help you find home-improvement grants. Visit the HUD website (see Reference 2), and learn how to register with Grants.gov where you can download a brochure that will show you how to apply for HUD home-improvement grants in your area.
In the same way that HUD provides funding for cities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development offers grants to low-income seniors over age 62 who live in underdeveloped or high-poverty rural communities targeted by the federal government. This money is distributed through regional or county rural housing development offices instead of the federal government. An adviser inspects the home and decides whether it qualifies and what repairs will be funded.
Other home improvement grants
Check with local lenders or non-profit organisations that do affordable housing or provide support services for seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families. They may be able to help you find home-improvement grants for which you qualify. Many larger metropolitan areas have Fair Housing Resource Centers that can help you with discrimination issues, or can point you to someone who can help you with an home-improvement grant. If you are a senior, or have a disability, you may be able to contact your regional centre for independent living for help finding funds to make your home accessible. Some cities also offer emergency repair grants, or loans that are similar to home-improvement grants, to low-income homeowners with dangerous problems like gas leaks, severely damaged roofs or broken water pipes. Another alternative is to contact your local municipality. Municipal emergency repair grants are intended for low-income homeowners with urgent problems such as a leaking roof or broken furnace.