Mayors team up to offer home improvement workshop

Published 2:31 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

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Over 130 city residents attended a workshop Washington Mayor Donald Sadler and Winterville Mayor Ricky Hines co-hosted on a federal program which assists low-income households pay for improvements to their homes. The program was held Wednesday night, April 12, at the Washington Civic Center. 

The 504 Home Repair Program is offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and it provides loans up to $40,000 (with a fixed interest rate of 1%) to low-income homeowners to repair, modernize or improve their homes. It also offers forgivable grants up to $10,000 to senior, low-income homeowners to help them remove health and safety hazards, according to the department’s website. Loans and grants can be combined for up to $50,000 in assistance. 

The loan program is available to homeowners 18 years or older as long as they own the property. Those who apply should be able to repay the loan and they are unable to borrow money from another lending source; however, the grant program is available to homeowners aged 62 and older who cannot repay a repair loan. All applicants should have a decent credit history, according to the Pitt County USDA office’s website. 

Other requirements for loans are that homeowners must occupy the house and have a family income of $33,000 or less. 

Hines, an employee of the USDA, says his office in Greenville receives hundreds of applications for loans and grants; however, only half or a third of those applications are approved because applicants do not supply necessary information in a timely manner. 

“We help over a 100 households, but as far as applications and everything else we probably get 200 to 300 applications,” Hines said, adding that returning necessary information to his office is “the most important thing, because if you don’t get it back then it kicks you out.”

It takes about 30 days for the local USDA office to respond to an applicant with an answer. Once their application is approved, it is up to the applicant to get a bid from a contractor. Hines said his office would like to see people use licensed contractors, but knows that a contractor in North Carolina does not have to be licensed if a project has a total value of $30,000 or less. 

Hines said because homeowners can choose their own contractor it helps put money back into the local economy and helps a local business. This could help a contractor pay for their license.

Hines shared that many residents on Wednesday night asked if they could get either a loan or a grant to do repairs to their mobile homes. He explained “they need to own the dirt” in addition to the home. Also, as long as a homeowner proves they have lifetime rights to a property then they can apply for either a loan or grant.  

Hines and Sadler were surprised by the large turnout at Wednesday night’s presentation. Hines said it was “totally awesome” to see so many people take an interest in the 504 Home Repair Program. “That showed there is a real need in the area,” Hines said. 

Hines said he was “blown away” by the number of people in the audience. He is accustomed to seeing around 50 people at a presentation about the program.  

Mayor Sadler said he was “very excited” by the large number of people because “it shows that there is a need for the program.” He continued to say he receives many questions from residents about what it offers to help them with home repairs. At this time, the city does not have its own home repair program which is another reason why Sadler and Hines co-hosted Wednesday night’s event. 

When asked why Mayors of different towns should work together, Hines said he believes in “serving people” by staying aware of programs that will help residents then letting residents know about programs and resources available to them. Therefore, mayors should work together to make sure residents have access to what they need.  

Sadler said it is “heartwarming” to know that he can use his role as mayor to help residents connect with the resources and people they need. 

Those interested in applying for either a 504 Home Repair Program loan or grant can contact Ricky Hines at either 252-351-8037 or