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Preservation Buffalo Niagara launches new loan program for low-income homeowners

Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Preservation Buffalo Niagara announced the launch of a new loan program specifically for low-income homeowners in local historic districts Thursday.

The Historic Home Loan Fund Program is an effort to ensure that no owner or neighborhood gets left out of the financial value of owning a historic building, according to PBN Executive Director Jessie Fisher.

“Sometimes preservation is kind of perceived as this elitist thing, but if you actually start looking around the country you’ll note that there really is a lot of equity and inclusion in our local historic districts,” Fisher said. “What there’s not a lot of is equity and inclusion in funding [for] home repairs.”

Fisher also said that, while the program has been in the works for years, the organization is consciously making this announcement during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Frankly, we just thought everybody needed some good news this week.”

Loans of up to $10,000 at 3% interest will be available for eligible homeowners for exterior projects such as porch, roof, siding and window repairs, as well as code compliance issues and accessibility modifications. To qualify, homeowners can earn up to 112% of the Area Income Limits for Low Income Families defined by the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation. 

The income cap in both Erie and Niagara counties is $55,194 for a family of two and $68,902 for a family of four. Fisher said most loan payback periods will range from five to eight years. The program is also limited to owner-occupied homes and owners who plan to stay in their homes for at least five years.

“We want to make a really affordable financial product for lower-income folks, but as people are able to pay back those loans then we want to use that money and put it back in somebody else’s house,” she said. “It’ll sort of be like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ right? Your money is tied up in Mrs. Smith’s house, whose money is tied up in Mr. Jones’ house. We really want to keep that cycle going.”

Fisher said she expects a majority of the loan applications to come from Buffalo’s Broadway Fillmore and Hamlin Park historic districts but stressed that there are low-income homeowners living in all of the city’s historic areas. 

Applications for the program are open now, on a rolling basis, and funding decisions will be announced starting June 1.

“We are not working in the office, obviously, for the next couple of weeks,” Fisher said, “but there is contact information there and we will have a staff person who can get directly back [to applicants] and help walk people through the application.”

Kyle Mackie is a multimedia journalist with reporting experience in Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Western Balkans and New York City. She joined WBFO to cover education and more in June 2019.
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