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The community of Lake Park, Iowa, stands to benefit from new forgivable housing rehabilitation loans now being offered by the Lake Park Housing Authority. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

New non-profit helps Lake Park homeowners

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LAKE PARK, Iowa -- The Lake Park Housing Authority (LPHA), a recently formed nonprofit organization, began accepting applications Monday for forgivable housing rehabilitation loans.

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By Tuesday afternoon, it had already received four applications, and Lake Park City Administrator Wade Wagoner said many more are anticipated.

The LPHA is offering two types of housing financial aid: residential rehabilitation assistance to cover material, labor and contractor costs of housing rehabilitation, as well as down payment assistance to encourage new home owners.

To qualify, applicants must meet specific county income level guidelines, although priority will be given to those with a greater need.

"For example, a single person can't have an income over $37,000 and a married couple can't have more than $50,000," explained August Scheppmann, a key player in the organization of the LPHA and owner of Natural Ventures and Scheppmann Construction and Development.

"There are lots of cases of older folks that are retired without a lot of income, and with this program, we should be able to do something for them," he added.

After five years, the loan will be forgiven if the property is not sold, transferred, rented, vacated or abandoned, or if the property is no longer the principal place of residency.

If the home is sold, for example, before the five-year anniversary, loan recipients will have to pay back a percentage of the loan, depending on how many years remaining on it.

The application process involves submitting financial information including federal tax filings, bank statements and income statements -- though Wagoner said all information submitted will be kept strictly confidential.

The primarily goal of the project is to improve the aesthetics and attractiveness of the Lake Park community, particularly the residential areas.

To reach that goal, Wagoner said the LPHA is hoping most of the housing improvement projects will be on the exterior of homes, though he said interior improvements would be considered if an application demonstrating great need is received.

"Exteriors will give the community the biggest facelift," he said. "If you're driving by someone's house, it doesn't feel like the town is improving if we use some of the money for someone's carpet rather than if we helped with new siding."

This year, the group aims to spend about half of the $440,00 available to them through the TIF funds.

"Getting applications in (to the office) is critical because it's basically on a first-come, first-serve basis," Wagoner said.

The LPHA will fund the projects through TIF districts -- a tool allowed by the state of Iowa to raise additional funding for development projects. As a part of TIF districts, 38 percent of the money raised for development projects is required to be used for low- to moderate-income housing.

The LPHA is overseen by a board of directors, of which Lance Heikens is chairperson. He said LPHA board members saw the funds raised through the TIF districts as an opportunity to improve their community.

"I've been on the city council for 14 years, and housing is something I've always seen as a need -- not only to fix up our existing stock but also the possibilities of developing new housing," he said.

"Lake Park is a great, up and coming place. ... We offer the opportunity for folks to be able to live in an awesome, small community," he added.

Wagoner acknowledged the LPHA is in its infancy and that while it is experiencing growing pains, he said the board is a "very fair and very conscious group" that will make a difference in the appearance of Lake Park.

"They are talented volunteers that have given their time and experience," Wagoner said. We have only minor expenses because there is virtually no administration cost to this so we can provide as much money back to the citizens as we can. I can't tell you how blessed Lake Park is with these volunteers."

The LPHA will continue receiving applications until May 10. The board will meet on May 18 to decide which applications will be awarded loans. While the May 18 meeting is open to the public, the board will go into a closed session once it begins discussing the financial information of applicants.

For more information, contact Wagoner at (712) 832-3004 or the Lake Park City Hall at (712) 832-3527.

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

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Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at http://throughthelookingglass.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7322
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