Low-income, low-interest home loans coming soon for Valley, Clayton fire survivors in Lake County

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To read more of the PD's coverage of the Valley fire click here.

More than $7 million in state funding has been awarded to two Lake County nonprofits to help with the rebuilding of homes for low-income homeowners and renters who lost residences in devastating fires the past two years.

The groups — Habitat for Humanity and Hammers for Hope — expect to begin accepting applications for low-interest CalHome loans through the California Department of Housing and Community Development of up to $60,000 each in mid-February. Combined with volunteer labor, it’s expected to be enough to erect up to 100 homes lost in the 2015 Valley fire and last year’s Clayton fire.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown, who sits on the board of directors of Hammers for Hope.

State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, who was instrumental in obtaining the funding, will host a Feb. 16 community meeting in Middletown about the loans. He said the home loans, along with planned infrastructure repairs like a new multimillion dollar sewer system for Anderson Springs, are good not only for fire survivors but for the county economy as a whole.

“We can’t get these dollars invested fast enough,” McGuire said. “We’ve come a long way due to a lot of hard work by hundreds of community residents, but there’s still a long way to go.”

Richard Birk, who heads the Lake County Habitat for Humanity, said the organization will be looking for additional volunteers to help construct an estimated 30 homes with its allocation of $2.6 million. Habitat also expects able-bodied loan recipients to help in some way with construction.

Using other funds, Habitat has helped build one home in the fire zone and another is nearly finished, Birk said. Since it was launched in 2003, the Lake County organization has built 20 homes, he said.

Hammers for Hope, founded in 2012, has previously focused on making repairs and improvements to existing homes. It has never constructed a house and it’s not starting now, Brown said, and instead plans on working with volunteer groups like Hope City, a nationwide, multidenominational church-based organization, to get homes built with its $4.6 million allocation.

Hope City has been working to help Lake County fire victims rebuild since shortly after the Valley fire broke out in September 2015.

That fire killed at least four people and destroyed 1,955 structures, including 1,281 homes and 27 multifamily structures. The Clayton fire, ignited by a suspected serial arsonist in August 2016, damaged or destroyed 300 structures, an estimated 200 of them homes.

So far, 64 homes, about half of them manufactured, have been constructed in the 76,000-acre footprint of the Valley fire. Another 215 housing permits have been issued, according to the Lake County Community Development Department. Permit figures were not available Wednesday for the Clayton fire.

Applicants for the loans must be low-income, but also have sufficient income to repay the loans in 30 years, Birk said. Renters who lost their residences are among those eligible for loans, he said.

The two nonprofits have three years to utilize the funds unless the state agrees to an extension.

To qualify for a CalHome loan, a single person must earn less than $33,000 annually while a family of four is limited to $47,100. Interest rates vary from 1 percent to 3 percent, depending on need, said Jeff Lucas, a Lake County consultant who assisted Hammers for Hope with its application. Some applicants may be eligible to defer payment for 30 years, but then will have a balloon payment due, Lucas said.

Homes built with CalHome loans must be inhabited by the loan recipients.

If the home is sold or rented, the loan becomes due.

Additional details will be available at the Feb. 16 meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Middletown Middle School gymnasium. In addition to McGuire, representatives from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, Lake County, Habitat for Humanity and Hammers for Hope will be available to answer questions.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 707-462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter.

To read more of the PD's coverage of the Valley fire click here.

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