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Area residents receive new houses through federal grant

For brothers George and Keith Bridwell, there is no place like home.
And thanks to federal funding from the HOME program administered through the Tennessee Housing Development Authority, the brothers now have a new roof over their heads and new floors under their feet.
The Bridwell brothers, who have shared a home for many years on Depot Street, qualified for a new house with funding from a portion of a $500,000 grant awarded to the Town of Jonesborough to promote the production, preservation and rehabilitation of housing for low-income households.
Their new residence, built just uphill from their original house, not only affords them a new place to live, but its location at a higher elevation has provided an unexpected bonus — a beautiful view of the area.
Locally, the project is administered under the watchful eye of Town of Jonesborough Executive Assistant Virginia Causey, who says seeing the money used to help build new homes for low-income residents is a rewarding experience.
“This is one of the best things I do as part of my job,” she said.
Causey has been the ramrod for the project since the grant was awarded to the town in 2011. She has worked with the HOME grant years ago, she said, but this is the first time in 10 years Jonesborough has received funding.
The money is providing some wonderful new housing for deserving people in the community, she said.
“It is a pretty simple process,” Causey said. “There is a public hearing to announce availability of the grants. Then interested homeowners must fill out an application and be qualified by state guidelines.”
After the paperwork is done, Causey said, the applications are sent to Nashville.
“The Town of Jonesborough doesn’t make any decisions on who gets the grants and who doesn’t,” she added. “We are just the facilitator. All decisions are made in Nashville by the Community Development partners.”
Homeowners who qualify, she said, must have lived in their house for at least a year and meet strict income guidelines.
“This is one of the better grants we ever get because you get to see the outcome,” she said.
The grant money provides for the building of homes valued at $80,000-$90,000. The floor plans for each home include three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Gerald Price’s home on Spring Street is also among those being rebuilt.
As the list of needed repairs continued to grow longer and longer, Price found himself unable to afford the extensive work required to make his house safe and liveable.
His home was razed and the new structure is being constructed on the same site. It should be completed in about two weeks, Causey said.
“We are also starting a third house on Depot Street and we have completed a rehab for Mary Katherine Williams, located at 1002 Haws Drive,” Causey said.
The funding allows for the rehab of qualifying homes that need extensive repairs.
The list of repairs and restoration needs for Williams’ home is long. It includes repairing ceilings, painting, replacing flooring, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets and windows as well as making exterior improvements – all with a focus on energy efficiency.
The state program has strict rules for the homeowners once a home is built or rehabbed.
“There are safeguards in place so that owners won’t just get a home and then turn around and sell it,” Causey said. “A lien is put on the house for 15 years to secure it and the homeowners must also pay $500 up front at the time of the signing of the contract or before.”
If the owner decides to sell the house before the 15-year period ends, he or she has to pay a prorated amount to the state.
“But we’ve done this grant several times and we’ve never had that happen,” Causey said. “Most people who have gone through this process intend to keep the house and live in it.”
Even though the Town of Jonesborough has no active part in choosing who will have a home built or rehabbed, the town does keep a close eye on the process.
The homes, built or restored by contractors who bid on the projects and travel to various sites in order to work with the grant program, are carefully inspected by Jonesborough’s building inspector.
“We make sure everything is up to code,” Causey said. “Our building inspector goes out and checks the work from top to bottom so the houses are built really well. If anything is wrong, he will make them do it over.”
Making sure the projects happen according to plan is a labor of love for Causey.
“This is just one of the best parts of my job,” she repeated. “It does your heart good when you have a program like this and the people are so thankful.”
Grant money still remains for homes in Jonesborough that may need significant repair or rebuilding. For more information, contact Causey at 753-1030.