NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 31, 2013

Paying dividends

Rehab program improves housing for 168 families

SALISBURY — Since 1998, a little-known Salisbury program has invested more than $4.2 million to help 168 low- to moderate-income families in town upgrade deteriorating homes and keep roofs over their heads.

Local officials say Salisbury is one of a few small communities that have repeatedly won favor for its Housing Rehabilitation Program — in part because it has successfully helped struggling households, many with elderly and young adults, stay in homes in dire need of repair.

For 11 of the past 14 years, the town has received federal funds awarded by the state through the highly competitive Community Development Block Grant program.

Salisbury leaders consider the program so worthwhile that they request town planning director Lisa Pearson include funding for housing rehabilitation efforts in her annual applications for CDBG money. Pearson’s $500,000 grant application this year will once again seek funds for what Town Manager Neil Harrington considers a “wonderful” benefit for residents in need.

But the Salisbury Housing Rehabilitation Program, managed by director Lisa Beaulieu, doesn’t rely solely on CDBG monies. Beaulieu is adept at finding other home repair programs in the state to allow Salisbury’s CDBG money to stretch farther.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development funds have been accessed for improvements for the elderly. Gloucester-based ACTION helps when weatherization repairs are needed. Community Action, among others, can also provide revenue.

Beaulieu said the program isn’t simple, but it can assist financially strapped residents who find themselves in older homes with safety and habitability problems.

To qualify, participants must live in Salisbury and meet low- or moderate-income household requirements in accordance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

For example, to qualify as low income, a single-person household can earn no more than $32,000 a year; income is capped at $37,200 for a two-person household, $41,840 for a three-person household and $46,500 for a four-person household.

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