Topeka now forgives home loans granted to help disadvantaged neighborhoods

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A life of memories exists in the house where Kristin Miller grew up in the Hi-Crest West neighborhood of southeast Topeka.

Miller, a 39-year-old single mother, says she was going through a divorce when she bought the house in 2014 from the estate of her late father, Richard Miller. She wanted to prevent it from being bought by “slumlords”.

“I lost my dad, got divorced, and lost my job in the same nine or ten month period,” Miller said.

Then, in late 2017, Miller found herself facing home repair costs that she couldn’t afford to cover.

Fortunately, she said, she was accepted into a program where the city’s housing services division lends money to owners of low-income neighborhoods to have work done.

“Being a single mom with four kids, I couldn’t afford to do all the repairs that needed to be done,” said Miller, who said her work with Topeka Unified School District 501 “doesn’t pay a lot.”

Shortly after being accepted into the program, Miller said, she learned that a new sewer line was needed for her home.

The city also agreed to loan her money to pay for this, saying she would be responsible for repaying the lien whenever she ceased to own the house.

Miller was then recently a pleasant surprise when the town agreed to give a loan forgiveness to itself and others who have unpaid privileges under the program, on condition that they stay in their five home. years after receiving the loan.

The arrangement asks the city to forgive Miller’s outstanding lien, which amounts to more than $ 25,000, if she stays in her house for the full five-year period after removing it, he said. she told the Capital-Journal last week.

“At the end of November, my loan will be completely canceled,” she said. “I won’t owe anything, and I never paid anything, but had all of these repairs done at home.”

Owners can now see their lien released

Miller is among those benefiting from a new lien release program whereby homeowners who have a current lien with the city’s housing services division can now see that lien released, said Gretchen Spiker, director of communications from the city.

“Over the past 40 years, the city has made thousands of rehabilitation loans to citizens,” Spiker said last week. “Once the city completed the rehabilitation, a lien was placed on the property, with partial surrender after a period of time.”

Miller said she would have been tasked with covering a lien totaling over $ 25,000, including interest, if and when she ceased to own her home.

But effective Nov. 9, the city launched a lien release program whereby 100% of its currently active loans will be forfeited if the owner agrees and stays in the house for at least five years, Spiker said.

Miller’s full privilege will therefore be released once that five-year period is over at the end of November, she said.

A pillow with the phrase

To date, the city has made more than 80 outings, reinvesting almost $ 300,000 in low-income households, Spiker said.

Other potential versions are still being processed, she said.

Those who have a current lien with the city’s housing services division will be eligible for the lien release program, Spiker said. The new policy will also apply to future pardon loans, she said.

Privileges in excess of $ 25,000 that Kristin Miller possessed are rare and among the highest for the program concerned, Spiker said.

“Some of the releases are for privileges of $ 2,000,” she said.

The move allows homeowners to use their own money

“By removing the lien on the property, we are enabling people to make improvements to their property using their own funds,” said Corrie Wright, director of the city’s housing services division. “It was something that we have been looking for for a while, and I’m thrilled to see it come to fruition.

The Hi-Crest West district in the southeast of Topeka has long struggled with economic development as more projects have taken place on the west side of the city.

Wright asked those who have questions about the program, or want to see if they qualify for a lien release, to call the city’s housing services division at 785-368-3711.

Miller said the presence of the city program increases his confidence in the city’s willingness to take action to help Hi-Crest West.

“It’s a great way to get your home repaired for free,” she said, adding that some people don’t use the program because they don’t own or don’t know it.

“Enough to survive but not to prosper”

Miller now has five children, four of whom still live with her.

She said she had been frustrated in the past that government entities tended to provide free food stamps and meals to people who were not working, but failed to provide assistance to people. workers who were “on point” and earning “enough to survive but not to thrive.”

The city’s willingness to lend money to help residents increases Miller’s confidence that it cares about the working poor, she said.

“I think the city is trying, and I think the programs they’ve put in place to help are really helpful,” she said.

Miller also feels renewed confidence in the future of the Hi-Crest neighborhood and has slightly increased the size of her house there, she said.

Hi-Crest West has seen “a bunch” of shootings in the two years since Miller returned there in 2014, and she wondered “how long can we do this?” she declared.

However, the Topeka police force is increasingly present in the neighborhood, including maintaining an increased police presence which makes them feel more secure, Miller said.

“I just think they did a great job,” she said.


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