Improving homes and lives


Regional Home Improvement Program grants are helping make homes and lives better

July 18, 2020 — Yvette Wiesner and her husband had just closed on their first home together when they realized they would need to fork out several thousand dollars more on new flooring. The urgency of the situation became apparent after Wiesner’s husband fell through the floor of their hallway.

“When we bought the house, we immediately put almost $10,000 into the flooring itself,” said Wiesner. “We replaced the subfloor, put down overlays throughout the house and finally the actual flooring. After that, we were good for a while.”

Things started looking up after the flooring was finished. But soon, the roof began to leak in several places, causing severe damage to the ceilings. “We knew there was work that needed to be done, but we didn’t realize the extent of it,” Wiesner said. 

The issues seemed to keep piling on top of each other the longer they lived there.

Wiesner and her family moved to Florence three and a half years ago when they bought the house they live in now. After the initial cost of the home and the new flooring, the Wiesner’s were left with little money to afford the long list of other repairs that needed to be done. But with another baby on the way, they felt it was imperative they make their home safe and livable.

“We knew that we had no choice,” Wiesner said.

After reaching out to Weatherization, a Homes for Good program, they were directed to Andy Clay and Christina Spencer, who coordinate the Rural Housing Rehabilitation Program (RHRP). 

St. Vincent de Paul’s RHRP helps Florence homeowners like the Wiesner’s make their home safe, accessible and livable by providing access to low-interests rate, payment-deferred loans to afford home improvements. RHRP provides loans to low- and moderate-income homeowners who would otherwise not be eligible for one through their traditional bank.

“We’ve done some pretty major work since getting the loan,” Wiesner said.

Their home hadn’t had improvements or repairs since it was built in 1979. This was apparent from the outside as the sides of the house appeared dilapidated before the renovations began.

“I believe they had this specialized metal siding put on that was supposed to last a lifetime, but it was pretty rough,” Wiesner said. “So, we decided to go ahead and replace it as well.”

Their home now has a leak-proof roof atop upgraded siding. New plumbing runs throughout the home, and soon there will be new drywall installed in several of the rooms in the house to help improve insulation and replace molded paneling from previous leaks.

“It’s an amazing program,” Wiesner said. “I would recommend it to anybody, especially if you have a lot of stuff that needs to be done like we did; it’s definitely worth it.”

Project manager Andy Clay said he is currently applying for a new grant to fund more renovations in Florence. To do this, he has to conduct a needs assessment which gauges how many people qualify and what type of renovations need to be done to the homes here.

“Unfortunately, there’s never enough money,” said Clay. “But, you know, the things that we’ve done have really helped improve people’s lives. Some homes have been so dilapidated there are structural dry rot issues or holes in the floor — and it’s a danger for the folks. 

“There are other projects where somebody simply needs more accessibility, such as ramps or a converted bathroom, to make it more accessible for them.”

The loan is for families or individuals who may not be able to make monthly payments on a loan. 

Instead, the loan is payment-deferred, meaning the homeowner doesn’t have to pay it until they sell the home, whenever that is.

“Technically, there’s a 20-year term on the loan,” Clay said. “But after that, as long as you’re remaining in the home, we just renew it every five years. Plus, the interest stops accruing after seven years.”

Since getting approved for the program, Wiesner feels much of her stress has been lifted. Now she can spend more time focusing on her children’s needs.

“Our lives have improved so much because we don’t have constant stress from trying to figure out what we’re going to do to fix everything,” Wiesner said. “Before, it just felt like one thing after the next was falling apart. And since we’ve got four kids and my husband’s the only one that’s able to work, it was very, very stressful. It has completely gotten rid of all that stress and made life so much easier.”

The Wiesner’s are hoping to have all the renovations completed by the end of summer, just in time for her children to start school again.

“It will be nice to not have things torn apart and all over the place while the kids are trying to study,” Wiesner said.

Currently, there is still a gaping hole in the ceiling of their bathroom where they had ripped out water-damaged paneling and insulation — something her children are not a fan of looking at.

“Of course the kids are like, ‘I don’t want there being a hole!’ and I’m like ‘Well, I know. I don’t like it either,’” Wiesner said. “But once the new roof went on it was like, ‘oh my goodness, the leak stopped and we can breathe for a second, but we still have a lot to deal with to get everything done.”

Still, Wiesner said her children are amazed by how much their house has improved so far.

“The kids love it,” she said. “They tell me all the time when we pull in the driveway that it looks like we just bought a brand-new house and I mean, it is completely transformed.”

For more information about the program or to find the application to apply for the program, go to https://www.svdp.us/what-we-do/affordable-housing/rural-housing-rehabili tation-program or call Christina Spencer at 541-743-7165.

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